On Holy Saturday night, just before the Holy Light is shared with the faithful, there is a tradition to turn off the lights of the church and stand together in total darkness. The chanters then begin singing a hymn taken from the Matins service, “Behold, it is early and still dark.” Once the hymn is completed, the clergy emerge from the Altar and the Light is given to the community that has gathered.
We find ourselves, beloved people of God, at a moment in time when darkness seems to have engulfed both our world and our minds, just as the hymn says of Mary Magdalene. Amidst confusion and aimless drifting, humanity searches for hope, safety, and light. Perhaps we need to do as Mary did, some two thousand years ago, and hasten to the Tomb to see for ourselves that it is empty; that is, to learn what it means that Christ, Who is the very hope and life of the world, has truly risen and that darkness has been dispelled.
It is this message that we seek and desire, especially as we continue to endure the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic. While we see science and medicine working to heal our bodies, we know that Christ is able to heal and save our whole person, together with all of creation. In calling together His Church, He transforms a simple community into His Resurrected Body, within which He heals sin, evil, and even death itself, for He has overcome all of these, and gives us instead comfort, hope, and salvation. The Lord said to Mary, “Do not be afraid”, and I say the same to you. Do not be afraid and do not lose hope; trust in the Resurrected Christ and let Him be your strength, your shield. Let His Light push back the darkness of confusion and see for yourself that “through the Cross joy has come to all the world” for “He has conquered the world”. These promises, Christ’s words, require that we believe and place our trust in Him and His good news. We must learn to believe that Christ overcame death and offers us eternal life — “I believe; help my unbelief!”
This year especially, we must embrace the theme of hope and anticipation, so that we may be strengthened with vision and love to walk forward in the Light of Christ. It is for this reason that our clergy summon the faithful to “Come, Receive the Light” — a light that never fails, a bright and glowing light that illumines all people and guides on the path of salvation. Let us recall the divinely-inspired words of the golden-mouthed preacher of Christ, who said, “All of you enjoy the richness of His goodness. Let no one grieve at their poverty: for the kingdom for all has been revealed. Let no one bewail their faults; for forgiveness has risen from the tomb.”
Christ is Risen and we have hope. Christ is Risen and we have life eternal. Christ is Risen and love abounds. May this message be with each and everyone, as we celebrate Pascha and the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour.
With paternal love and blessings in the Resurrected Christ,
+ Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain