04 May 2012
The Radiant Feast
Eugene Rose Lay Sermon April 1965
The Resurrection of our Lord, the Feast of Feasts is called in the Church calendar "radiant" or "bright," as is every day of he week that follows. And indeed the dominant theme of the Feast, felt especially acutely by those who have attended many of the dark, somber services which the Orthodox Church prescribes for Great Lent and Passion Week, is one of brilliant, dazzling light During the Matins of the Resurrection every light in the church is lit, the clergy is attired in bright vestments, every believer holds a lighted candle, and the constant theme of the hymns and canticles is one of light.
"The Day of Resurrection! Let us be illumined, O ye people! Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ radiant with the light ineffable of the Resurrection... Now are all things filled with light... Let is behold Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, Who lighteth the life of all mankind... Holy is this redeeming and radiantly-effulgent night, the harbinger of the bright and beaming Day of the Resurrection, on which the Light Eternal that hath no bounds shone forth in the flesh from the grave for all mankind."
The brightness of the Feast of the Resurrection is symbolic of many things: of purity, of life, of the everflowing joy and grace of the Feast. But it is also much more than a symbol; it is already a foretaste of what every Christian lives for: eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Canon of the Resurrection we hear: "Shine, shine O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." The New Jerusalem is the Kingdom of Heaven, in which everything and everyone shall be filled with light; "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father [St. Matt. 13:42].
Already in our perishing world this light has become visible. It is the light of the Transfiguration of our Lord that blinded the Apostles on Mt. Tabor; it is the light with which the Prophet Moses shone after he had spoken with God on Mt. Sinai so that his face had to be covered with a veil; it is the light with which St. Seraphim of Sarov and others of the great saints have shone. It is the light seen with his inward eye by every Orthodox Christian who lives the life of grace in the Church through the sacraments, the life lived so intensely by the recently-canonized Orthodox pastor, St. John of Kronstadt, that he could feel and exclaim: "All if fire, all is light, all is warmth." Those who have received Holy Communion on the Feast of the Resurrection, after having fasted and morned with the Church throughout Great Lent, already know something of this radiant joy.
If we can begin such a life in this corruptible flesh, can we even imagine the life that we shall lead in the spiritual body with which we shall be resurrected in our Lord? Then the darkness of sin will no longer obstruct the action of grace in us, and we shall shine with the light of the spiritual Sun, our Lord Jesus Christ, and all who shall attain to that Kingdom will live in effulgent light.