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Papal Letter for the Glorious Feast of the Resurrection 2001

My beloved children, the clergy and congregation in the lands of immigration.

It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you on the Feast of the Resurrection. I ask that the blessing of this Feast and its effectiveness be in your lives.

It is through the resurrection that the Lord conquered death, a conquest that has never been achieved before by anyone. Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead by His will and authority as He previously said, “I lay down my life that I may take it again…I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18)

Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead at the time He wanted. He came out of the sealed tomb, as the life that was in Him was stronger than death, and stronger than the tomb as it is said in the Bible “In Him was life” (John 1:4). He also said about Himself “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). As long as Our Lord Jesus Christ is life, therefore death cannot overcome Him. Christ only temporarily accepted death to redeem the world and save it from death.

It was possible for Our Lord Jesus Christ to rise, for it was Christ who previously restored life to many. He raised the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:41-42); He also raised the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:14-15); and it was Our Lord Jesus Christ who raised Lazarus from the dead although he had been dead for four days (John 11:43-44).

Our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection was clear to Him before He accepted death. Christ told His disciples that He will “suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised the third day.” (Matthew 16:21) Therefore, His resurrection was a fulfilment of His prophecy. Also, Christ’s resurrection was a realization of prophecies in the Old Testament “which were written.”(Luke 24:44-46) Also, among the symbols of the resurrection of Christ in the Old Testament is the story of Jonah the Prophet (Matthew 12:39-40).

It was inevitable that the Lord Jesus Christ would rise from the dead, as His divinity never departed His humanity not even for a single instant nor a twinkle of an eye. Christ was physically dead with regard to the separation of His human spirit from His body, but His divinity never departed from His spirit nor from His body. Therefore, it was essential for this body that is united with the divinity, to rise after the spirit descended into the lower parts of the earth (Ephesians 4:9) and preached to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19). The spirit moved those fallen asleep to paradise and then united with the body that was united with the divinity.

It was inevitable that Our Lord Jesus Christ would rise from the dead in order to respond to those who rejoiced at His death and who thought that they had destroyed and removed Him. By His resurrection, He proved that He is the living One Who never dies as the angel of the resurrection said about Him to the women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5)

Our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection was also a necessity to console His disciples, to encourage them, to eliminate the doubts that occupied their minds, to deliver them from fear and to grant them the power to preach openly and to withstand the persecution of the Jews.

His resurrection was also essential to prove that He is not a normal being who dies like others and then His story ends, but Christ’s resurrection proved His divinity as He rose by Himself without anyone raising Him.

Our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection was a necessity in order that He become the first-fruits, through which all faithful will rise in a similar manner. By this Saint Paul taught saying, “But now Christ has risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep…For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterwards those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

The resurrection of Christ was a necessity through which He established Christianity. The power of His resurrection proved the divinity of Christ and showed that His death was not a weakness but a sacrifice. After His resurrection and appearance to His disciples Our Lord Jesus Christ stayed with them forty days speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3); teaching them the tenets of faith; delivering to them the sacraments and the rites; and expounding to them all the prophecies concerning Him in the Old Testament (Luke 24:27; 44-47).

In His resurrection, Christ granted the disciples the sacrament of Priesthood. He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:22-23) Christ entrusted them with the preaching of the Gospel to the whole universe and said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

He commanded them saying, “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) With the faith of His disciples in the power of the resurrection they preached everywhere and grace was upon them all (Acts 4:33).

Let us all have such grace and such power in order to witness to the Lord Christ and preach the Gospel to every creature as He commanded and ordered us, doing what we say in our prayers “Thy Kingdom come.”

May you all be well, abiding in the Lord, continuing His work.

Shenouda III,
Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark
April 15, 2001

Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

April 15, 2001