May 20, 2011

St. Hesychios of Jerusalem: On the Holy Pascha

By St. Hesychios of Jerusalem [1]

1. Τhe call of the royal trumpet. It is a sacred and royal trumpet that calls us again to this spiritual theater, the Paschal celebration in the Church. This trumpet was filled with sounds in Bethlehem, because it was there that God was born as man. Bethlehem was the beginning. But this trumpet was fired, reached its full blast in Zion, Jerusalem. Because it was in Jerusalem that the Cross was raised and the Resurrection took place. The Cross was the hummer and the Resurrection the anvil. It is impossible to everyone to speak worthily of its beauty, to describe its wondrous splendor, to recount the divine kingdom which emerges from it, to touch it and to explore it.

2. Its message: the dead God who cancels death. This paschal trumpet invites us to revisit the grave which gives birth to life, the sepulcher of corruption which becomes the bearer of incorruption, the three-day rest[2] which puts the Bridegroom to sleep, and the bridal chamber from which the bride emerges uncorrupted after the marriage. It tells us that the grave guards one who is dead,[3] but the earth is shaken by Him who is God.[4] The body says that He is dead, but the miracle cries out that He is God. The burial testifies that He is dead, but the resurrection demonstrates that He is God. The tears of the women confess Him to be dead,[5] but the words of the angels confess Him to be God.[6] Joseph prepares His internment as dead,[7] but He who is interred as man is God who denudes and abolishes death. The soldiers guard Him as dead, but the guards of the gates of Hades encounter Him and shrivel with fear.

3. The main theme: the mystery of the Godman. Who then is this dead God, is He two or one? No He is not two, but one, man and God, God and man. You cannot speak of Him as this one and that one, i.e. as one person and another person, nor as another thing in another person, nor another thing through another person. This One is “God the Word who became incarnate,”[8] became man, and conjoined by His will in a manner ineffable and these (human) things with those (divine) things. To Him belong both the flesh and the Godhead – the flesh which He offered in order to accomplish the sufferings, and the Godhead which He used in order to achieve the signs and miracles. As it is illegitimate to sever the flesh from the Word, so it is necessary to conjoin the sufferings with the miracles. Because, He who “descended into Hades”[9] is also the one who freed the dead as God. How else would the angels minister at the grave? How else would they appear to the women “dressed in white”[10] as representatives of the bridegroom? How else would they say, “Do you seek Jesus who was crucified? He is not here. He is risen as He had fore-announced it?”[11] Heaven, then, is His “place,”[12] and there you should send the “ointments.”[13] “He is Risen” by Himself.[14] We did not raise Him. We only “rolled” the stone for your sake.[15] The grace was empty before we came down to it. He is risen as He himself had fore-announced it.[16]

4. The Witness of the Prophets. The angel also said that neither the prophets could explain the mystery although they fore-announced it. Hosea spoke about the time of the Resurrection. Isaiah fore-saw it, but did not know how it would be accomplished. The prophesy of Hosea is as follows: “Come and let us return to the Lord our God, because He has captured us and will heal us, He will wound us and will attend to our wounds within two days. On the third day we shall rise again and will live in His presence.”[17] Listen also to the words of Isaiah: “Lebanon was made low and Sharon was changed into swamps. Galilee and Carmel will be exalted. Because now I will rise again, says the Lord; now I will be glorified; now I will be exalted. Now you will see, and will be brought to shame.”[18] To the Jews were these words addressed. “Now I will rise again,” because now I will raise Adam, who was thrown into death by the transgression. “Now I will be glorified,” because I will demonstrate to the nations the impassibility of My passion. “Now I will be exalted,” because now I will raise to heaven your “firstfruits,”[19] and will raise “the form of the servant”[20] which I took from you to heaven and place it on the Cherubic throne. “Now you will see,” the types to be removed and the truth to blossom (open like a bud). “Now you will be brought to shame,” because of the words which you used in order to slander Me; because you were defeated from the events; because the glory belongs to God, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and always and into the ages of the ages, Amen.


[1] The presbyter Hesychios was a teacher in Jerusalem during the first half of the 5th century AD. He was distinguished for his exegesis of the Bible and for his Sermons. The original text of the present Homily was published by Michel Aubineau in Subsidia Hagiographica 59 (1978) σσ. 112-116.

[2] (Matth. 27:63)

[3] (Matth. 27:62-66)

[4] (Matth. 28:2)

[5] (John 20:13)

[6] (Matth.28:5-6, Μark 16:6-7, Luke 24:5-7)

[7] (Matth.27:57-60, Μark 15:42-46, Luke 23:50-53, John 19:38-42)

[8] (John 1:14)

[9] (Εph. 4:9-10)

[10] (Matth.28:3, Mark 16:5, John 20:12, Luke24:4)

[11] (Matth.28:5-6, Mark 16:6)

[12] (Matth.28:6, Mark 16:6)

[13] (Luke 23:56, 24:1 Μark 16:1)

[14] (Matth.28:6, Μark 16:6)

[15] (Matth.28:2, Μark 16:3-4, Luke 24:2)

[16] (Matth.28:6)

[17] (Hosea 6:1-2)

[18] (Isaiah 33:9-11)

[19] (I Cor. 15:20)

[20] (Phil. 2:6)

Source: Translated by Protoresbyter George Dion Dragas. PhD. DD, DTh