Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad!

Attributed by all of the extant manuscripts to St John Chrysostom, this little-known, pseudepigraphical homily from the fifth century focuses on “the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.”[1] It begins by summarizing various fruits of the resurrection in the lives of believers, then exhorts readers or listeners to assume conduct appropriate to the day of Holy Pascha.

In the rhetorical style typical of the period, it stresses antitheses, reversals in life and human conduct following the great paschal event. Thus the first Adam is contrasted with Christ, the Second Adam; the condition of disobedient Eve is reversed by the obedience of the Virgin Mother (compare the Latin word-play: Eva-Ave); the condemnation occasioned by the forbidden tree is reversed by the Tree of the Cross; and the somber tone of the Old Covenant under the Law is transformed in Christian life to gladness and joy. Accordingly, the homily takes up and repeats a familiar “paschal” verse from Psalm 117/118 (v. 24): “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

With its blending of doctrine and exhortation, proclamation and practical application, the homily sounds an appropriate note for this time of Resurrection, as we prepare for the great feasts of Ascension and Pentecost.

Symbols of the resurrection [of Christ] are clear and intelligible: guile and jealousy have been banished, quarrels have been suppressed, peace is honored, and war is finished. No longer do we torment ourselves over Adam, the first-formed man, but we glorify the second Adam. No longer do we blame disobedient Eve, but we declare as blessed Mary, the Theotokos or Mother of God. No longer do we turn away from the wood, but we bear the Cross of the Lord. No longer do we dread the serpent, but we fear the Holy Spirit. No longer do we descend to earth, but we rise up to heaven. No longer are we cast out of Paradise, but we live in the bosom of Abraham. No longer do we hear, like Israel, “You shall stumble by day as by night” [cf. Hos 4:5], but we hymn a spiritual song: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Why should we do so? Because the sun is no longer darkened, but all things are illumined; because the veil of the Temple is no longer rent, but the Church is made known; because we no longer carry branches of palms, but we bear the newly Illumined [members of Christ’s Body].

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!” This is the day—today and no other—for there is only one queen and not a crowd of princesses. This is the day par excellence, the triumphant day, consecrated to the Resurrection, when we share a spiritual Lamb. [There follows an exhortation to avoid drunkenness, but to forsake the taverns and celebrate the day with sobriety, singing hymns in the homes.] Let none among you dishonor this day, which was formerly prefigured by the Law, which was promised with a threat [of judgment] and proclaimed by the voice of the prophets. This day has been awaited because of the promise made to the Fathers, which was fulfilled by what the Apostles saw with their eyes and was received by the faith of the Church.

This is the day on which Adam was set free, when Eve was delivered from her grief, when vicious Death trembled. On this day the power of the stones was broken and the locks on the tombs smashed, the bodies of the dead were restored to their former life, and the constraining laws of subterranean powers were abrogated. On this day of the resurrection of our Master Christ, the heavens were opened…

This, then, is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, with joy and gladness, by the grace of Christ. By his Resurrection he illumines the entire world, which formerly lay “in darkness and the shadow of death” (Mt. 4:16). Glory and worship be given to him, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages! Amen.

[1] Greek text in Sources chrétiennes 187, “Homélies Pascales,” (Paris: Cerf, 1972), p. 318ff.