This is my favorite Easter reading. John Chrysostom lived from 349 to 407, was a Church father, and was considered one of the greatest preachers of the early church. His sermon is the one I keep waiting to hear proclaimed in church today.
Whoever you are, come, celebrate this shining happening,
this festival of light.
You, the devout, God’s unshakable lover,
and you the servant brimming with thanks.
Come, walk into the joy of your Lord.
You who began before sunrise, come for your stipend.
You who waited till nine in the morning: the feast is for you.
And you, the not-till-noonday starter,
do not hesitate; you shall not lose a thing.
You who began at only three in the afternoon,
have no scruples, come!
And you who arrived just before sunset,
forget you were late. Do not be bashful.
Our Master is magnanimous and welcomes
the very latest with the first.
He will not entertain you less, you of the eleventh hour,
than you the dawn toiler. No, not at all.
To this one he gives, and on that one he showers rewards.
Whether you were a success or whether you only tried,
he will greet you, make much of your effort,
extol your intention.
Let everybody, therefore, crowd into the exhilaration of our Savior.
You the first and you the last: equally heaped with blessings.
You the rich and you the poor: celebrate together.
You the careful and you the careless: enjoy this day of days.
You that have kept the fast, and you that have broken it:
be happy today!
The table is loaded. Feast on it like princes.
The milkfed veal is fat. Let no one go hungry.
And drink, all of you: drink the cup. The vintage is faith.
Feed sumptuously all: feed on his goodness,
his sheer abundance.
No one need think he is poor,
for the universal empire is emblazoned, wide open for all.
No one need mourn uncountable falls, be they over and over.
For forgiveness itself has reared from the tomb.
No one need fear death; for our Saviour himself has died
and set us free.
He confronted death in his own person, and blasted it to nothing.
He made it defunct by the very taste of his flesh.
This is exactly what Isaiah foretold when he declared:
“Hell is harrowed by encounter with him.”
Of course it is harrowed.
For now hell is a joke, finished, done with.
Harrowed because now taken prisoner.
It snatched at a body and – incredible – lit upon God.
It gulped down the earth, and gagged on heaven.
It seized what it saw, and was crushed by what it failed to see.
Poor death, where is your sting? Poor hell, where is your triumph?
Christ steps out of the tomb and you are reduced to nothing.
Christ rises and the angels are wild with delight.
Christ rises and life is set free.
Christ rises and the graves are emptied of dead.
Oh yes, for he broke from the tomb like a flower, a beautiful fruit:
the first fruit of those already gone.
All glory be his, all success and power…for ever and ever!
Translation by Paul Roche.