JOY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH
My Beloved, the blessed children of the Church,
Christ is Risen, Truly He is risen
Today, we rejoice in the Resurrection of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. The entire creation rejoices with us, because the Feast of the Resurrection is the feast of the heavenly and the earthly. The resurrection of Christ is a renewal for man and for the creation. When St. Paul talked about the grace of redemption, which God has bestowed on us, he said, “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth-in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance.” (Eph. 1: 10-11)
“This is the day the Lord had made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:24)
Today, is the fulfillment of the psalm which said, “Let everything that breath praise the Lord.” (Ps. 150: 6)
Today, the entire creation, which includes the heavenly hosts, is exulted, since it is a feast and joy also in heaven.
In his sixth pastoral message for the Feast of the Resurrection, St. Athanasius the Apostolic said, “My brothers, the creation is observing the feast. Every breath praises the Lord as the psalmist said because the enemies, i.e. the devils, have been destroyed and we are saved. Indeed, if there is joy in heaven because of the repentance of a sinner, how can there not be joy because sin has been abolished and the dead have been resurrected. What a celebration and joy in heaven! Indeed, all the heavenly hosts are glad; they are happy and stay watchful during our liturgies. They come to us and are with us always, especially on the days of the Feast of the Resurrection.”
The mystery of our joy is that Christ’s resurrection, moved us from death, due to sin, to the glories of the heavenly life.
Before the resurrection of Christ, we were dead, because of our sins and trespasses. We were slaves to the prince of this world and we acted according to our physical lusts; we were children of wrath, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
(Eph. 2: 1-3)
This was the condition of man before Christ’s death on the Cross and His glorious resurrection. This dark and sad image changed completely due to God’s love and mercy and the abundance of His grace. Because of His love, God sent His son, Who died and raised us with Him and seated us with Him in Heaven, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by Grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2: 4-6)
Today, the secret of our joy lies in the fact that we were dead because of our transgressions and sins, but now we are alive by Christ and in Christ and we have the promise to be seated with Him in the heavenly places.
But are we truly alive with Christ? Or are we still dead because of our trespasses and sins? Many can not comprehend the value of Christ’s Resurrection and can not be truly happy about Christ’s Resurrection because they are still dead by their transgressions and sins.
The Feast of the Resurrection is not only a social occasion, in which we exchange greetings and visit one another, enjoying the company of our loved ones, family members, and friends. The Feast of the Resurrection is not only an end to a lengthy fast and the beginning of a long period of celebrations, in which there is neither fasting nor prostrations (metanoias).
The Feast of the Resurrection is joy for the repentant person and the one who struggles spiritually. As for the one, who is still dead because of his sins, he can not rejoice today.
The real joy of the Feast of the Resurrection comes from the fact that:
We arise from the death due to sin;
We realize the bitterness of the slavery to sin, and we reject it without regret;
We understand the beauty of the life in Christ;
We can perceive the inheritance, which is kept for us in heaven.
St. Athanasius the Apostolic exhorts us in this feast saying, “we should celebrate with the angels in heaven and not in an earthly manner. Let us glorify God by a life full of purity, righteousness, and other virtues. Let us not be happy with ourselves, but in the Lord, like the saints. Let us stay watchful with David, who got up seven times and at midnight offered thanks for God’s righteous judgments. Let us wake up early and say with the psalmist, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You.” Let us fast like Daniel and pray without ceasing as St. Paul said. We all know the times of prayer, especially those who have an honorable marriage. If we witness to these matters and keep the feast in such a manner, then we will enter into the joy of Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Let us rejoice and be happy with the resurrection of Christ our Lord.
Let us rejoice because we are free from the bondage to sin.
Let us rejoice because of the grace given to help us conduct ourselves spiritually and live with Christ.
Let us present to our society living examples of what is genuine joy.
Let us be living witnesses to the beauty and joy of the life of holiness and purity.
We thank God, Who loved us, died for our sakes, raised us from death due to sin, and gave us the opportunity to enjoy the joy of the resurrection.
Let us all pray that God may keep His people in righteousness and holiness and free every soul from bondage to sin. Let us all pray for the peace of the Holy Church and to keep for us the life of our beloved father, H.H. Pope Shenouda III and all the beloved fathers of the Church.
Wishing you many happy returns,
Servant of the Diocese of Los Angeles