Sunday, April 24, 2011


It is Holy Saturday morning. We do not hear the usual service for a morning, rather it is the Vespers served with the Divine Liturgy of St Basil. It begins as usual with the evening psalm, the litany, the hymns following “Lord, I cry out to You” and the chanting of “O Gladsome Light”. Following the entrance, fifteen readings from the Old Testament are read which relate to God's work of Creation and Salvation, fulfilled in the coming of Christ. In the place of the Trisagion Hymn, the baptismal verse is chanted: “As many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Then the epistle reading from Romans takes place: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him” (Romans 6:8).

The Royal Gates are closed. The Priest changes from dark, mournful vestments into the bright, joyous vestments. Then, in anticipation of what is to come, he bursts out of the Royal Doors chanting the victory hymn: “Arise O God and judge the earth, for You shall inherit all the nations”. He frantically makes a procession around the Church throwing about leaves, signifying Christ’s victory over death. Indeed, it is truly a Victory Procession. A victory over all of God’s enemies, as well as ours: the devil, sin and finally death itself.

This victory hymn is extracted directly from Psalm 82. The Psalmist commonly uses the phrase “Arise O God”, meaning “rise up victoriously over Your enemies, O God” but, more significantly for us Christians, it prefigures the real resurrection of Christ from the dead. If God is victorious over His enemies, then through Him we become victorious.

How does God “judge the earth”? We are judged by being in the presence of the risen Christ: not by some unjust judge or a corrupt juridical system, but by standing in the presence of Christ, crucified and glorified, our hearts are laid bare and we cannot hide from ourselves or from God. Hence, we are judged.

Finally, the hymn ends with the phrase, “for You shall inherit all the nations”. In the Old Testament, it is clear that the coming Messiah is the inheritor of Israel. Jesus Christ, being the Messiah and the Son of God, not only inherits Israel, but inherits the whole earth and everything on it. And through Him we are made heirs of the promise, we all become sons of God.

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