Christ Is Risen!
Let us sing: Though You went down into the tomb, You destroyed Hades’ power, and You rose the victor, Christ God, saying to the myrrh-bearing women, “Hail!” and granting peace to Your disciples, You who raise up the fallen.
What joy! What happiness! What a celebration! Words fail. Songs sung over and over again still cry out for more! Death is conquered by the Unconquered Son. O what news! The whole earth basks in the glow of the Victory of Christ over death! No more fear! No more night! The Son has dawned and there are no dead left in the grave!
It all sounds like so much wishful thinking in light of all our world’s troubles and doubt. Even we who say we believe struggle reconciling our hymns with our everyday lives of struggle and pain.
And yet, here we are once again, in the Week called Bright or Renewal Week. The doors of the iconostas are left open all week. The floor of our parishes are still strewn with the bay leaves of our celebration and will remain so all week long. No fasting. No more mourning. Christ is risen from the dead!
So, how do we keep this joyousness in the face of a society perilously close to a post-Christian period? How do we keep Bright Week bright?
Look at our Gospel Lesson for today in John 1:18-28:
No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.
And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.” They said to him then, “Who are you? let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, ” I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordon, where John was baptizing.
Isn’t it amazing on this Bright Monday the Church calls us to remember the beginning of the Lord’s ministry? We are taken back to the start of it all as if the beginning holds the seeds of the fully grown fruit of His life. And it does! The way to keep Bright Week Bright is first by embracing that God wants to be known! And God wants to be known so much that He wraps Himself in our flesh and comes among us to show us Himself! God desires to be found. He has never been the One who is hiding!
Not only that, but He is going to show us Himself by enlisting us to help make Him known. He shows us St. John the Baptist as the Forerunner preparing the way for the Lord. St. John clears the Way for the Lord by calling all of us to repentance and a willing heart ready to embrace the Savior. And all of this work, this revelation, is not for God at all, but for us.
On this Bright Monday we are still being challenged to know God in the face of His Son, our Lord Jesus. We are still being challenged to participate in making Him known to our world as well. And can we look at our world and not see it desperately needs to know God? But the world won’t be able to see Him unless His Body, the Church, accurately reflects His image to the world. The whole world is groaning under the weight of fear and death, and the only remedy for that fear and death lies within the joyous celebration of His Life-Giving Resurrection. How will the world, your world, come to know this God Who wants to be known if His Body hides Him away as if He were some fragile deity that was weak and in need of protection? How will they see Him if we hide Him? How will we explain our attempts to hide Him when He so obviously wants to be found by the whole world?
Today, let us keep a Christian Bright Week by making sure there is not one corner of our world where He isn’t seen! Let’s be wise enough to be like St. John and point away from ourselves and focus everyone’s attention on Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, the Head of the Body, the Image of the unseen God! Let’s be Orthodox on Purpose!