there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary from fasting?
Let them now receive their due!
have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their reward.
If any have come after the third hour,
let them with gratitude join in the feast!
Those who arrived after the sixth hour,
let them not doubt; for they shall not be short-changed.
Those who have tarried until the ninth hour,
let them not hesitate; but let them come too.
And those who arrived only at the eleventh
let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the
last even as the first.
The Lord gives rest to those who come at the eleventh hour,
even as to those who toiled from the beginning.
To one and all the Lord gives generously.
The Lord accepts the offering of every work.
The Lord honors every deed and commends their intention.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
and last alike, receive your reward.
Rich and poor, rejoice together!
Conscientious and lazy, celebrate the day!
You who have kept the fast, and you who have not,
rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!
Feast royally, for the calf is fatted.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the banquet of faith.
Enjoy the bounty of the Lord’s goodness!
one grieve being poor,
for the universal reign has been revealed.
Let no one lament persistent failings,
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
for the death of our Savior has set us free.
He who was taken by death destroyed it.
He descended into Hades and took Hades captive.
He put Hades in uproar even as it tasted of his flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hades, were placed in uproar when he encountering you below.”
was in an uproar having been eclipsed.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar for it is destroyed.
It was in an uproar for it is abolished.
It was in an uproar for it is made captive.
Hades took a body, and discovered God.
Hades seized earth, and encountered heaven.
Hades took what it saw, and was overcome by what it could not see.
O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
is risen, and you are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is set free!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.
For Christ, having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Christ be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!
This is an excerpt from a longer sermon, traditionally ascribed to St. John Chrysostom (“Golden Tongue”). It may not be by him, but as is common in ancient practice, texts ascribed to famous theologians indicate the respect given to the text. This sermon has been preached at the Easter Vigil services for centuries (if not a millennia and a half), and is, in the East, the only sermon preached at the Great Vigil.
Typically, the word “uproar” is more accurately translated “embittered.” This is a reference to Jonah, read on Holy Saturday (the whole book) in the East (and at St. Philip, read as a part of the Great Vigil). Like the whale, Hades spits out Jesus because the flavor of the-human-who-was-really-God was bitter. However, not only do we not typically read Jonah in the Episcopal Church, the word “embittered” is a bit odd. “Uproar” captures the sense of the utter turmoil in which Hades is thrown by the unexpected presence of the God-Human, captured in the icon of the Anastasis in which the very gates of Hades are destroyed and Adam and Eve are being pulled forth by Christ. This sermon is all about call and response! When the preacher says “uproar” and “risen”, the congregation shouts those words back. If your congregation is not aware of this practice, it is worth explaining before hand. It makes for a very energetic moment in the vigil.