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Paschal Letter for the Feast of the Resurrection 2003

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My Beloved, The Blessed Children of the Holy Church,
Christ is Risen, Truly He is Risen

It is my pleasure to wish all of you a glorious Feast of the Resurrection.

This feast brings us a message of joy and hope in the midst of the burden of the painful events of death, which took place this year. We are witnessing the results of a harsh war, and we daily hear in the news the death toll, the destruction, and the devastation, which bring sorrow and sadness to the souls of many. We were further pained a few weeks ago by the terrible accident, which took the lives of five young ladies of our Church’s youth. Many others were injured and some are still in a critical condition.

All these events bring special attention to this year’s Feast of the Resurrection, since the sorrow of death can be dissipated only by the joy of Christ’s Resurrection, and the deep darkness of death is dispersed by the brightness of Christ’s Resurrection. The Resurrection of Christ changed the understanding of death and dissipated its sorrow, giving hope to every soul pained by the departure of her loved ones.

Today, as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we call upon every family, who is celebrating this feast without a loved one, to look up to Christ’s resurrection and remember St. Paul’s saying, “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)

The Resurrection gave a new meaning to death, making man not fearful of it. St. Athanasius explains this when he wrote, “Everyone is by nature afraid of death and bodily desolation; the marvel of marvels is that he who is enfolded in the faith of the cross despises this natural fear and for the sake of the cross is no longer cowardly in face of it.”

Why was physical death fearful to man? Why did Hezekiah weep bitterly when he knew he was going to die?

Man was afraid of physical death, because it was bound to eternal death. With the fall of the first man, eternal death entered into man’s life, since the fruit of sin is death. The Lord God commanded Adam saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen.
2:16-17)
With eternal death came physical death and both were closely tied to one another that man could not differentiate between them, because with physical death, every departed soul, even those of the righteous, went to Hades, and “the sting of death is sin”
(1 Cor. 15:56)
, and the devil had the power of death (Heb. 2:14).

Through the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, His death on the cross, and glorious resurrection, he destroyed the sting of death and Satan, liberating us from eternal death and redeeming us from the hands of Hades. For the Christian person, physical death is no longer a source of fear and terror, but has become a desire, as it is written, “having a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better.” (Phil. 1:23) The Resurrection of Christ turned physical death into gain to those, who live in Christ (Phil. 1: 21)

The Resurrection of Christ liberated man from the bondage to death, since it destroyed the sting of death, which is sin. The Resurrection of Christ revealed the death of death, as St. Augustine wrote, “Where is death? Seek it in Christ, for it exists no longer. It did exist, and now death is dead. O Life, O Death of death! Be of good heart, death will die in us also.” The Prophet Hosea truly prophesied saying, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.” (Hosea 13:14), and St. Paul quoted the same prophesy, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55) Indeed, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:54)

“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling death by death, and bestowing upon those in the tombs eternal life.”

Christ is risen from the dead and has raised us from the death of sin. Likewise, in baptism, we die with Christ and are raised with Him to lead a new life in holiness and righteousness. 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 the newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4) “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (Rom. 6:6)

Let us rejoice in the Resurrection of Christ, and rejoice because the sting of death has been destroyed, liberating us from the bondage of death.
Let us rejoice in our resurrection with our Lord Jesus Christ and in the new life in Him.
Let us pray for the peace of the Holy Church and the peace of the world.
Let us pray for the repose of all the departed souls and for consolation for their families and loved ones.
Let us pray that God may preserve the life of our beloved father and shepherd, H.H. Pope Shenouda III.

Wishing you many happy returns.
Bishop Serapion

 

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