Pascha: In the Beginning was the Word
A sermon by St. John Maximovitch
At the Liturgy on the day of the Bright Resurrection, we read the beginning of the Gospel of Saint John, concerning the Divine Word. When all is filled with the light of Christ’s Resurrection, when the heavens are united with the earth in the glorification of the Vanquisher of death, the Gospel proclaims Who He is:
In the beginning was the Word.
Mention of the Word is made already in the Old Testament:
By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them by the Spirit of His mouth (Ps. 32:6); He sent forth His Word and He healed them (Ps. 106:20).
The book of the Wisdom of Solomon speaks especially clearly and expressively about the mighty acts of the Word of God. However, the Old Testament people understood the Word of God to mean simply the manifestation of God’s will and activity. Now Saint John announces that the Word of God is verily the Only-begotten Son of God Himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Why is the Son of God also called ―the Word? Because through Him the Father expresses His will.
The Word of God is not the same as a human word. Man uses words to express his thoughts and desires. But the words man utters fall silent and disappear. The desires they express are sometimes fulfilled, but often they remain unfulfilled.
The Word of God is eternal and omnipotent. He is always with God. A man’s word is his servicing faculty. The Word of God is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He Himself is God.
God the Word is the Son of God, and He loves the Father and willingly does everything according to His will. More precisely — They have one will. God the Father loves His Son and creates everything through Him. Nothing is created by Him without the Son, ―by Whom all things were made.‖ Everything has its beginning through Him and without Him nothing began to exist that exists:
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3)
(as it is expressed by the second article of the Symbol of Faith). When in the book of Genesis it says that at the creation of the world God said,
Let there be light… let there be a firmament…
this means that God the Father desired to create light, the firmament, and the rest, and that the Word, His Son, brought this to fulfillment.
The Word of God gives life. He is the source of life:
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The Word of God is light. Through Him God the Father reveals Himself and makes known His divine will:
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man which cometh into the world (John 1:9).
No darkness can conceal that Light:
the Light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not (John 1:5).
After the Fall, the darkness or sin took hold of mankind, but it could not conceal the Di-vine Light.
In accordance with the will of the Father, the Son of God, having descended to earth and become incarnate, sanctified the world.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
To prepare the way for Him in men’s hearts, God sent John the Forerunner. He preached about Christ and called all to believe in Him, for He was the Son of God.
Long before that time, the Law was given through Moses. But the Law, which restrained evil, could not save men. While outwardly fulfilling the Law, men remained full of evil within. For this reason the world did not recognize its Creator, the Son of God, when He came to earth:
He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not (John 1:10-11).
The guardians of the Law did not accept the incarnate Word, for His light was unbearable to them. But the Source of Life, Whom they gave over to death, descended to Hades, destroyed it, and dispersed the darkness with His Divine Light.
Having risen from the dead, Christ opened the gates of the Kingdom of His glory to all those who believe in Him. Those who believe in the incarnate Son of God and accept Him into their heart and soul become children of God. The grace of God spiritually regenerates them, dwelling in them and giving them power to love the Truth and to do the Lord’s will.
As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name (John 1:12).
Those regenerated by grace — if they continue in it to the end of their earthly life, and follow that path indicated by Christ, the True Light — will be deemed worthy of receiving from Him a new gift: they will delight eternally in the Kingdom of the Heavenly Father through beholding the glory of His Only-begotten Son, a glory surpassing everything in the world, and they will experience ineffable joy and blessedness.
This same pre-eternal Word of God, by Whom the world was made, saved and regenerated the human race unto a new and joyous life through His Incarnation and Resurrection.
The Bright Resurrection is the triumph of God the Word, the day of His victory over Hades and death, the beginning of a new life and of eternal gladness — His gift.
Let us, O ye faithful, praise and worship the Word, Who with the Father and the Spirit is without beginning, and Who was born of the Virgin for our salvation; for He was pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh and to endure death, and to raise the dead by His glorious Resurrection.
(Resurrection Troparion, Tone 5)
O Only-begotten Son and Word of God, Who art immortal… trampling upon death by death, Thou Who art One of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us.