(Sunday, October 1)

Rejoice, O holy Zion:
Mother of the churches, the abode of God,
for you were the first to receive remission of sins//
by the resurrection.” (Sunday Vespers Hymn, Tone 8)

The above-quoted hymn, chanted in our churches on the eve of every eighth Sunday (whenever it is Tone 8, which I will not explain here), celebrates the fact that “holy Zion,” meaning in this case the church of Jerusalem (the “mother” of churches), was the first to receive remission of sins “by the resurrection.” Why does the resurrection, the rising from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ, bring us “remission” (the release from, or setting aside) of our sins? I mean, what does one have to do with the other?

Here is how we see this happen in the church of Jerusalem two millennia ago, as described in today’s Matins Gospel (Luke 24): Late in the day of the very Sunday of Christ’s resurrection, the Apostles and those with them were gathered, listening incredulously to the two disciples that had already encountered the risen Lord on their way to Emmaus. “Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.” (Lk 24:36-37) Let’s note that almost all these disciples had scattered and hid, abandoning Christ “for fear of the Jews,” when He was crucified and died on the Cross. They did not even show up to help out with His burial. And now, seeing Him alive and well, they are terrified. But He has come back not to punish them. He has come back to bring them peace and “remission” of, or release from fear, which was the main “sin” that fueled all the events that led to His crucifixion. So, the next thing He says to them is: “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have…” And then He asks them for food, eats in front of them, etc., and soon has them no longer terrified and doubtful, but overjoyed and faithful. This, in short, is how the church of Jerusalem was the first to receive remission of sins “by the Resurrection.

How do *we* in the 21st c. receive remission of *our* sins “by the Resurrection”? We open and re-open ourselves, Sunday after Sunday, to communion with the living God; with One who helps us out of the rut of self-centered fears into new faith and joy, out of darkness into new light, and out of death into new life. He is the source of true life and light, so let’s step into communion with Him today, in the ways that we can, my friends, that we not wither and dry up, like branches cut off from the vine. “I shall not die, but live, and proclaim the works of the Lord!” (Ps 117/118:17)