My Beloved Brethren, Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed.
On this glorious day, as we commemorate the blessed Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, I would like to extend my hearty wishes to all of you praying to the Risen Lord to grant us His Resurrection and make it real in our life.
The Lord’s passionate and Holy Crucifixion followed by His Holy Glorious Resurrection inspires a newness of spirituality within our Coptic Church, our Coptic families, and each Christian individual’s heart. It is a time when we truly profess our belief in the pain-rendering events of the Holy Crucifixion and in the Glorious mystery of the awe inspiring Resurrection of the only One raised from the dead and who sits at the right hand of God.
This blessed event poses four major questions to contemplate:
- What is the Holy Resurrection?
- How did the Lord’s Resurrection become our Resurrection?
- How do we attain Resurrection?
- How can we maintain the Lord’s Resurrection?
What is the Holy Resurrection?
The Lord Jesus Christ is considered the firstborn, the first fruit risen from the dead. The Holy Book of Revelation (1:5) describes our crucified and resurrected Lord as …”Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead.” He was not raised by the prophets like Elijah and Elisha, but rather is and remains, the only person raised from the dead by the power of His Divinity, the Father in Heaven and the Holy Spirit. It is difficult for even the most scholarly to truly fathom the dimensions of the Lord Jesus Christ‘s death on the Holy Cross and His Resurrection and the impact of these insurmountable events on humanity in order that the faithful may experience eternity, the heavenly grandeur of the Father’s glory.
Tertulian, in the third century, testified saying, “Jesus is still sitting there at the right hand of the Father—man, yet God. He is the last Adam, yet, He is also the original Word. His flesh and blood, yet His body is purer than ours” (Tertullian c.210).
The Lord Jesus Christ was divinely heroic and heroically divine in His Holy Crucifixion bearing torment for our sins. Concerning the Holy and Glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, St. Paul teaches… “he [David], foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of Christ that His soul was not left in Hades, not did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:31-32).
The Ante-Nicene Fathers have written concerning the Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection and the hidden life… “The whole nature of men in general is composed of an immortal soul and a body…One living being is formed from the two…This proves that a resurrection will follow of those dead and dissolved bodies. For without this, neither could the same parts be united according to nature with one another, nor could the nature of the same men be reconstituted…But that which has received both understanding and reason is man, not the soul by itself. Man, therefore, who consists of the two parts, must continue forever…The conclusion is unavoidable, that, along with the eternal duration of the soul, there will be a perpetual continuance of the body, according to its proper nature” (Athenagoras c. 175).
And also they wrote: “After His resurrection, Christ existed in an intermediate body, as it were. For it was somewhere between the physicalness of the body He had before His sufferings and the appearance of a soul uncovered by such a body. It was for this reason that when His disciples were together and Thomas was with them, Jesus came and stood in their midst, even though the doors were shut…And in the Gospel of Luke also, while Simon and Cleopas were conversing with each other concerning all that had happened to them, Jesus ‘drew near and went with them.’ And when their eyes were opened and they knew Him, then the Scripture says in express words, ‘and He vanished out of their sight'” (Origen c.248).
How did the Lord’s Resurrection become our Resurrection?
St. Paul writes concerning our resurrection, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in Glory” (Colossians 3:4).
St. Polycarp (c. 135) taught, “If we please Him in this present world, we will also inherit the future world. For He promised us that He will raise us again from the dead.”
Our Lord is the only One who has risen in a glorified body, risen never to die again, risen and ascended into the heaven of heavens, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. This Holy Resurrection is not confined to the Lord alone but through His unconditional love, He extended it making it available to all those who believe in His name. Truly as one seeks to be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ, to live according to His Word, and to participate and grow in the Holy Sacraments of our blessed Church, one will experience resurrection, newness, a new individual growing into perpetual perfection striving to become in His likeness.
How do we attain Resurrection?
Resurrection, for the believer is experienced through obeying God’s commandments and participating in the Holy Sacraments of the church. In Baptism, we attain the resurrection in “a newness of earthly life”. In Confession and Communion, we receive the potential of the second of resurrection, that of our Lord Jesus Christ “anticipating newness in the eternal life to come”. Through the cherishing of the Holy Sacraments one becomes virtuous, bearing love for others, and striving to obtain perfection in the Divine worship of God thus travelling down the path to the eternal life.
Loving those nearest to us involves the heart. The Lord Jesus Christ was full of love for those that believed in Him, accepted His Holy teachings and accompanied Him during His earthly journey.
“When he was raised from the dead, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. He then appeared to Cleopas on the way. After that, He appeared to His disciples” (Apostolic Constitutions compiled c. 390).
What kind of worship befits God? It is one in which love is manifest through a humble and pious worship that incorporates both the heart and mind. Such a type of worship requires liberation from all unworthy worldly entanglements living a life of love, humility, piety and poverty of the Spirit. As St. Paul says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
How can we maintain the Lord’s Resurrection?
St. Clement warns us that… “After we have departed this world, no further power of confessing or repenting will belong to us” (Second Clement c. 150).
After departure from this earthly life everything will avail to nothing except for the virtuous, good deeds. The Lord Himself uses the parable of the poor and rich man to show that the value of humility and poverty supersedes that of pride and wealth. He says in the Holy Gospel of Luke, “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23).
The endearing love to the Lord as shown by Lazarus secured him a place in Heaven with Abraham alongside him. On the other hand, the rich man with all that he had possessed could not purchase Heaven.
With the Lord’s death we also died, but to the world only, and with His Resurrection we were resurrected to Heaven only. As St. Paul says, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
Along with worshipping with piety and humility comes the power of the church sacraments. The Holy Sacrament of Confession and Repentance presents a powerful shield and armor that deserves to be put on through frequent practice.
During this time of the Holy Crucifixion and the Glorious Feast of the Resurrection, let us reflect upon the anticipated and completed sacrifices of the Lord Jesus Christ for our future spiritual glories. During the Glorious Feast of the Resurrection, let us all give thanks that we can partake in the resurrection of eternal life with the full knowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ has suffered for us all to conquer and abolish death, in order to bring us to His Father in Heaven with His great and perpetual love.
The Book of Life will judge us all according to the measure of our striving and seeking of those eternal things. May the Glorious Resurrection of our Lord implant in our hearts the desire to see the Lord Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of God, our Heavenly Father.
— His Grace Bishop Youssef
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States