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September 8, 2019

Homily on the Resurrection Apolytikion in the Third Tone

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

In the Resurrection Apolytikion we chanted today in the Divine Liturgy, which is an Apolytikion in the third tone, we sang a hymn to the Risen Christ who is described as the "first-born of the dead." The hymn is as follows:

Εὐφραινέσθω τά οὐράνια, ἀγαλλιάσθω τά ἐπίγεια, ὅτι ἐποίησε κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ ὁ Κύριος, ἐπάτησε τῷ θανάτῳ τόν θάνατον, πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν ἐγένετο, ἐκ κοιλίας ᾅδου ἐρρύσατο ἡμᾶς, καί παρέσχε τῷ κόσμῳ τό μέγα ἔλεος.

Let the heavens be glad; let earthly things rejoice; for the Lord hath wrought might with His arm. He hath trampled down death by death; the first-born of the dead hath He become. From the belly of Hades hath He delivered us and hath granted to the world great mercy.
The sacred hymnographer urges us to rejoice and be spiritually glad, not only we who live on earth and all that is found on earth, but the heavens, namely the angels of God. This is because Christ by His Resurrection brought benefit to the noetic spirits, to angels and people.

Our joy should not be restricted and should not be confined to external things, to physical sensations and sensible things, but also to spiritual pursuits. And what greater event is there since the Resurrection of Christ?

By His death Christ trampled on death, He brought us out of Hades, and He became the first-born of the dead, which means that He was the first to conquer death and so He was born from the place of the dead.

Christ Himself has called us His brethren. After His Resurrection he said to the Myrrhbearing women: "Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see Me” (Matt. 10:10). Thus, our first and eldest Brother has been resurrected, and that means that we and His subsequent brethren will be restored by His own power. In a family where children come out of their mother's womb, they are called first-born, second-born, third-born brethren. This also happens in the spiritual family. As our first-born Brother, Christ, was raised, this means that we, too, will be resurreected by His own power.

When a swimmer comes out of the sea, first their head emerges and then slowly-slowly their body also. The same thing happens in our circumstance. The first-born Brother, Christ, was the first to rise, and then we also will rise, first spiritually and then physically.

He "granted to the world great mercy." He has given us His Grace to consider Him as our first-born Brother and to live in the gladness of the earth and joy of the heavens.

We are not alone in this world, we are not abandoned, even though people abandon us, we have a strong and victorious first-born Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ is our father, our brother, our friend, our bridegroom, our consolation, and our life. He is everything to us. He satisfies all our spiritual needs, He solves all our problems. He is not a God who dwells in the heavens and directs the universe and the earth, but He is very close to us.

When we were abandoned by everyone, He becomes our father. If we don't have people to help us, He becomes our brother. When we feel the absence of our friends, He becomes and remains our friend. When we are missing love, He becomes our bridegroom. When we are desperate, He becomes our consolation. When fear and the shadow of death approaches us, He becomes our life.

Christ is our first-born Brother who has been raised from the dead and we can join His own family, which is the Church, and participate in His eternal glory.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.