Sermon for The Vigil of Easter, 2021

(with excerpts from the Easter Sermon attributed to St. John Chyrsostom)

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Are 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! The Lenten season has come to an end. The fast is ended. Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages!

Tonight we have recounted the history of the salvation of God’s people. Jesus compares his kingdom to a vineyard in Matthew 20. The Lord promises to pay what is fair to those who labor in the vineyard. Tonight is the night we celebrate what God gives to those who labor in his vienyard.

Adam and Eve and Noah and his family have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons came after the third hour,

let him with gratitude join in the Feast! The Israelites that were led out of Egypt by the Lord’s strong arm, crossing the Red Sea and ultimately led into the Promised Land arrived after the sixth hour.

Let them not doubt; for they too shall sustain no loss. Those who remained faithful in the exile to Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendago among them—and prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel who came at the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let them come too.

And finally, we have those who arrive in the vineyard of the Lord at the eleventh hour, the apostles, the entire New Testament Church, and even you, Allyssa, and all those here holding vigil this night. Tonight reminds that we are not alone. Not only is the faith that you confess tonight your faith, but it is the faith that has been confessed by the Church throughout the ages. Let us not be afraid by reason of Christ’s delay. For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.

He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.

He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.

The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;

rich and poor, rejoice together!

Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,

rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Enjoy the foretaste of the Lord’s feast at his holy altar. Eat the body of the Lord. Drink his blood. For Jesus has promised that all who eat his flesh and drink his blood will live forever.

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.

Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.

Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,

for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;

for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.

He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.

He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,

“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.

It was in an uproar because it is mocked.

It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.

It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.

It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.

It took earth, and encountered Heaven.

It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?

O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!

Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!

Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!

Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

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 Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

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