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Papal Letter for the Feast of the Resurrection 1998

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My beloved sons in the lands of immigration, priests and congregation.

My peace and love to you. Wishing you a happy life, being firm in the Lord and congratulating you all on the glorious Feast of the Resurrection. It gives us great joy to contemplate together in some matters with regards to the Resurrection.

Christ arose of His own will and authority, as He previously gave Himself up to death of His own will and authority. He previously announced this to His disciples. He said in John 10:17, 18, “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”

Likewise, the Lord arose according to His promise, and according to the time that He informed His disciples of. He said to them, “He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16:21). And several times He repeated this in Matthew 17:22, 23 and in Matthew 20:18, 19. Hence, the angel of the Resurrection said to the two Mary’s, “For I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.” (Matthew 28:5, 6)

The Lord pointed towards this also in the similarity between Himself and the sign of Jonah in the belly of the whale (Matthew 12:39, 40).

The Lord Jesus Christ arose to guarantee that death has no authority over Him. For if He died and did not rise, they would have regarded Him as a normal person. His Resurrection and coming out of the sealed tomb is proof of His Resurrection. Through this He embarrassed the Jews who attempted through many ways to hide the truth of His Resurrection.

Christ, through His death on our behalf, paid for us the price of sin which is death (Romans 6:23). A price of which remained our relief from death, through His Resurrection. His Resurrection has become the first fruits of our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20).

When the Lord Christ said on the cross, “it is finished” (John 19:30) He meant that the work of redemption and atonement is completed. However, there were many matters that He had to do after the cross, death and Resurrection.

It was inevitable that He rise in order to confirm the faith of the disciples who dispersed at the time of His crucifixion, and were greatly shaken by His death. They became afraid and locked themselves in the Upper Room. His Resurrection was the means by which to confirm their faith and to plant courage and power in them, in order to be able to preach this faith to others. This is what happened afterwards, as they came out of their hideout and the book of Acts says, “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) .

The Resurrection of the Lord was also a means for removing their doubt. Not just the doubts of Thomas who had said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). But also the doubts of all the disciples, who did not believe when Mary Magdalene informed them that she saw the Lord. Likewise, they did not believe the two disciples of Emmaus (Mark 16:9-13). Even when Our Lord appeared to them they thought that He was a spirit or ghost! He proved His Resurrection to them and said, “Handle Me and see…” (Luke 24:36-41).

How much so was the Lord patient in dealing with His disciples! He was not angered or saddened by their doubts, but He removed their doubts with meekness and by convincing them. It was inevitable also for the Lord to rise to grant the disciples the Holy Spirit and the authority of priesthood. He did this after His Resurrection, when He breathed upon them. He 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).

It was inevitable also for Him to rise to hand down to His disciples all of the secrets of the faith, all of the sacraments of the Church and its rites, and to also speak to them about matters pertaining to the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3) To also send them to all nations for preaching, teaching and to baptize (Matthew 28:19, 20) (Mark 16:15, 16).

It was also inevitable for Him to rise in order to show them in addition to the Resurrection another miracle that would strengthen them greatly, and that is His Ascension alive in front of them to heaven (Acts 1:9-11) (Mark 16:19) (Luke 24:51). These matters that He performed after the Resurrection were necessary to strengthen the faith of the apostles. Hence, the faith of the apostles was necessary to strengthen the missionary work in every place.

The Resurrection of Christ proved that His divinity never departed from His humanity for a single instant or for a twinkling of an eye. He revealed His divinity through His Resurrection. He appeared before His Resurrection also, even whilst in the tomb, when His Spirit that is united with the divinity opened the gate of Paradise and allowed the saints of the Old Testament, who reposed in hope to enter along with the thief that was on His right (Luke 23:43) (Ephesians 4:8, 9). Truly, as the Lord said, “My Fr. has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). He was working on the cross for our salvation and redemption. He was also working after the Resurrection in building the Church and establishing it. He is still working now and at all times according to His true promise, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

We thank Him for He is with us all the days, and we ask for His blessing and grace to be with you all. Wishing you a blessed Feast of the Resurrection. Be absolved in the Lord.

Shenouda III
Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark
April 18, 1998

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