Generous Orthodoxy  




Saturday, March 22, 2008

Not from The Times, but for all time

The Last Even As The First

This famous sermon is read as part of the Easter midnight service in the Eastern Orthodox liturgy. In recent years it has come to be similarly used in some Anglican churches, including Canterbury Cathedral. Based on our Lord’s parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16 and parallels), it has long been attributed to Chrysostom (c. 347-407), though now it is believed to be even older.

If anyone is devout and loves God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any one is a wise servant, let her rejoice and enter into the joy of her Lord. If any has labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any has worked from the first hour, let her today receive his just reward. If any has come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any has arrived at the sixth hour, let her have no misgivings, because she shall in no wise be deprived. If any has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any has tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, not be alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as to him who has worked from the first hour. And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the act and praises the offering.

Let all then enter into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, keep the feast. You sober and you heedless, celebrate the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; let all feast sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go away hungry. Let all enjoy the feast of faith: let all receive the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail her poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free. He who was held prisoner by it, has annihilated it. By descending into Hades, he made Hades captive. He angered it when it tasted of his flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, cried out: it was angered, for it was abolished. It was angered, for it was slain. It was angered, for it was overthrown. It was angered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen. “O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown.

Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of the death. For Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.

This famous sermon is read as part of the Easter midnight service in the Eastern Orthodox liturgy. In recent years it has come to be similarly used in some Anglican churches, including Canterbury Cathedral. Based on our Lord’s parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16 and parallels), it has long been attributed to Chrysostom (c. 347-407), though now it is believed to be perhaps even older.Easter sermon attributed to St. John Chrysostom)

If anyone is devout and loves God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any one is a wise servant, let her rejoice and enter into the joy of her Lord. If any has labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any has worked from the first hour, let her today receive his just reward. If any has come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any has arrived at the sixth hour, let her have no misgivings, because she shall in no wise be deprived. If any has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any has tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, not be alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as to him who has worked from the first hour. And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the act and praises the offering.

Let all then enter into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, keep the feast. You sober and you heedless, celebrate the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; let all feast sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go away hungry. Let all enjoy the feast of faith: let all receive the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail her poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free. He who was held prisoner by it, has annihilated it. By descending into Hades, he made Hades captive. He angered it when it tasted of his flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, cried out: it was angered, for it was abolished. It was angered, for it was slain. It was angered, for it was overthrown. It was angered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen. “O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown.

Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of the death. For Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.