Every year on Easter Sunday, we add a short responsive greeting to our liturgy: the pastor exclaims, “Christ is risen!” The congregation then responds with the words, “He is risen indeed!” Why do we say these words? From where did this practice come?
We call this antiphonal exclamation the Paschal Greeting or the Easter Acclamation. It has been a custom in Easter liturgies since the early church, especially in the east. In addition to their use in the liturgy, these words are often used among individual Christians when they greet each other on Easter Sunday. In some cultures, this is accompanied by the exchange of three kisses on alternate cheeks. (I think we will refrain from that part of the tradition at Christ URC.)
We should not dismiss these words as a useless, empty tradition. The Paschal Greeting is biblical. It is based on passages from the gospel accounts of Christ’s resurrection when angels reported the good news to the disciples – and the disciples to one another – that Christ had risen (see Matthew 28.6-7; Mark 16.6; Luke 24.6, 34). The glorious words, “He is risen indeed!” is the best news we can hear in this life. They remind us that Christ’s suffering and death on the cross was not in vain, but in fact accomplished our redemption. “Christ is risen!” is an exclamation of his victory over Satan, death, and hell. For centuries, Christians have exchanged these joyful words on the annual celebration of our Lord’s resurrection.
Today is Easter Sunday. As we worship together as a congregation, let’s say with joy in our hearts and as saints have done for centuries, “He is risen indeed!” As we greet one another today, let’s bless one another with the good news, saying, “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!”
~ Pastor Brown