From the Paschal homily of St. John Chrysostom:
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hell and took hell captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, “Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions.” It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!
“O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?”
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ died. Every. single. year. I am struck by that. Christ, one of the Holy Trinity. died.
From the Lamentations (Matins of Great and Holy Saturday)
Let awe and wonder shake the heavens
and let the earth’s foundations quake
For He who dwells in the heavens is laid
within a dark and dismal tomb
And numbered among the dead…
Can you imagine this from the point of view of those long-dead? From the perspective of the demons?
The hymns we sang tonight talked about the chaos that likely ensued when Christ descended into hell and freed the captives. For like two seconds it looked like evil and death had triumphed, but then He-who-created-the-world showed up.
So for me, for those of us here on earth, Christ is dead and in the tomb. But there’s so much more going on.
Lent did to me what it always does to me…and I guess what is supposed to do…revealed those areas in my life that need some shoring up, some care and tending to. For me, this year, that’s been a lot about my cynicism and my aggressive irritation with those around me: the least of these, usually, who stand in the way of my progress toward wherever it is I think I’m going, or think I need to go.
Then, yesterday, I saw this little clip on YouTube…you know the clip I’m talking about. And Miss Susan Boyle showed me what grace looks like. She took me to a place where I needed to go, but I confess I didn’t expect it. Come on, neither did you. I was just like Simon Cowell, cringing at the thought of whatever was going to come out of her mouth and smugly looking forward to the trainwreck that was about to ensue.
And as I watched it unfold on my computer at work, I tried not to weep. I thought about her all evening, as I sat before the icons during Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. I thought about how grace-less I am, and how I do not treat people with anything remotely resembling the respect due them as those created in the image of God.
So, thank you, Susan Boyle. Thank you for being an instrument of God’s grace in my life. Thank you for holding up the mirror of my own heart in front of my eyes so I could see those areas that needed polishing so I can better reflect that Divine Image. Thank you, Susan Boyle, for blessing this Holy Week for me in a very real way.