As my first offering for this year's poetry month, I give you The Paschal Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), which I read this morning for the first time. The version I came across was written in prose form (four paragraphs) but on my second reading I noticed the poetic structure and have taken the liberty of dividing it into verses. It's no wonder this Archbishop of Constantinople was called Chrysostomos -- Golden Mouthed.
Whosoever is a devout lover of God,
let him enjoy this beautiful bright Festival.
And whosoever is a grateful servant,
let him rejoice and enter into the joy of his Lord.
And if any be weary with fasting,
let him now receive his recompense.
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let him receive his due reward.
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast.
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any have delayed to the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate, but let him come too.
And he that hath arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay;
for the Lord is gracious
and receiveth the last even as the first.
He giveth rest to him that cometh at the eleventh hour
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
Yea, to this one he giveth,
and upon that one he bestoweth.
He accepteth works
as he greeteth the endeavour.
The deed he honoureth
and the intention he comendeth.
Let all then enter into the joy of our Lord.
Ye first and last receiving alike your reward;
ye rich and poor, rejoice together.
Ye sober and ye slothful,
celebrate the day.
Ye that have kept the fast and ye that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden.
Fare ye royally on it.
The calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake ye all of the cup of faith.
Enjoy ye all the riches of his goodness.
Let no one grieve at his poverty;
for the universal Kingdom hath been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he hath fallen again and again,
for forgiveness hath risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
for the Death of our Saviour hath set us free.
He hath destroyed it by enduring it.
He spoiled Hades when he descended thereto.
He vexed it even as it tasted of his flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he cried,
‘Thou, O Hades, hast been vexed by encountering Him below.’
It is vexed, for it is even done away with!
It is vexed, for it is made a mockery!
It is vexed, for it is destroyed!
It is vexed, for it is annihilated!
It is vexed, for it is now made captive!
It took a body, and lo! it discovered God.
It took earth, and behold! it encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art annihilated!
Christ is risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the Angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of the dead;
for Christ, having risen from the dead,
is become the firstfruits of those that have fallen asleep!
To him be glory and power forever and ever.