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Paschal Letter for the Glorious Feast of the Resurrection 2005 (English)

That I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection” (Phil. 3:10)

My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church

Christ is Risen Truly He is Risen

Today, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, we rejoice in our living Christ and in the power of His resurrection. The resurrection is not merely a historical event, but is a living and dynamic act, which we experience and live by its power, as St. Paul wrote, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3: 10-11)

Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and raised us with Him, “and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:6) For us, it is firstly in baptism that we experience death and resurrection with Christ, as St. Paul wrote, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Fr., even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” ( Rom. 6: 4-5) Experiencing death and resurrection with Christ is dynamic and is experienced daily. In our spiritual struggles, “we having died to sin, might live for righteousness.” (1 Pet. 2: 24) For Christ’s sake, we die every day, “ For Your sake we are killed all day long.” ( Rom. 8:36) The person, who experiences death with Christ and for Christ’s sake, will also experience the resurrection with Christ and the power of the resurrection will become evident in his daily spiritual life. Consequently, his joy in the resurrection of Christ will be one, which no one can take away from him.

We rejoice in the power of Christ’s resurrection as we face death. By His death, Christ has trampled death and has bestowed eternal life to those in the tombs. Therefore, in the departure of our loved ones, the main source of our comfort is Christ’s resurrection, as St. Paul wrote in comforting the Thessalonians, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4: 13-14) Then he ended by saying, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4: 18) Concerning Christ’s victory through His resurrection, St. Athanasius wrote: “Before the divine sojourn of the Savior, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection.”

We rejoice in Christ’s resurrection as we face sin and become victorious over it by the power of His resurrection, which leads us to repentance. The Risen Christ has freed us from the dominion of sin, and in our death with Him in baptism, we die to sin. Then in our daily spiritual struggles, we also experience death to sin. This is why St. Paul wonders and asks, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” ( Rom. 6:2) Then he exhorts us, “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” ( Rom. 6: 13) St. Athanasius also sees the power of the resurrection of our living Christ in His action to lead souls to repentance and faith. Therefore, he wrote, “Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ? If He is no longer active in the world, for this is proper to one dead, how is that He makes the living to cease from their activities, the adulterer from his adultery, the murderer from murdering, the unjust from avarice, while the profane and godless man becomes religious?”

It is doubtless that the divine grace of Christ working in sinners to turn them into saints is the proof of the power of the resurrection and that He is alive. The sinner experiences the power of the resurrection in his repentance, since a genuine and strong repentance changes a person’s life and raises him from the death of sin, as we hear the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son telling his eldest son regarding the repentant younger one, “For your brother was dead and is alive again and was lost and is found.” (Lk. 15: 12) One of the Fathers said that repentance turns adulterers into virgins. Also, St. Athanasius wrote that the life of pure chastity is proof of the power of the resurrection, “Anyone who likes may see the proof of glory in the virgins of Christ, and in the young men who practice chastity as part of their religion.”

We rejoice in the power of Christ’s resurrection in evangelism. The resurrection gave the apostles the power to go and preach the gospel to the whole world, as it is described in the Book of Acts, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:33) In evangelism, the power to change the hearts and minds of people to believe in Christ does not depend on the preacher’s power or his gifts, but rather on the power of the risen Christ to attract people to the faith. St. Athanasius affirms that Christ’s action in attracting people to believe in Him is the proof of His resurrection, and that He is not only alive, but that He Himself is the Life. He wrote, “The Savior is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teachings. Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life?”

Let us pray to our Living and Risen Christ to grant us the experience of knowing Him so we can rejoice in the power of His resurrection in the victory over death and in granting us the life of holiness and righteousness. We pray that He may help us to witness sincerely to the power of the resurrection in the society in which we live.

We pray that our Living Christ may grant peace to His Church and keep the life of our father and shepherd, H.H. Pope Shenouda III.

Wishing you many happy returns.
Bishop Serapion

Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

April 15, 2005