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October 10, 2019

Homily on the Resurrection Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

In the Resurrection Apolytikia we are interpreting this year for the eucharistic sermons, the entire meaning of the event of the Resurrection of Christ is encompassed. This is also evident in the Apolytikion in the plagal of the fourth tone we chanted today, which is as follows:

Ἐξ ὕψους κατῆλθες ὁ Εὔσπλαγχνος, ταφήν κατεδέξω τριήμερον, ἵνα ἡμᾶς ἐλευθερώσῃς τῶν παθῶν. Ἡ ζωή καί ἡ ἀνάστασις ἡμῶν, Κύριε, δόξα σοι.

From on high didst Thou descend, O Compassionate One; to burial of three days hast Thou submitted that Thou mightest free us from our passions. O our Life and Resurrection, O Lord, glory be to Thee.

First of all, what we are seeing here is that the Risen Christ is called "Compassionate One," which means that He is sympathetic and merciful, Who is compassionate towards people. This reminds us of the prayer of the Prophet Zechariah when his son was born, Saint John the Forerunner. Among other things he said:

"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited his people and redeemed them." And then, referring to the newly-born John the Forerunner, he says: "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace" (Lk. 1:68-79).

This means that we were living in darkness and the shadow of death and He came from the heights of heaven, out of love and compassion towards us to save us from this darkness. This shows the great love of God abundantly expressed to us.

Christ accepted His three day burial, that is His Body remained in the tomb for three days with His divinity, which is why His Body showed no signs of corruption, while His soul with His divinity descended into Hades and liberated those who believed in Him. Christ knew death, He entered into the shadow of death, but He conquered it and gave us the spiritual vaccine for us to conquer it as well in our own lives.

This describes the work of the atonement of the Son and Word of God in the world. Some claim that the Son and Word of God was incarnated to change wahat had been handed down to us socially and historically, in order to give the world a new religion and give it a Christian culture.

However, as the Disciples of Christ and the Holy Fathers of the Church taught, Christ came to defeat the devil, sin and death, which tormented the human race as tyrants. This is also evident in the dogmatic texts of Saint John of Damascus.

And this is clearly seen by the fact that there existed a series of events. The First-formed heeded the devil's advice, committed sin, and death came immediately with the deprivation of God's light. Thus, the devil, sin and death are closely linked.

Therefore, the Son and Word of God by His Incarnation, His Cross, His Death and His Resurrection had compassion on us and removed us from the dominion of death, the devil and sin and liberated us from the passions tied to them.

This is the work done by the Church throughout the ages. The social and cultural work of the Church is secondary, a consequence of the victory over the devil, sin and death.

In this Resurrection hymn we see that the Son and Word of God descended "from on high" to earth. If we view this theologically, it means that the divine nature of the Son and Word of God united with human nature in the hypostasis of the Word.

The "from on high" is the utter purity of the Son and Word of God. That He descended to earth indicates that He received an earthly and mortal body, without sin, and in this way He deified human nature, immediately from the moment of assuming it, and after His death He conquered as a result the devil, sin and death.

Thus, we receive Christ with the Mystery of the divine Eucharist as medicine. Christ is not only a physician, but He is also our spiritual medicine, that we may be released from the fearsome grip of sin, death and the devil.

Christ, as the Resurrection Apolytikion says, is our life and our resurrection. He has given us true life and our resurrection from our passions, which have their dominion over us. We must know this compassion of God in the Church, which is the Body of the Risen Christ.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.