Rejoice in the Lord always

April 8, 2018

Every Sunday is the Lord’s day, the day of the resurrection; but today, Sunday, April 8, 2018, is, for millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the world, the day of the resurrection par excellence, the feast of feasts, holy day of holy days, the Lord’s Pascha. Yesterday evening and earlier this morning, I experienced this feast in a new way: for most of the past month I have been conducting our church choir in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, our official choir director being incapacitated due to a recent hip replacement. So, although I have sung in many Easter services, today was the first time in my life of some 59 years that I conducted one. Thanks be to God, our singers sang well, we acquitted ourselves of our task with jubilation, and, I think, helped the congregation to pray and to focus their minds and hearts on the glory of God, which is what a choir is supposed to do.

Whether it is this novel experience of directing a church choir during an Easter service that has awakened these reflections, I don’t know, but I think it is right, on this feast day, to speak of joy. What is the joy that characterizes the life of a Christian? A Christian is, like other human beings, subject to innumerable ups and downs, a Christian is not, any more than anyone else, continually floating on a cloud of earthly and material bliss, and, even in spiritual matters, a Christian is acquainted with the grief first of all of his or her own sinfulness and the estrangement from God and man that sin entails, and secondly, with the grief of living in a fallen world in which might frequently triumphs over right and falsehood over truth. Nevertheless, the life of a Christian is characterized by joy. How is this possible?

It is possible, I think, because of the resurrection. The resurrection contains the entire message of Christianity, and, if we are to understand what makes the life of a Christian what it is, it is there that we must look. On the cross, Christ broke the power of sin, the demonic forces that tyrannize human life, and provided, for all time, an infallible key for escaping spiritual imprisonment; by rising from the dead, Jesus showed us that death is not the final reality, he showed himself the victor over death and corruption, and gives us the possibility of sharing in his victory and in newness of life. That is what Christian joy is all about; it is the response of one who begins to live in the light of the risen Christ, who has overcome the world. And Easter, as it is the feast of Christ’s resurrection, is preeminently a feast of joy — a joy, not in ourselves or our accomplishments, but in Christ who gives us the victory. It is the communal joy of Christ’s redeemed people. If the singers at a liturgy, by their voices, are able to communicate this joy to the congregation, they have done their part in proclaiming the gospel.

May God grant the readers of this blog a joyous Easter. Christ is risen!

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