The Holy Pascha is a week filled with Holy memories of the most crucial stage of salvation and redemption in Christian history. Everyone benefits from the sharing of the Lord Jesus Christ’s suffering during this time. Orthodox Church icons, pillars, and lecterns are covered in black to create a sober atmosphere conducive to meditation on the Lord’s pain of suffering and pain of Crucifixion.
“That I may know Him and the POWER of His Resurrection and the sharing of His Sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).
The first and most significant thing we praise the Lord Jesus Christ for during the Passion Week, is His POWER. St Paul describes the Lord Jesus as “Christ the POWER of God” (I Corinthians 1:24). Many when reflecting upon the Holy Cross refer to it as a sign of weakness. The Lord Jesus Christ upon the Holy Cross is viewed as submissive to human judgment. Yet, to the Orthodox faithful this is the ultimate symbol of POWER.
I would like to examine three very strong indicators that the Holy Cross was extremely POWERFUL. On the Holy Cross the Lord was POWERFUL in His endurance. This power can be labeled the POWER of the Lord Jesus’ love. A Holy Heart full of compassion and love will not destroy those who seek harm to You. Certainly, the Lord was capable of destroying all those who attacked and scorned Him. But He did not. This is POWERFUL love. Real strength is not muscular strength nor is it found in those who abuse authority. Rather POWERFUL love is seen in the Spirit.
Second, while dying upon the Holy Cross and in an extreme state of exhaustion, the Lord cried out “in a loud voice”. This must have taken a very POWERFUL person to do this. Why, might one ask? The events leading up to the Crucifixion were more than any mortal man could withstand in themselves. The Lord Jesus was arrested, sent for trial five times, walked on foot very long distances, was flogged 39 times, had a crown of thorns placed upon His Holy Head, carried His Cross until He collapsed, and finally He was nailed upon it. If there was no POWER in the Holy Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ could not have even managed one small whisper.
POWER definitely cannot be denied during His Crucifixion and Holy Death. While the Lord Jesus Christ was upon the Holy Cross:
“The sun became dark
the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom;
the earth shook, the rocks were split;
the tombs were opened and many bodies of the buried saints were raised” (Matthew 27:51-52).
An earthquake occurred and darkness covered the whole earth at the time of Crucifixion from the Sixth hour until the Ninth Hour (Midday). The centurion and those with him were afraid of the Lord’s POWER. “Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and the things that happened, they feared greatly saying, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).
The Lord’s most powerful moment was that of His Holy death. At that hour He reigned over humanity and restored His Kingdom from the ruler of this world. “The Lord reigns; He has robed Himself with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength; thus He girded Himself” (Psalm 93). Truly the Lord Christ reigned on the Holy Cross!
We all must embrace this POWER on the Holy Cross in order to share in the experience and understanding of the Holy Resurrection. Resurrection is an absolute certainty to the Orthodox believer. Resurrection proceeds from the POWER of God. God, the Creator, created man from dust and is capable of bringing Him back to life again after he returns to dust. God who made all creation out of nothing is able to bring everything back to life. In His Hands is the POWER of life and death.
Therefore, to conclude the Holy Week, Resurrection provides us with a great source of comfort and consolation. Resurrection is the means of coming to the Lord Christ. It was His means of scorning sin and death. It is our means of bearing witness to the POWER of the Lord’s Resurrection. With Resurrection loved ones can reunite. Happiness can once more fill the hearts of everyone.
The believer in the Holy Resurrection may find himself challenged at times. The believer may be tested by experiences in life. Certainly with the El Kosheh Massacre and the guilty absolved by the courts we as Orthodox Christians suffer. The destruction of a 2000 year old tree which legend had it, bowed down to the Holy Family in their flight to Egypt is yet another set back.
King Soloman in all his wisdom gives us a key as to how to overcome challenges such as these:
“For love is as POWERFUL as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give all the wealth of his house,
It would utterly be despised” (Song of Songs 8:6-7).
Love is not strength of ego, human ambition, or physical demeanor. POWERFUL and True love is sacrificial and self-giving in nature.
THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH and my song, and He has become my Salvation (Hymn of the Paschal Week).
May we feel the POWER of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Love upon the Holy Cross during this Holiest of Weeks.
— His Grace Bishop Youssef
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States