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Pascha - The Resurrection of Our Lord (Easter)

The word "pascha" in Hebrew means "passing over, deliverance." The Hebrews, celebrating the Old Testament Passover, commemorated the miraculous exodus of the Jews out of Egypt, when they crossed the parted Red Sea being led by their great Prophet, the God-beholder Moses. They left the land of slavery, Egypt, to enter into the Promised Land. Christians, celebrating the New Testament Pascha, exult in the deliverance through Christ of all the people from slavery to the devil and in the granting of life and everlasting bliss. The Church sings of this in the canons when she sings: "From death to life and from the earth to the Heavens has Christ God brought us."

Pascha is the essence of our faith, for Christ rose from the dead, as we will rise from the dead. Pascha is the Feast of feasts, the Triumph of triumphs and, therefore, the services of this feast are exceptionally magnificent and especially triumphant.

The Resurrection of Christ was attested to by the blood of the apostles and by the thousands upon thousands of martyrs. The spiritual joy of Pascha is expressed in the victorious hymn: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life," and is felt in the heart of each believer.

On Great and Holy Friday, in the ninth hour (about three in the afternoon), Christ was crucified on the cross and gave up His spirit to the Father. There were but a few who stood by the cross that day weeping as Christ suffered and died: among those few were His young disciple John, His Mother, and some other women followers. All the others had ran away in tears a long while back. When it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea came along. His name was Joseph. He, too, was a disciple of Jesus. This Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate gave orders for the body to be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a new linen winding sheet, and placed it in his own tomb, which he had just recently dug out of the rock. Then he rolled a large stone across the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there, facing the tomb. The next day, Great and Holy Saturday, the chief priests and the Pharisees met with Pilate and said: "Sir, we remember that that deceiver said while he was yet alive, 'After three days I will rise again.' Command therefore that the sepulcher be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away, and say unto the people, 'He is risen from the dead,' so that the last error shall be worse than the first." Pilate said unto them, "Ye have a watch. Go your way, make it as secure as ye can." So they went and made the sepulcher secure, sealing the stone and setting up a watch" (Matt. 27:57-66).

Commencing after midnight Saturday and continuing on into the next day (now known as Sunday) the greatest and most joyous event the world has ever known happened. The guard was standing at the grave, the large stone with the seal was intact then, suddenly, the earth shook and our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of His Divinity, raised Himself from the dead. Soon after this an angel came down from Heaven and rolled away the stone from the entrance to the tomb and sat upon it. The appearance of this angel was like lightning and his clothes were white as snow. The soldiers guarding the tomb fell to the ground in terror, but they soon got up and ran to tell the chief priests what had happened. The chief priests gave the guards a large sum of money and said, "'Say ye, "His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we slept." And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him and secure you.' So they took the money, and did as they were taught; and this account is commonly reported among the Jews until this day" (Matt. 28:13-15).

Meanwhile, in the early morning, while it was still dark, several pious women went hurrying to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ with myrrh. They were not aware of the great event that had taken place, nor even of the seal of the Sanhedrin, or of the guards. Their worry was about who would roll away the heavy stone from the tomb. Mary Magdalene reached the tomb first and, seeing that the stone had been rolled away, ran to Peter and John saying: "They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid Him!" (John 20:2). Hearing this, Peter and John immediately ran to the grave with Mary Magdalene. The rest of the myrrh-bearing women came to the grave and saw that the stone had been rolled away. So they went in; but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. They stood there uncertain about this, when suddenly two men in bright shining clothes stood by them: Full of fear, the women bowed down to the ground, as the men said to them: "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and the third day rise again.' And they remembered His words, and returned from the sepulcher and told all these things unto the eleven and to all the rest" (Luke 24: 1-9).

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