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The resurrection of Christ is our hope

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Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

I thank God for these days, which He gave us according to His great mercy and which, in addition to affirming the warm ties between us over the years, allowed us to experience the sharing of His Word in this extraordinary place of high spirituality, such as the monastery. St. Ivan Rilski ”. Our very presence here, I am sure, is in itself a blessing for which we are duly thanked and which has exceeded our expectations.

The resurrection of Christ, our hope! The Apostle Paul understood this very well and therefore calls us to share in Christ’s death, to share his sufferings, to know him and the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil. 3:10), presenting ourselves to God as living from the dead (cf. Rom. 6:13).

Resurrection applies to all people. A more careful reading of 2 Cor. 5:15 – “And Christ died for all, that the living should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” – offers us a clear picture of this. This verse, it seems to me, does not mean that the death of Christ has miraculously changed people’s lives and condition, nor that they are passively bound to this death. In other words, if we study the text in more depth, we will notice that it refers not only to the death and resurrection of Christ Himself, but is also an allusion to the death and resurrection of the baptized in Christ. All who believe and are baptized into Christ are also crucified with Christ. From that moment on, they live a new reality in faith in Christ the Savior (Gal. 2:20), because if anyone is in Christ, he is already a new creation. The old things are past; behold, all things are become new (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17 – “the old has passed away; behold, all things are become new”).

Christ gave us His life to make us righteous through God through Him (2 Cor. 5:21), but for our part, humanity must be careful not to receive God’s grace in vain (2 Cor. 6: 1). Those who are Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts (Gal. 5:24).

Thus we enter with the Resurrection into a new, even revolutionary, dimension: the day of Easter is not simply a mere reminder of a historical event; it transcends historical time because it belongs to the Time inherent in Christ, in which everything is present; where past and future intertwine in one moment, which is why the Resurrection manages to change everything in a single moment in which everything was real. In this way, Good Friday and Easter form a whole in the eternity of the divine life of Christ, although historically the Passion of Christ precedes the Resurrection. It is through suffering that God triumphs over suffering; through death He conquers death.

The pain of Christ is not opposed to His glory or His bliss. It is the substance from which He draws His eternal victory. The suffering of Christ, always suffering with man, overcome by His own Resurrection, soothes our suffering and, even if we do not see it, builds an answer to our own death. In this confidence of the mother, who has just lost her only son, of the young woman, who has lost her husband, will we dare to say: “Jesus himself, who died and rose for you, is suffering in the same moment as you, and the cross you bear is the cross of your Lord. And since Jesus Christ wears it at the same time as you, know – this carrying of your cross by both of you already means victory. But the day will come when your eyes will be opened and you will understand! ”?

But is it true, asks the late Olivier Clement, that Christ is risen, or are we just liars who are content with their lies? He adds: if Christ has really risen at least a little in us, we can be sure that no matter how great the difficulties, love and knowledge will invariably come. For one who expects to see a demonstration in order to be obliged to believe, the answer is clear: there is no such evidence. But in the life of the Church, throughout human history to the present day, there are many “signs of the Resurrection.”

The kingdom of God will not come as a fact that can be observed, Christ declared in Luke 17:20. It will come in all its power, in all its light and in its victory – every time we do not selfishly try to keep it for ourselves only within our churches; every time we do not lock it in the tombs of our own psyche, imagination, thoughts and emotions in which we think it is present. The secret place of our society, in so far as it is inhabited by the risen Jesus Christ, knows no bounds; it carries the universe into the vastness and depth of the love of its Lord.

Let us recall the wonderful Easter sermon bequeathed to us by St. John Chrysostom, which Orthodox Christians read at the end of Easter morning. The saint does not distinguish between the workers of the first hour and those of the ninth; Christ invites both to the feast, both those who are prepared and those who are not ready. He does the same to us. We are far away, writes one of our Orthodox clergy of the last century, or at least most of us, from drinking the cup of Suffering. We have not helped Christ carry His cross. We did not die with Him, but we fell asleep during His agony; we have forsaken Him; we have rejected Him through our many sins. And yet, though poorly prepared, though so unclean, Christ has invited us to share in the joy of Easter. Christ is no longer separated from anything or anyone. Victory over death is victory over division. Life in Christ becomes our life. Baptism introduces us to the dynamics of the Resurrection. The Eucharist becomes for us, says St. Cyril of Alexandria, the “body of Life.”

That is why the Apostle Paul calls us to become like Christ in death, to suffer His sufferings, to know Himself and the power of His resurrection (cf. Philippians 3:10), to offer ourselves to the Lord as living, who are returned from the dead. The resurrection is in us, from this moment. Our greatest sufferings, even our agony, if met with the most humble devotion, with the most humble childlike trust, will be identified with the sufferings and agonies of Christ and will lead us to a life much stronger than death. “It seemed to us that we were dying and now death no longer exists. We mourned our dead and here they are not dead, but in Christ they are very close to us. The resurrection made possible the joy of the martyrs by allowing them to pray for their executioners. The resurrection allows us to shelter and love unselfishly: I no longer need to turn the other goat into the remission of my fear, because death has been defeated and my fear has become faith. Holiness is nothing but a reflection of this amazing life-giving power. In the ancient Church they told of a saint resurrected from hell ”(Bishop Meletius, Metropolitan of France, Easter Message of April 26, 1981).

In our eyes, the Resurrection of Christ is not only a strong assurance of the immortality of souls, of people: it envelops the whole earth, all beings, all things, all moments, all images, all bodies, from the smallest grass to space. Everything will find its place in the glorious Body of the Risen One.

Reaching the essence of my subject and in order to shed more light on it, it seems to me right to undertake a pilgrimage through the Holy and Great Passion Week, as taught by the Orthodox Church to the faithful.

In the mornings of the first three days there is talk of the Bridegroom, who arrives in the middle of the night; blessed is the servant that is found awake; unhappy is he who will be found asleep. What is unique about Christ is that He did not come only to exceptional people, but for sinners. Jesus, who loved His people in the world, will love them to the end (cf. John 13: 1). Not only has God loved people, no matter who they are, until the last moment of His earthly existence, but He has loved them to the utmost. Those who have sinned in this world, who are covered with shame, who are torn by doubt, all desperate and hopeless … How generations of Christians could have become so meaningless as to turn the Church into a kind of sect of the righteous, one wonders. a monk of the Eastern Church in one of his works.

Here is the Bridegroom; He comes in the middle of the night. God is not far from me. He is where I am. He reveals to me that I am better than my sin. Only the true God can understand man. Only the true God can put such a peak of His love in His Suffering, accepting our sin and our condemnation on the cross. Jesus belongs to the same human nature as us. He has experienced each of our own personal stories. He ate the same bread as us. On the cross he was exposed to the same death as ours. He is one of ours. That is why He not only removed sin, but took it upon His shoulders. Carry it and carry it.

The groom came in the middle of the night. Here we are in front of the harsh reality of our lives, in which no change is possible: true freedom is associated with conversion. Christ comes to ask us about our deepest and most secret wounds; he comes to put his finger in the wounds of our soul. He comes not only to bring to light our sin, but to speak to us of repentance and forgiveness. Nothing can stop Him – no prostitutes, nobles, no criminals. He calls on all of them. He draws closer to everyone where he is most lonely, in the depths of his sin. And if someone is found to protest, He answers him with a question: Why is your eye bad, because I am good?

We do not need to look far. God is not here or there. He is in us. God is our daily existence. He accompanies us to our home, as in all our works. Shares our problems, brings our difficulties. He lives with us all our days and sleeps with us all our nights. He listens to both our conversations and our silence. He inhabits our loneliness. He is the One who deals with our secret. There are no secrets with Him. The Bridegroom Jesus is the shortest way to reach the farthest corner of the human heart.

The first three days of Holy Week culminate in a troparion called Cassian, named after the nun who composed it, which is sung at the celebration of Holy Wednesday morning. This is the piercing cry of a woman who has fallen into many sins.

Obsessed with the love of sin, offering rivers of tears, this great sinner decides, in spite of her despair, to turn to the Lord’s unceasing presence and mercy. In the very commission of her transgressions, and not having the courage to stop committing them, she knows that she is able to at least shout; to raise a cry of discontent, of fear, even of terror. She complains that night is coming and takes her into the bosom of pleasures, and begins to kiss the Lord’s feet – those feet that Eve hears in Paradise approaching and from which she is hiding. Lord, who will investigate my many sins? Who will reveal the depths of your justice, God the Redeemer and Savior of our souls?

The fulcrum here is the word of grace without a word of condemnation. Man’s past and present, no matter how guilty he may be, are covered by grace, because every human destiny is connected with the Providence of God’s grace.

Here is the greatness of what happened on Golgotha ​​between the sinner and his God. Man sins and Christ dies. Man sins, and the Godman is rejected and cursed. Golgotha: not just a need for justice, but also a requirement for love, and perfect love. At the foot of the Cross we find the plyroma (fullness) of death and hopelessness of the whole world from the beginning to the end of history, which fullness falls on the crucified Christ. He endures every sin, every death, every suffering that awaits everyone who comes into the white world. The cross is a judgment of justice, a condemnation of condemnation, says St. Maximus the Confessor (PG 90, 408D). In the Syrian liturgy, says Olivier Clement, we hear the words of St. Peter, who stops one of the two robbers from entering Paradise: “Indeed, you have done much, the doors will remain closed.” The other, pointing to the cross he carries on his shoulder, displaces St. Peter with the words: “Here is the key. He will let me in. ” (cf. Olivier Clement, “Christ est ressusite”, – DDB, 2000, p. 43). Christ personally opened Paradise for him, because He Himself is Paradise, i.e. The presence of God. By transforming the cross, He planted the new Tree of Life in the heart of the bleeding earth (Olivier Clement, ibid., P. 42). There is much more we can reverence for this mystery.

But instead of stubbornly discussing the topic, instead of looking for its explanation in many words, which will be just sad chatter, let us be content in humility with the words of St. Augustine: “Give me someone who loves and he will feel what I mean. ”.

The service of reading the 12 Gospels on Good Friday morning examines the eternal relevance of the Savior’s Passion. The Saints have always felt that the sufferings of Christ are not an ordinary event in the historical past. They directly concern our time.

It has already been said that the suffering as well as the resurrection of God are a mystery to us, which is why we cannot speak of them in any other way than by analogy and likeness. Indeed, on the cross Christ is us, me and you, “transformed in His image.” Not only to soothe our suffering, but to bear it on Himself, which in turn will bear the fruit of life, the fruit of love.

To today’s man, who is trying to overcome death through biological immortality, this may seem insane. But what kind of life is this? The wisdom of the Cross is the source of divine life in us, in every moment – but only if we are able to contemplate the One who has penetrated us; if we can cling to Him and persevere as long as He fights for us.

“Were you there when my Lord was crucified?” Is sung in a Negro spiritual. There, on Golgotha, where Jesus embraced our suffering, at the center of our sins? There, on Golgotha, where today Christ is being tortured and crucified again – everywhere in the world and at any time? What is this need for Incarnation and divine death? In Christ man restores obedience and love, because the death of Christ is the supreme proof of His love for the will of the Father, for the obedience of the Son to the Father; through Christ, man overcomes sin and evil. It is essential that death is not only destroyed by God, but defeated in human nature itself, through man and in man. “For as death came through man, so also the resurrection from the dead came through man; As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive ”(1 Cor. 15: 21-22).

In the tomb, darkness descends over the Crucified One. For a moment, the forces of evil seem to triumph. But at the same moment, the true meaning of His death is revealed. “He who dies on the cross, Christ, has life in Himself; He has life not as an external gift – something that can be taken away from Him – but it is in nature, in His substance. He is the life and the source of all life. As a man He could really die; but in Him God Himself enters the realm of death. The man who dies is God or, more precisely, God-man. Only with this union, without contradiction, without change, without separation or separation from God and from man in Christ, is it possible for man’s death to be accepted by God and to be conquered and destroyed from within ”(Le mystere pascal), Spiritualite Orientale, No. 16, edition Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1975, pp. 47-48).

The ultimate goal of the Incarnation is the destruction of death. The encounter with death is the hour of Christ; the hour for which He came (cf. John 12:27). In the grave He does not wait passively. The Holy Fathers see at this moment a kind of duel between Christ and death, between Christ and Satan, because this death was the last triumph of Satan – and his ultimate defeat. This is the meaning of Christ’s descent into hell; His death became His victory.

His grave became a dwelling place: in death how did our Life descend? To destroy forever the realm of death and to save the dead from hell by raising them (Good Friday Mass, Song 1). The tomb, this place of rest, which is nothing but our own abyss, in which death arises and which represents our sin. There he asked Christ to be laid to rest, buried with us, to bring us the fruit of His resurrection.

“Let the creation be a joy! Let the inhabitants of the earth rejoice, because the hostile hell has been destroyed! ” (cf. Canon of Holy Saturday).

Thus the tomb, once opened, is filled with the Spirit of the Resurrection. As Hans Urs von Balthazar writes: “Hell itself has become a Church.” The Church, in fact, because in the Church the humanity of Christ, which is one humanity crucified and resurrected at the same time and which is also ours, becomes for us a source of Life. Therefore, the hymnographer tells us, hell is filled with bitterness: Because You were placed in a new tomb, Savior of the universe, hell was frightened, the gates were broken; then the tombs were opened and the dead were raised, the grateful Adam cried out with joy: “Glory to Your descent, Lord, Friend of the people, glory to You!” (Apostich from Good Friday evening). The death of Christ is a saving death, because it destroys the source of death – evil; because it shows the ultimate and complete defeat of evil.

“Of course, death always reigns, reminding us of its presence: division, sorrow, separation from our loved ones, often cruel historical tragedies, hatred of oneself, of others. But always these states, if overcome by faith in the Risen One, can become paths to the Resurrection “(Olivier Clement, Ibid., pp., 48-49), because Christ descended to the depths of hell to share fully the state of death – not only those who have experienced it before. and after Him, but also for each of us who are in this moment between life and death. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). His presence opens a place for light.

“Yesterday, with You, O Christ, I was buried, with You I awaken today, taking part in Your Resurrection after the sufferings of Your Crucifixion…” (cf. Easter Matins, song 3). , God forgives us, all and everything comes alive forever with the resurrection of Christ and the final victory over spiritual death, which is “the torn veil of love.” In the light of Easter, Christ is there – every time a human being is broken by pain and cut down. Behold, saith the LORD, I will open your graves, and bring you out, my people, out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, bring forth, my people (Ezek. 37: 12-13) The resurrection begins today and now, the Risen One stopped to each man and each woman individually, to all men and all women together and transformed them into His light.

“Come, take light from the Light without blemish, and glorify Christ the Risen One among the dead” (beginning of Easter Matins). The light shines in the darkness and this time the darkness is absorbed by it. Suddenly the earth is sown with new fire, the fire of the Holy Spirit. Christ is risen from the dead; Christ raises the dead. Christ the Risen One comes to inhabit the most secret place in our hearts, so that the latter may bear the whole universe in the depths of God’s infinite love, because there really is no greater love in human life than the proclaimed Resurrection of Christ.

Is the resurrection of Christ our hope? Undoubtedly, because the Resurrection for us Christians is not the only sympathy and consolation for later, but our vocation today.

Author: Stefan, Metropolitan of Tallinn and all of Estonia

Authorized translation from French: Petar Gramatikov

Note: Report presented at the 33rd session of the Encuentros Interconfesionales e Internacionales de Religiosos/as (E.I.I.R.), Rila Holy Monastery (Bulgaria), July 16, 2010 [published with the consent of the author].

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