Why do we say in the Creed: “I Expect the Resurrection of the Dead”?
Death is painful. It hurts and it hurts deeply. Is there a greater personal sadness than the death of a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a friend, or a spouse? At such moments, the words of Saint John of Damascus ring true: “What earthly sweetness ever remains unmixed with grief? All things are more feeble than a shadow, all are more deceptive than dreams. Yet in one moment death supplants them all”?
It is hard to look at death, and yet this line of the Creed, “I expect the resurrection of the dead”, enables us to do so, softening our inconsolable sadness into a patient hopefulness through the light of Christ’s countenance, as Saint John concludes the same hymn.
The verb “I expect” in Greek is “προσδοκῶ” which is in turn composed of the prefix (πρός) for movement towards something and another verb (δοκάω) meaning to accept graciously. Hence we are saying that we expect the resurrection of the dead, we are moving towards it and welcoming it with all our heart. This expectation has a blessed influence on our lives. After all, expectations about the future are known to affect thought, emotion, and behaviour in the present, especially when there is expectation of a concrete goal of value in the future. In this case, it is the resurrection of the dead unto life with Christ, which has an infinite value, should be infinitely motivating for our spiritual life.
Saint John of Damascus writes: “If there is no resurrection, let us eat and drink: let us pursue a life of pleasure and enjoyment. If there is no resurrection, how do we differ from the irrational beasts? If there is no resurrection, let us hold the wild beasts of the field happy who have a life free from sorrow. If there is no resurrection, neither is there any God nor Providence, but all things are driven and borne along of themselves” (An Exact Expression of the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, chapter 27). But there is the resurrection of the dead! We expect it. And in expecting it, we live lives of Christian virtue assured of God’s presence and comforted by His providence.
The resurrection of the dead is part of a greater mystery, the Person of Christ, the God-man, who in His humanity has risen victoriously from the dead, so that we might have life everlasting. He Himself declared: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (Jn 5:28-29).
My life here and now should be a preparation and expectation for my resurrection, which I hope will be to life eternal with God. I will ultimately stand before Christ, face to face.
If the words, “I look for the resurrection of the dead”, would only become rooted deep in our souls and orient us in our approach to life, then no funeral would be a final farewell. No mishap or tragedy could deprive us of faith in God’s providence. No enticement could distract us from the aim of enjoying our resurrection from death to life forever with Christ. Like Saint Paul, we would shout “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39). All of this will imbue our lives with an unquenchable hope and an unfaltering optimism, just like Apostle Paul who says: “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2:9). That is what it means to expect the resurrection of the dead.
† Fr N. S.
Source: April– May 2014 Lychnos Edition