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“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 You 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?"
(Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom)


To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West

Dearly beloved:

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

There is an old saying, “Be careful what you pray for — you might just get it.” The powerful words of our father among the Saints, St. John Chrysostom, read every year during the Paschal Matins, brings us to a very clear image of that saying. “Hell” is almost personified in his sermon. “It was embittered, it was abolished, it was mocked, it was slain, it was overthrown, it was fettered in chains.”

The stichera of Holy Saturday sings out again and again, “Hell cries out groaning…”  Why? Because “it took a body, and met God face to face.” The groaning is hell being destroyed from within. The demons saw the crucifixion and rejoiced, because the victory was finally theirs. But they prayed for the wrong thing — and got it. When hell swallowed the Savior, it choked. The corpse — for that is exactly what hell is —  is bloated and finally explodes. The gates are smashed, locks are annihilated, chains are broken, doors are demolished and Adam and Eve are lifted out of Sheol along with all of their descendants. They (we) are restored to Paradise.

We live in the Resurrected Christ and His Body — the Church. But we still reside in a fallen and broken creation. The Paradise that Christ came to restore for us is tasted in the Church, but its fulness is yet to be realized and only in the Kingdom of Heaven. Our world is full still of darkness and hatred (see Sri Lanka just a few days ago on Western Easter), our own society seems more and more polarized — politically, socially and morally. And yet, in the midst of this darkness, we see those who are searching for the Answer.

We have nothing to give them but the Risen Christ. But what else is needed? Redemption has been offered to all of creation, renewal is there for the taking, Light is shining for those who would see it, Life has pierced the armor of Death and destroyed it. If each and every one of us simply embrace the Risen Christ with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul, thereby living the resurrected life, multitudes will be saved around us.

The Risen Christ is indeed all we have to give, but when given, we know the answers to the questions: O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Yours in the risen Christ,


Archbishop of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West


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