If you have forgotten that it’s still Easter, or even worse, celebrated one day and completely forgot about it, St. John Chrysostom has some encouraging words for you.
I can completely relate to the struggle to celebrate for fifty days straight. I’ve heard people describe Lent as a marathon, but for a melancholic like me, it’s almost more difficult remembering to celebrate for fifty days then do penance for forty. But God calls us to rejoice, whether we wake up every morning hollering “Jesus is risen!” as we throw the covers off or if we slap our foreheads every time we see the white vestments on Sunday, swearing we will keep sacred this feast going into the week, knowing we will most likely forget by the time we head to the doughnut and coffee hand-out station.
St. John Chrysostom has some consoling words for us late-comers. In the Church’s Eastern Rite, they read one of his most famous catechetical sermons every Easter. Meditating on the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16), it is supposed to be a reminder that whether we’ve held to our Lenten fasts since Ash Wednesday or picked up a random makeshift penance on the back half of the season- even if we just started fasting on Good Friday, we have a reason to celebrate receiving the fullness of God’s mercy in His resurrection. We’re well into the Easter season, with only a week or so left, which is another perfect time to remind us of God’s perfect mercy despite our imperfect timing:
“If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.”
There’s enough Easter joy to go around (even five weeks in):
“And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.”
And for the gloomy melancholics like myself, God has created us for the joy of Easter, not for the ridiculously gloomy pit of despair that we inexplicably seem to search out.
“Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.”
We’re all late to the party, all impoverished in some way, but the Easter season (all FIFTY days) is an extended season of meditation on that very fact as well as the great riches of grace we’ve been given.
Bonus point for those of you who listen to this while meditating on this homily.