Monday, February 8, 2016


Εξ ύψους κατήλθες ο εύσπλαγχνος,
ταφήν καταδέξω τριήμερον,
ίνα ημάς ελευθερώσης τών παθών,
Η ζωή καί η Ανάστασις ημών, Κύριε δόξα σοι.

You descended from on high, O merciful Lord,
and accepted the three‑day burial
in order to free us from our passions.
Glory to you, O Lord, our life and our resurrection.

Resurrectional Apolytikion, Tone 8

I don’t know why, but this was the first Greek hymn I ever fell in love with. I sang it constantly for years, and I still do from time to time. Later, after worshipping the Lord in the Anastasis service for many years, and having heard my beloved bishop Anthony (of blessed memory) sing with great gusto the apolytikion of Tone 2, Ote katílthes, ‘When You descended,’ in which occurs a phrase I love more than anything, ti astrapí tis theótitos, ‘by the lightning flash of deity,’ that hymn became my favorite. Now it almost sings itself inside me wherever I go, keeping me always present at the moment when the angel speaks the words, ουκ εστιν ωδε, ηγερθη γαρ καθως ειπεν, ‘He is not here, for He has risen as He said’ (Matthew 28:6).

But, back to the 8th tone hymn, it is the words τών παθών, ton pathón, from the passions, that has kept catching my ear from the first time I ever heard it sung.

The passions? What are they?
Some translations propose ‘from the sufferings.’ The word ‘our’ is implied earlier in the verse where it’s the direct object of the verb ελευθερώσης, eleftherósis, You liberate. Whatever is meant by ‘passions,’ Christ came to free us from them. That’s what we’re singing about.

Yet, in the world today, outside and inside the Church, we hear voices throwing around this word ‘passion’ in relation to good things as well as bad, positive as well as negative. Young Christians intent on serving the Lord often say, “I have a passion for Jesus,” or “I have a passion for ministry,” and what they’re saying is that they have a strong feeling. But is it feelings, if that’s what they mean by ‘passion,’ that will keep them going and strengthen them to follow Jesus, or to serve His people, from beginning to end?

The ‘passion’ that young people have, how many times does it get traded or sold for something less than they bargained for? How many Christians have in middle age the same fervor for Christ that they had when they first decided to follow Him? These people are not hard to spot, if you know what to look for. They are those who, no matter what their age, seem somehow to be always young and fresh, their spirits unaffected by the physical deterioration that comes with age.

Living fulfillments of Psalm 1, planted by water streams, yielding their fruit in season, their leaves never fading. Age they have eluded, as they will also elude death.

Εγω ειμι η αναστασις και η ζωη. Ο πιστευων εις εμε καν αποθανη ζησεται… Πιστευεις τουτο? ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. If anyone believes in Me, even though he dies, he will live… Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26)

We sing of Christ that He ‘accepted the three‑day burial in order to free us from our passions.’ Perhaps following Him even there, to the rich man’s virgin tomb, in the darkness of death we will shed our passions as the souls in Hades shed their shadows. He emptied the graves once. He will do it again. And that, very soon.

For the time is close.

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