St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407) was the archbishop of Constantinople and an Early Church Father. His name, meaning “golden-tongued,” attests to the renown in which he was held for his gifts as an orator and preacher.
This sermon is a version of John Chysostom’s Easter sermon, which is still read every Easter in Orthodox churches around the world. It is striking in its poetry, brevity, scriptural grounding, and unbridled joy in Christ’s victory over sin and death. I offered it this year at the Easter service in my own parish.
If any of you be a devout lover of God,
come, partake with gladness
from this fair and radiant feast.
If any of you be a faithful servant,
come, enter the joy of your Lord.
If any of you have wearied yourself with fasting,
come, enjoy now your reward.
You who have labored long and hard,
come, receive your rightful due.
You who have labored much,
come, celebrate the feast with gratitude.
You who have labored only some,
do not despair, for you will not be deprived.
You who have labored only a little,
do not hesitate. Instead, draw near.
And you who have come only now
in this belated hour, be not afraid.
For the Master is generous,
and he accepts the last even as the first.
Enter then, all of you, into the joy of our Lord.
First and last, receive alike.
Rich and poor, dance together.
You who fasted and you who have not fasted, rejoice as one.
The table is set and fully laden: let all enjoy.
The calf is fatted: let none leave hungry.
Let no one lament his poverty;
for the Kingdom of God is revealed.
Let no one bewail his transgressions;
for the light of forgiveness has risen from the tomb.
Let no one fear the grip of death;
for the death of the Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed death by undergoing death.
He has despoiled hell by descending into hell.
He vexed it even as it tasted of his flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he cried:
‘Hell was filled with bitterness when it met Thee face to face below;’
filled with bitterness, for it was brought to nothing;
filled with bitterness, for it was mocked;
filled with bitterness, for it was overthrown;
filled with bitterness, for it was put in chains.
Hell received a body,
and encountered the living God.
It received earth,
and confronted the fullness of heaven.
Where, O death, is your sting?
Where, O hell, is your victory?
Christ is risen! And you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is risen! And the demons are cast down!
Christ is risen! And the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen! And life is liberated!
Christ is risen! And the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits
of those who have falled asleep.
To him be glory and power,
now and forever,
and from all ages to all ages.