And rose on the third day according to the Scriptures.
“ ‘Why do you mingle the ointments with your tears full of pity, O women disciples?’ Thus the Angel who was shining in the tomb cried to the myrrhbearing women, ‘See for yourselves the empty tomb and understand, that the Saviour has risen from the sepulchre’.” (Resurrectional Evlogetaria, Sunday Matins)
Every Sunday morning, the hymnology of our Orthodox Church fills the ears and hearts of her faithful with an abundance of references to the central event of the Orthodox Christian faith; the glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Why is Christ’s Resurrection central to Christianity?
St Paul offers a potent answer in 1 Corinthians 15:17: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” It is through Christ’s Resurrection – and that alone – that mankind is liberated from death, sin, and the devil.
The Creed states that Christ “rose on the third day” to underline the fact that He had really died. The Jews believed that the spirit of a person hovered around the body for three days, giving hope that they might return to life during that time period. St Athanasios the Great comments that if Christ had risen earlier, “someone might have said that He had not died at all, or that death had not fully touched Him…”
Christ’s Resurrection is a fulfilment of that foretold in the Scriptures. Old Testament references to the Resurrection were highlighted by the Apostles Peter and Paul in their preaching to the early Church (see Acts 2:24-31; 13:33-37). When Martha expressed the belief that her brother Lazarus would “rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” Christ magnificently proclaimed “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:24-26).
Do we believe this? Do our decisions, our reactions and stance before various events we face, reflect this belief?
God is Life. Communion with Him is eternal life experienced here and now. Communion with Him is true being. For the person who abides in Christ, death – the enemy of fallen mankind – is neutralised and no longer holds fear. There is no person more free than this person.
St Athanasios the Great writes: “For as when a tyrant has been defeated by a genuine king and bound hand and foot, all those that then pass by mock him, hitting and reviling him, no longer fearing his fury and barbarity because of the victorious king; in this way death also having been conquered and scorned by the Saviour on the cross, and bound hand and foot, all those in Christ who pass by trample on him [death], and witnessing to Christ they mock death, jeering at him, and saying… ‘O death, where is your victory? O hell, where your sting?’” Is this not the very stance we see embodied by the millions of men and women, young and old? Throughout the centuries, under the hostile Roman Empire, the Ottomans in Greece and in liberation therewith, the Communists in the former Soviet Union, and more recently when attacked by Islamist extremists in Middle East countries such as Iran, Syria, and Libya, these faithful Christians have eagerly witnessed for Jesus and leapt to their martyrdom, knowing death to be powerless through Christ!
Let us also joyfully confess, bearing witness to a world held hostage by the fear of death, that “if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8)
Source: Lychnos December 2021 / January 2022