Resurrection Apolytikion–Plagal 2nd Tone
Αγγελικά Δυνάμεις επί το μνήμα σου,
και οι φυλασσοντες απενεκρωθησαν:
και ιστατο Μαρία εν τω τάφων,
ζητουσα το αχραντον σου σώμα.
Εσκυλευσας τον Αδην, μη πειρασθεις υπ αυτού:
υπηντησας τη παρθένων, δωρουμενος την ζώνη.
Ο αναστας εκ των νεκρών, Κυριε, δοξα σοι.
Angelike dimanis epi to mnima sou,
ke i philassontes apenekrothisan:
ke istato Maria en to tapho,
zitousa to achranton sou soma.
Eskilevsas ton Adin, mi pirasthis up’ aftou:
ipindisas ti partheno, doroumenos tin zoin.
O anastas ek ton nekron, Kirie, doxa si.
The Angelic Powers were at your tomb,
and those guarding were struck unconscious:
and Mary stood in the tomb,
seeking your immaculate body.
You despoiled Hades, not having been attacked by him.
You met the Virgin, granting life.
O You who rose from the dead, Lord, glory to You.
The hymn falls into two parts. The first part sets the scene with somewhat static language. The major characters are present: the Angels, Mary Magdalene (representing the Myrrh-bearing Women), and the guards. The second part also has three characters: Christ, Hades and the Theotokos, and is filled with verbs and participles denoting action.
In the first part of the hymn we are in the realm of death. The angels and the guards provide bookends for the central image of Mary Magdalene searching for our Lord’s body. All three characters are static: the Angels have no verb at all, indicating a simple copulative “are”. They are simply “there”; they play no active role in this hymn. The guards too are unconscious; the verb used apenekrothisan (became unconscious) contains the word nekros (dead), and indicate a state of motionlessness even beyond being unconscious. Even Mary, although she is searching for the body, indicating some action, the controlling verb is istato (stood). We have an image of Mary standing and looking around the tomb, rather than actively searching.
The hymn breaks, almost violently, in the middle. The scene shifts to our Lord and His very active resurrectional life. There is nothing static about this second part; the verbs are active and strong, and the only passive verb (pirathis/tested or attacked) is actually negated.
The second part begins with the very strong verb eskulefsas (you despoiled). This is a military word, and indicates the stripping of the arms from a conquered enemy. At the same time mi pirasthis (not having been tried or attacked) indicates that the battle was all one-sided; Hades did not have a chance. He was not only defeated, he was not even able to attack.
The victorious battle scene is balanced by the tender mention of our Lord meeting with His mother. Again, the verb upindisas (you met) is active, indicating that our Lord is truly living and active. The two participles (pirasthis and doroumenos) show the negative and positive sides of the resurrection. Our Lord was not the victim of Hades, but rather overcame and despoiled him. As a result, as the possessor of true life, He is able to bestow life, first and foremost to His own mother who gave Him life according to the flesh.
Although the discretion of the Evangelists naturally kept them from narrating this private moment, a reward for the steadfast faith and love of the Theotokos, the earliest tradition of the Church is that Mary was one of the women at the tomb. The scene is described by the 3rd century writer Origen who quotes an apocryphal Gospel called The Gospel of the Twelve Apostles:
She opened her eyes, for they were lowered in order not to view the earth, the scene of so many dreadful events. She said to Him with joy: “Rabboni, my Lord, my God, my Son, You are resurrection, indeed resurrected.” She wished to hold Him in order to kiss Him upon the mouth, but He prevented her and pleaded with her, saying, “My mother, do not touch me. Wait a little, for this is the garment which the Father has given Me when He resurrected Me. It is not possible for anything of flesh to touch Me until I go into heaven.
This body is, however, the one in which I passed nine months in your loins…Know these things, My mother. This flesh is that which I received in you. This is that which has reposed in my tomb. This is also that which is resurrected today, that which now stands before you. Fix your eyes upon my hands and upon my feet. O Mary, My mother, know that it is I, whom you nourished. Doubt not, O My mother, That I am your son. It is I who left you in the care of John at the moment I was raised on the Cross.
This passage also gives us some insight as to why the hymn speaks of our Lord appearing “to the Virgin” (ti partheno) rather than “to His mother“. The Fathers liked to compare our Lord’s passing through the sealed womb of the Theotokos without injuring her physical virginity with His passing through the walls of the tomb without breaking the seals on the stone at the entrance. This same body passed through both barriers and left both unharmed.
The final phrase is a prayer which wraps up the hymn in the spirit of doxology. When we at confronted with these profound mysteries: the empty tomb, the defeat and disgrace of Hades/Death, and the visit with the Virgin, the activity of life negating the passivity of death, we have only one possible reaction: falling down in worship and doxology.
This beautiful little hymn, by looking, like a movie camera, at individual scenes that made up the miracle of the first Paschal morning, expresses the profound truth that our Lord has overcome, defeated and despoiled death, and that His divine risen life brings the same life to all of us. Just as He visited the Virgin and granted her life, so also He visits us in the Divine Liturgy, in the very heart of our worship, and grants us His own risen life as well.