It’s such a beautiful night tonight, for many reasons, but for myself personally I have to say that I am very blessed and I feel very proud to be here with everyone and to be your priest and to be part of this community.
Why? As I was preparing for this sermon tonight and I was thinking about what I was going to say, I was reading an article online about, that they did a poll in Greece, about people; how many people believed in God, they asked specific questions leading up to Easter, how many people believed in God, how many people went to church, how many people recognized the hymns of Holy Week or the services of Holy Week. But the most important poll that they took was, they asked people how many people go to the service of the Resurrection and how many people actually stay after the light comes out. Because for those of you who are familiar, and for those of you who are new and are not familiar, unfortunately we have this tradition, it’s not a tradition actually, it’s just, I guess you could say it’s human weakness. That many people, they come for the light at midnight and once they get the light they head for the cars. And they miss the whole Divine Liturgy that comes after it, which is really the most important part.
So the poll said that only 13% of all Orthodox Christians in Greece, which is 98% of the population so we’re looking at 11.5 million people, only 13% of them actually stay till the end of Divine Liturgy on Easter Night which is the most important feast day of the year. It is, I guess you could say it is the main event of the whole ecclesiastical year.
And usually people read that, and priests read that, and we get sad. But I was actually happy. Because I read that, and then I though well, if this is true, then here at St. Demetrios I am witnessing a miracle, every year. Because two years ago, last year, everybody stayed until the end. Everybody listened, not only to what I had to say about Easter and Pascha and the importance of remaining for the Divine Liturgy, not only did people stay until the very end, and the church was packed even upstairs in the galleries, but almost everybody in the church communed. I actually almost ran out of Holy Communion last year and I’ve never seen that in my life. Growing up, in all my years in all the different churches that I’ve visited and the different places that I’ve been for Easter I’ve never seen that happen. I’ve never seen everyone stay until the end and I’ve never seen the priest almost run out of Holy Communion. And that is extremely, extremely encouraging for me as a priest and it makes me extremely proud of all of you and of all of us as a community because it shows that we actually care about our Orthodoxy and it shows that we’re actually listening and learning more about our faith and engaging in our faith and not just saying that we’re Orthodox but actually attempting to live it.
And so tonight I have no doubt that it will be the exact same thing because we understand the importance of the Resurrection, we understand that this is the Feast of Feasts. It is the greatest time of the year. And we are all called to receive Holy Communion, even those who have fasted and those who have not fasted, those who feel that they are worthy and those who do not feel that they are worthy. As we’ll hear in the catechetical sermon of St. John Chrysostom from the Fourth Century, sixteen hundred years ago, we’ll hear it at the end of the service:
those who started at the beginning and those that started a week ago, those who came at the first hour and those who came at the eleventh hour, all are welcome into the Lord’s banquet.
And this is something that should fill our hearts with joy because it reminds us at least once a year, if not every Sunday (because every Sunday is like a small Pascha, a small Resurrection), it reminds us that no matter what we do, God will always accept us as long as we just try a little. Some of us have the capability of trying a lot some of us have the capability of trying very little, but the point is that we’re here together and we’re one family and we all share from the same cup. We’re all one, and this is a beautiful thing. I do pray that we will continue like this as a family.
Tonight we welcomed five new members into our church and again, it’s a blessing that we as a community are able to do these things, are able to welcome these people into our community and I do hope that everyone of you welcomes them after the service and hugs them and tells them ″Christ is risen!″, ″Christos anesti!″, which is what we’re supposed to say to everyone after the Resurrection.
Because this is what Christians do; we come together, we pray together, we share a meal together, which is what the holy Divine Liturgy is, and we pray for one another. So tonight we are about to witness the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, but also, after that, we’re to enter into the bridal chamber and receive spiritual food from his holy table, his holy spiritual table that he lays out for everyone.
All are called. No exceptions.