Yesterday, just before the Gospel reading in the Divine Liturgy we heard the choir sing Alleluia and the Reader read “Come let us rejoice in the Lord! Let us make a joyful noise to God our Savior!” The choir sings again, “Alelluia” and the Reader responds with “Let us come before His face with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!”
The Gospel reading was that of the story of Zaccheus. In our tradition, hearing the Zaccheus story, aka Zaccheus Sunday, signifies the end of the Pentecostarion portion of the year (this year it was 33 Sundays since Pentecost). It also signifies to us that Great Lent is just around the corner! It is also seen as the beginning of Lenten preparations!
During the beginning of his homily, Fr. John points this out to us and his excitement was palpable to me. Mostly because what he points out is exactly what I speak often about on my blog…the joy of the Resurrection. The Light!
Fr. John brings to our attention the Alelluia verses I mentioned above. The verses that call us to “make a joyful noise to God” and he asks if anyone else noticed these verses are very near like the first Paschal antiphon hymn we sing on Pascha night! “Make a joyful noise to God all the earth!”
There is never a time in the whole year that we are more joyful than when we are assembled together here on the holy night of Pascha. When everything is dark outside, and when everything was dark inside at the beginning of the service at the tomb of the Lord. But then after the light is brought out as we are singing the hymns of the resurrection the light then fills the whole temple. We make our procession around the Church and come back in and everything is illumined and we hear the Gospel of John that says the Light has come into the world and the world did not quench out the Light. The Light is victorious! That Christ is risen! There is never a more joyful moment in the whole life of the Church, the whole life of the world in the Church, then on that one night of Pascha. And today, brothers and sisters, we take that first step towards that holy and glorious and bright Pascha.Excerpt from Fr. John Strickland’s homily from Zaccheus Sunday 2022
Today we bring to an end the whole liturgical cycle that kind of sprung out of Pascha last year, especially Pentecost forward.
It’s the last Sunday gospel we hear before we begin the pre-lenten gospels in preparation for Great Lent.
As he was giving his homily, this beginning of it, I was so excited to hear these words. It was so exciting to think about that night, the most joyful night of the whole year! And we are on our way to that night once again!
As we approach the preparatory period that leads up to Great Lent I pray that your heart, too, wells up with joy just thinking about it that “holy and glorious and bright Pascha!” May we begin to wrap our minds and hearts around what the time of Lent truly means, this time of deeper reflection, increased prayer, and so much more. May we begin our journey to Pascha with great anticipation…and joy!
Have a blessed week my friends!