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Paschal Letter for the Feast of the Resurrection 2008

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My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church

Christ is Risen Truly He is Risen

Today, we rejoice as we celebrate the Feast of feasts: the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We rejoice because of the death of death. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and His victory over death are the proof of the death of death, as St. Cyril of Alexandria said, “For the Word of God ever lives, and is by His own nature Life; but when He humbled Himself unto emptying, and submitted to be made like unto us He tasted death. But this proved to be the death of death; for He arose from the dead, to be the way whereby not Himself so much but we rather return unto incorruption.”

Also St. Augustine carried to us the joyful news about the death of death and said, “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.”

Through His resurrection, our Living Christ conquered death in all its forms: the physical death, which is the separation of the spirit from the body; the eternal death, which is the separation of man from God due to sin; the death of hope, which is despair; and the death of inner peace, which is fear. Together let us joyfully reflect on how Christ defeated all forms of death through His resurrection.

1.The death of physical death Physical death entered into man’s life as a result of Adam’s sin and was linked to eternal death, as St. Paul the Apostle said, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through it, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) Death became a source of terror and fear to everyone and all souls, even the righteous souls, went to Hades. Death became a curse, and in the Old Testament blessing was linked to a long life (Deut. 5:15; 11:8-9). Through His resurrection, Christ conquered the sting of death, since by His death He trampled death, i.e. by Christ’s death, He ended death and by His resurrection, “death is swallowed up in victory.”(1 Cor.15:54) To those who believe in Christ, were baptized, and live according to Christ’s commandments, Christ’s death changed death to a desire, “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Phil. 1:23) and a blessing, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them.” (Rev. 14:13) Death became a passage to a better life, since the spirit of the righteous ones go to Paradise, as we pray in the Litany of the Departed, “For there is no death for Your servants, but a departure.”

Concerning the death of physical death, St. Athanasius the Apostolic 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.”

2.The death of eternal death Through His resurrection, Christ reconciled us to the Father, thus defeating the eternal death sentence that fell on us. He restored us once again so we can have communion with God in Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice on our behalf, as we joyfully sing on Good Friday the hymn of “Fai etaf enf”, in which we say, “He, Who offered Himself as an acceptable sacrifice on the cross for the salvation of our race, and His Good Father smelled His sweet aroma on Golgotha in the evening.” Through His resurrection, Christ defeated the sentence of condemnation that fell on us, which is eternal death, as St. Paul said, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1)

3.The death of the death of hope Through His resurrection, Christ defeated the death of hope, which is despair. When the Risen Christ met the two disciples of Emmaus, they had already lost hope, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.” (Lk. 24:21) The two disciples of Emmaus recognized the Living Christ and He restored hope to them. On the other hand, Judas Iscariot lost hope and went and hung himself.

The culture of death, which is prevalent in the world today, is exemplified in violence and terrorism, the increase of suicide rate, the increase in the number of divorce, abortion, euthanasia, and others, which are all an expression of the culture of despair resulting from being away from the source of true Hope, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Hope of us all.

4.The death of the death of inner peace In the evening of the day of the resurrection, the disciples were assembled and the peace inside their hearts has died, as described in the Holy Scriptures, “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews.” (Jn. 20:19) But when the Risen Christ appeared to them and they saw His hands and side, fear dissipated from their hearts and peace replaced it. Christ granted them courage to witness powerfully to His resurrection. Our Lord Jesus Christ told them, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (Jn. 20:21) This inner peace gave them the power to be witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 4:33)

The culture of fear, which prevails in the world now, led to wars and changed people’s lives, so that fear reigns over man, and in the end wars never achieve peace. The Risen Christ defeated fear and granted peace to the world, since He is the King of Peace and gave us His true promise, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (Jn. 6:20); and “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Lk. 28:20)

Today, let us rejoice in the resurrection of Christ and our resurrection with Him. Let us rejoice, because physical death has become our way to eternal glory. Let us rejoice, because now eternal death has no power over us. Let us rejoice, because Christ has granted us hope by His resurrection, for “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Lk. 18:27) Let us rejoice, because God’s peace surpasses all understanding and let us not have fear, except from fear itself. Let us pray for the peace of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and for the life of our beloved father, H.H. Pope Shenouda III that God may keep him for us for many peaceful years.

Wishing you many happy returns.
Bishop Serapion

 

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