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September 1, 2019

Homily on the Resurrection Apolytikion in the Second Tone

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

In this year's summer sermons we will be referring to the Resurrection Apolytikia that we chant every Sunday, according to the tone of each week.

As we know there are eight tones in Byzantine music, which are exchanged every week, from the first tone to the plagal of the fourth tone.

Saint John Damascus, who wrote all the troparia of the Octoechos [Book of Eight Tones], which we chant every Saturday evening and Sunday morning, has composed also the well-known Apolytikia of every tone. With all these troparia, we sing hymns about that great and unique event in history, the Resurrection of Christ.

Because today we chanted the second tone, I will begin to interpret the spiritual meaning of the Apolytikion of today.

The Resurrection Apolytikion of the second tone is as follows:

Ὅτε κατῆλθες πρός τόν θάνατον, ἡ ζωή ἡ ἀθάνατος, τότε τόν ᾅδην ἐνέκρωσας τῇ ἀστραπῇ τῆς θεότητος, ὅτε δέ καί τούς τεθνεῶτας, ἐκ τῶν καταχθονίων ἀνέστησας, πᾶσαι αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν ἐπουρανίων ἐκραύγαζον, Ζωοδότα Χριστέ, ὁ Θεός ἡμῶν δόξα σοι

When Thou didst descend unto death, O Life Immortal, then didst Thou slay Hades with the lightning of Thy Divinity. And when Thou didst also raise the dead out of the nethermost depths, all the Hosts of Heavens cried out: O Life-Giver, Christ our God, glory be to Thee.

Some interpretative comments will be recorded concerning this Resurrection Apolytikion.

From the teaching of the Church we know that the soul of Christ with its divinity, that is to say, without being separated from divinity, descended to Hades, which was the place of death, where the souls of people were held, since before the Resurrection of Christ death had great power and dominated people. This is written by the Apostle Peter: "He went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (1 Pet. 3:19), and we observe it in the teachings of the Holy Fathers of the Church and the liturgical tradition of our Church.

Christ is life immortal, Who descended into the dominion of death and put Hades to death with the Light of His divinity. He entered alone the dominion of death, without death being able to hold Him. Sacred iconography depicts Christ crushing the gates of Hades.

Christ did something else in Hades. He proclaimed repentance, as the Apostle Peter writes, which we mentioned earlier, and those who had known Him in a hidden way during their biological lives, such as the Prophets and the Righteous of the Old Testament, and spoke of the coming of Christ, and acknowledged Him, they believed in Him and He resurrected them spiritually, because the resurrection of their bodies will take place at the Second Coming of Christ.

This event was the first of its kind and wondrous. That is why the Heavenly Powers, seeing this event, burst into an explosian of joy, glorifying Christ, because He, as the Life-Giver, gave life to the souls of people that believed in Him.

Christ is not just a God who accepts our honor and our praise, but He is a Life-Giver who gives life to people, He is the conqueror of death. The demons know it, the angels know it, the saints know it, but, unfortunately, it is ignored or forgotten by many of us, so we do not treat our membership in the Church seriously, as members of the resurrected Body of Christ.

Angels glorify God by crying out about this wondrous event, and many Christians are indifferent, unmoved, and even on Sunday, it being a day of Resurrection, Pascha, they do not live it resurrectionally, as expected, they do not go to church, they do not commune of the resurrected Body of Christ.

This troparion shows us that we should not fear any Hades, any place of death and despair, we must not be saddened by the various trials we have in our lives, but that we should be certain that Christ is God and the Life-Giver, He is Powerful, and when we call upon Him, He will crush every evil, every difficulty and discomfort that is present in our lives, and He we will remove us from spiritual death.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.