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The Great Cosmic Joke

Presented on Great and Holy Pascha 2020
Fr. Luke A. Veronis

In some parts of Greece, there is a tradition that the day after Pascha is a day devoted to telling jokes. This tradition came about because they said that during Holy Week God pulled the greatest joke on Satan himself, when Christ willingly accepted to die on the Cross. Satan thought he won - that he had defeated Jesus, that darkness had conquered light, evil had conquered good, and death had conquered life – Satan thought he had won only to find out that when Christ entered the devil’s domain, hades, he could not contain the Eternal One.

The hymns from Holy Saturday summarize the situation beautifully, “Today Hell laments and cries out: Better that I had not welcomed Him who is born of Mary. He has put an end to my power. He has broken my doors of bronze… My sovereignty is destroyed. I received Jesus as a mortal one among the dead, but this One I am powerless to contain. Instead, through Him I lose all I had governed. I had held the dead for ages, but behold, He resurrects them all… The Crucified One empties all the tombs, and the power of death is overcome. Glory to Your Cross and Resurrection, O Lord.”

By Jesus resurrecting from the dead, Satan did not have the final word in the battle between good and evil. As the angel said to the myrrhbearing women, “He is not here; He has risen. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that He has risen from the dead.”

Christ’s victory over Satan, sin and death itself is what we celebrate today on Pascha!

Another hymn from Holy Saturday puts it this way, “We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hell and the beginning of the new eternal life… Christ shattered the everlasting bars which kept the dead captive. He descended into the grave to overthrow the power of hell and rise as the immortal conqueror.”

Now all life is filled with light, hope and the power of unconquerable love. If we choose to live in this light of the Resurrection, our lives will never be the same. Christ changes the entire perspective of our existence, because we realize that goodness can prevail over evil, that love is stronger than hatred, that faith has no place for fear, and that death is but a doorway into eternal paradise.

Of course, during our earthly life, we will still face various struggles, challenges, and sufferings – like many people are experiencing during this pandemic. Times may seem quite dark and uncertain. There may be many reasons to focus on the negative reports. Yet no matter what we face in life, nothing is out of the control of God! And in the midst of the deepest darkness, may we never forget that the Passion of Christ concludes with His Resurrection – what appears to be the victory of evil and darkness and death is only a façade, a joke played on Satan.

Christ is Risen! and death is defeated!
Christ is Risen! and fear is vanquished!
Christ is Risen! and divine light has shone forth in the midst of the deepest darkenss!
Christ is Risen! and our suffering is transformed as it takes on new meaning!
Christ is Risen! and the doors of paradise are opened for all who believe!
Christ is Risen! and the devil and sin itself will not have the last say!
Christ is Risen! and we become conquerors together with Jesus over all that is dark and evil

Here lies the central message of Pascha and Christ’s Resurrection! No matter what we face, no matter how dark life appears, no matter who we are or what mistakes we have made in life, no matter how many times we've denied Christ or even rejected Him, no matter how many times we've fallen into any common sins or even serious transgressions, Pascha Sunday offers Good News to never to despair, for our Lord’s Resurrection gives us hope, the Risen Lord offers a new perspective on life and even a fresh start!!!

We can’t stay hopeless when we know that we have a God who loves us so much that He willingly dies for us! We can’t stay hopeless when we know that we have a God who not only endured betrayal, denial, humiliation, rejection, and the most cruel form of death on the Cross, but a who willingly descended into the deepest darkness of Hades to wrestle with the Evil One and break His bonds over us, destroying his power of sin, evil and death!

For all of us who choose to participate in this restoration of life, in this resurrection from the dead, in this new life that Christ offers, then joy and peace and hope will be ours. We will experience abundant lives in the power of the Risen Lord and in the victory of His Resurrection!

Christ is Risen! Christos Anesti! Krishti U Ngjall!