By His Eminence Archbishop Sotirios of Canada
Christ raised the dead. He raised the son of the widow of Nain, the daughter of Jairus and others. He spoke of His own Resurrection. But the world did not believe Him. He was treated as a fake. Not even His disciples fully understood Him. The myrrh-bearers did not recognize who He was either. They may have loved Him. They may have honored Him. But they did not yet believe in His Resurrection. His death on the cross shattered their faith. They lost all confidence. The light was extinguished. Darkness displaced all hope. “Life was submitted to the tomb.”
The disciples gathered in the upper room “for fear of the Jews.” The myrrh-bearers go to the tomb with fragrant funeral spices at night. They expect to find the Master dead. They intend to anoint the lifeless body with myrrh. They wonder: “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” They simply give no thought to life, to victory over death, to the Resurrection.
They arrive at the tomb. But “the stone had been rolled away.” What happened? On the stone sits an angel clothed in white. He speaks softly to the myrrh-bearers. He says to them, “Do not be afraid. You seek Jesus of Nazareth? He is not here; for He is risen. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead.” How could this happen? The answer is by “trampling down upon death by death.”
His was not just a death. It was a sacrifice. “Death has been put to death, Hades has been overthrown, and another, everlasting life has begun.” This death gave life to those who were in the tombs. It opened the gates of paradise. Christ “became the firstborn from the dead.”
The Resurrection of Christ is the true light, the light which never fades. The Resurrection genuinely represents eternal life. It is the only great and true hope for the world. Without the Resurrection of Christ, life would be dark and unsettling. It would be a journey filled with despair, premised on the devastating and demoralizing principle that death destroys all things.
But this was not to come to pass. “Christ Is Risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death.” The Resurrection of Christ grants life. It enables the path of hope and optimism.
This hope inspires our creative energies, it empowers us, and gives us life. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” It sustains us and inspires us and guides us with confidence towards eternity. With our death, we do leave earthly life behind.
But because Christ defeated death by death, we pass over to the other life, which is luminous, resurrected, blessed and eternal.
Storms and waves may strike our life voyage. This is a fact. With the Risen Christ however, we can sail towards the starry and serene skies of joy. He Himself said as much: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” He did not just tell us.
He Himself endured many sorrows in the world. He suffered more than anyone, up until He died nailed to the Cross. But He Is victorious. He Is Risen.
Christ wants us to be with Him. He wants us to share in His Victory. He wants us to be resurrected with Him, for us to triumph and to be renewed. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Whoever lives in Christ becomes something new, something different than before.
The Apostle Paul instructs us: “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump.” We are invited to clear out the old leaven of sinful wickedness. To do away with vices, passions, weaknesses, everything that is rotten and decrepit. To become new persons in Christ. To be adorned with Christ, giving off the fragrance of purity, of holiness, of restoration.
Christians, and indeed the conscientious Christians of today, are in the minority. The message of victory over death does not come from the sun or the moon – matter which is lifeless – but stems from the life-giving empty tomb of the Lord. How can this message be heard everywhere throughout the world?
Let me share a bold thought. Terrorists comprise a minority, a very small minority actually. But their message overwhelms media outlets like newspapers, radio, and television programs.
Their message envelops the Earth. Why should wickedness be heard so prominently, and virtue be so muted? Why should so much blood be shed in Ukraine? Why spill so much brotherly blood? Why should there be fratricides? Who will stop this evil? How can Orthodox Christians not think about what they are doing? How can they be true Orthodox Christians?
Can they believe in the Cross and the Resurrection, and still shed fraternal blood? Do they think of the innocent children they kill? On Calvary and on the Cross, wickedness was defeated. How is all of this now decaying? Satan does his work. But what are we as Christians doing? Are we taking our responsibilities seriously?
“Christ Is Risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death…” Let us be resurrected with Him. Let us throw off the shackles of sin. Let us make room for the Resurrected Christ to be present in our hearts. Let us work to defeat wickedness in society, to stop the veil of darkness from englobing humankind. I hope and pray for the Resurrection of Christ to pulsate within our hearts with joy and gladness, and for the message of the victory over death to be heard and experienced in every corner of the world.