April 21, 2006
Matins of Holy Saturday
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Just about ten minutes ago we heard an important reading from the prophesy of Ezekiel. This marvelous passage describes to us the rising of dry bones from the dead. These risen bones are being restored – they are being given new life. To whom do these bones belong? They are the bones of Israelites who died in exile. They are the bones of those who died away from their home, Israel. But, as the crescendo of the prophesy foretells, these dead will return home; ŇThus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of IsraelÓ (37:12)
Just as the account of the dry bones rises to a crescendo within EzekielŐs prophesy so too does it rise to a crescendo within this Matins service. All of us are bound to sin and death – no one is an exception to this reality – and therefore all of us are exiles from life. Being bound to sin and death we are exiles from the one who is Life. Yet, by our entering the LordŐs three day Pascha we are given the joyful news that we are being called to return home. Entering the mystery of the LordŐs Pascha we hear his call to return to Paradise. The call to return, however, does not derive its authority and power solely from the command of the God-Man. The authority and power of the LordŐs command is derived from his own willingness to take upon himself all sin and to voluntarily submit to death on the cross. The God-Man becomes numbered among the dead. This is the mystery we enter. This is the mystery we behold.
Just think – just reflect quietly –what we have sung and read this evening. He who is the pre-eternal Word and Son of God takes on our flesh. He who is Lord of the universe takes on our sin and mortality. The Life Giver voluntarily dies for us. The New Adam dies and shows his death to be a new death. It is an awesome death for from his death springs forth new life for all. He who lies in the tomb is destroying death. The first Adam, our ancestor, fell into sin. His sin brings death to all his offspring. The Second Adam dies and all who are joined to this death in Baptism pass over into Life. Placed in a tomb, the Lord descends into Hell and Hell itself becomes Paradise. The Old Adam, who died, is made alive in and through the death of the New Adam, Jesus Christ.
We enter the LordŐs three-day Pascha and we are given a vision of LifeŐs victory over death. He who voluntarily consents to death shows himself as the one who holds and unites everyone and everything. The dominion of death is destroyed and Hell is transformed into Heaven. He who lies in the grave reveals his active death, a death that devours sin, a death that devours death itself.
We who were exiles are being led home to the new Paradise. Where is this Paradise? The death of the God-Man draws heaven into the grave. From the grave earth and heaven are once again united. From the grave creation is again being made into Paradise. Mortality is being filled with immortality. For Christ our Savior fills all things – in the tomb with the body, in hell with the soul, in Paradise with the thief, sitting at the throne with the Father and the Spirit. Amen.
Copyright © 2006 by Father Robert M. Arida