The following story was told by the cardiologist of Elder Porphyrios, Dr. George Papazahos, when he visited the Elder in his cell one Bright Tuesday following Pascha.
I went to see him as a doctor. After the cardiological examination and the usual cardiogram, he asked that I not leave.
I sat on the stool near his bed. His face was shining with joy. He asked me:
“Do you know the hymn which says, ‘Let us celebrate the death of death…?'”
“Yes Elder, I know it.” “Say it.”
I began to say it quickly. “Let us celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hades, the beginning of eternal life. And leaping for joy, we celebrate the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.”
“Did you understand it?”
“Of course I understood.” I thought he was asking me about its interpretation.
He made a sudden movement with his hand and told me:
“You understood nothing, George my man! You said it like a hurried chanter. Listen to what fearful things this hymn says: Christ by His Resurrection did not cross us over a lake, over a crack in the earth, over a canal, over a river like the Red Sea. He brought us over an abyss, of which it was impossible for man to cross alone. For centuries we awaited this Pascha, for this passage. Christ brought us from death to life. This is why today we ‘celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hades’. Death is lost. Do you understand? Today we celebrate ‘the beginning of eternal life’, a life near Him.”
He spoke with enthusiasm and conviction. He was moved. He paused for a moment then continued more loudly:
“Now chaos, death, and hades do not exist. Now there is all joy, thanks to the Resurrection of our Christ. Together with Him human nature was resurrected. Now we can be resurrected and live eternally near Him. What happiness is in the Resurrection! ‘And leaping for joy, we celebrate the Cause.’ Have you ever seen the little goats now in the Spring who jump on the grass? They eat a little from their mother and begin to jump again? This is what it means to leap – to jump. This is how we should also jump for unspeakable joy at the Resurrection of our Lord and our own.”
He stopped speaking again. I breathed in a joyous atmosphere. He continued:
“Can I give you some advice? In your every sorrow, in your every failure, concentrate for a moment within yourself and say this hymn slowly-slowly. You will see that the greatest thing in your life – and in the life of the whole world – happened. The Resurrection of Christ, our salvation. And you will realize that everything that is upside down which is occurring will seem to you very small to spoil your mood.”
He squeezed my hand saying:
“I pray that you leap for joy, looking at the chaos behind you from which the Risen Christ crossed you over, ‘the only blessed of our fathers’. Chant now ‘Christ is Risen!'”
My postscript: Truly, He is Risen!
+ George Papazahos, Professor of Cardiology