My Beloved, the blessed children of the Church,
Christ is Risen, Truly He is risen
It is my pleasure to wish all of you a glorious Feast of the Resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is the mystery of our everlasting joy. The source of our happiness is the living Christ, Who is not dead, but Who trampled death by death.
We seek the living Christ, Who gloriously sits at the right hand of the Father. We do not seek Him amongst the dead in the tomb of this world. Nor do we seek Him amongst the leaders of this world or among history’s great ones, for He is greater than this world and transcends history. This world is the world of the dead and history presented to us great people, who accomplished many things. Yet, without exception, in the end they all died and were defeated by death. As for Christ, He is the only one Who defeated death and abolished its sting.
Christ’s resurrection is the mystery of the Church’s life; it is a living fact, which is experienced daily. The honest Church, Who is faithful to Her Bridegroom, witnesses to the resurrection of Christ, and the greatest form of witnessing is martyrdom, which gives evidence to the reality of the resurrection. Indeed, the martyrs witness to the great power of Christ’s resurrection in the Church’s life. Unlike the women who went to the tomb, because they did not comprehend the reality of the resurrection, the Church of the martyrs is the one who does not seek Christ in an empty tomb. In the life of the Church, the martyrs are the proof of the power of the resurrection.
St. Athanasius the Apostolic wrote in his book “The Incarnation of the Word” that the martyrs are the proof of the power of Christ’s resurrection. He wrote, “Those, who prior to their faith in Christ, thought that death was frightening and were terrified of it, became fearless of death after believing in Christ to the point that they anxiously went forward to face death. Thus, they themselves became witnesses to the resurrection of Christ.” (Chapter 5: 27)
Our Church is the Church of the martyrs. The Feast of the Resurrection comes this year while we are living the story of the martyrdom of those in El-Kosheh, who testified to the great power of the resurrection. Amongst those martyrs we mention the martyr, Adel Gattas Fahmy. On Sunday, January 2nd, 2000 he attended the Divine Liturgy at Archangel Michael Church in El-Kosheh. After partaking of the Divine Mysteries and carrying Christ within him, he was encountered by evil and was asked to abandon Christ so his life can be spared. But, by the power of Christ within him, he made the sign of the cross, the sign of victory over death, and joyfully opened his arms to receive the bullets. This ended his life on this earth, but gave him everlasting life in the living Christ. Adel refused to seek Christ amongst the dead of the world; his spirit joined 19 others of his fellow villagers, including his sister, Maysoon, to be with the living Christ. The martyrdom of Adel Gattas along with his brothers and sisters of El-Kosheh is an extension of the martyrdom, which the Church presented throughout the ages. Those martyrs did not seek Christ amongst the dead in the tomb of this world, but seeked the risen Christ. Indeed, they experienced what is written in the Holy Bible, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things, which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not no things on earth.” (Col. 3: 1,2)
My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
The resurrection of Christ is victory over death and its sting, which is sin.
The resurrection of Christ is victory over evil and evildoers, who conspired against Christ.
Martyrdom is also victory over death, sin, evil, and evildoers.
In describing the victory of the martyrs over their torturers, the martyr, St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, used the following words, “The masses of spectators were amazed to see the heavenly war, the divine battle, the spiritual war, the battle of Christ. They saw the servants of Christ firm, courageous, and at peace. They endured the earthly swords, while being fortified by their faith and by spiritual weapons. Those being tortured were more courageous than their torturers. The beaten bodies were victorious over the instruments of torture and pain. The whips lashed violently, but were unable to defeat their unseen faith. The blood poured to put off the flames of persecution, the flames of Hades, and to water the seeds of the Christian faith.”
We say these words to comfort every sad soul, who when he hears that the persecution of Christians is increasing in many countries and the number of martyrs is on the rise, becomes worried about the future of the Church and Christianity.
Together let us rejoice in the resurrection of Christ from amongst the dead.
Let us rejoice in the power of the resurrection, which helps us defeat the world.
Let us rejoice because our martyrs of El-Kosheh gave us a living example of faith in the power of the resurrection. With the beginning of the third millennium, they also taught us that martyrdom is a living fact, which the Church experiences in every generation, because the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
Let us pray for the peace of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Church of the martyrs.
Let us pray for our beloved father and vigilant shepherd, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. We joyfully and anxiously await his pastoral visit in the middle of May.
Wishing you many happy returns,