+Christ is risen!
What happened through the Resurrection that can change how I live? The Resurrection takes away our fear of tribulation, sin and death, and gives us power over everything. We live in the hope, the expectation of newness and restoration…
This article is a bit heavier on the quotes, contrary to the ‘about’ section, my apologies in advance!
We look for the Resurrection of Christ…
So says the choir of the living Body of Christ, His bride, in the Resurrection Hymn of the Midnight Praises during this Festal Season. We look toward the resurrection – we wish for it, we expect and desire it, we have trust and confidence in it – we hope in it. If we sing this and do not hope in it, then we are liars, “If any say that Christ is not risen, and we assert and have believed this, and both hope for and preach that very thing, we are false witnesses of God, in alleging that He raised up Christ, whom He raised not up?” (Julius Africanus, Epistle to Aristides, II) What, though, this hope in the Resurrected Christ is, and what it entails, we hope to examine today.
First, we must establish that this is a hope that is not unreasonable – as unreasonable hope does exist.
The hope that is unreasonable is the one that is based on poor experience – some put their hope in winning the lottery – something which few among the millions achieve – as a means to financial success; but the testimony of honest work bringing in fruits would be the hope based on experience. This is the hope that David the prophet dismisses, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. ” (Psalm 20:7)
Hope, by definition, is something that we have not experienced yet but anticipate, every situation is unique. This, however, does not mean that we cannot have hope based on the experience of others. For example, a person may hope to succeed in a particular course. If many people have passed this course successfully before them, their experience acts as a source of hope for he who begins it; that others have passed means a stronger potentiality of his own passing. This “evidence”, acts for him as a basis of hope.
In the same manner do we have hope in our own resurrection unto eternity to live with Him Whom we love. This hope, based on a Resurrected Christ, is a reasonable one, because of the fact that He rose. Our hope is real because His resurrection is real. We speak of the fact of the Resurrection of the Lord, not the hope of it. Only because His resurrection is a fact, can we hope in our own – for it is by His resurrection that we too are resurrected unto life, or conversely, “ …if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen ” (1 Cor. 15:13 ). Even Job knew of the resurrection millennia before the Incarnation, “ For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25 -26). We know that He is risen and it is because He is risen that we, the former Gentiles are Christians.
Now, this hope that we have established is the very basis of our lives; the 15th Patriarch of Alexandria says, “But the glory of the Father and of the Son, who for our salvation was nailed to the cross, makes us safe for the everlasting redemption; and that is the greatest hope of Christians” (St. Theonas of Alexandria, Epistle to Lucianus, I) Redemption means that the debt of sin has been paid – and that now we have the opportunity, the hope to be able to live with Him in His kingdom. Now that we have established this hope, let us examine what this means in practicality; what exactly hope in the Resurrected Christ means in our lives.
A. Hope in the Resurrected Lord means we rejoice in tribulation.
“Those who love the Lord may be recognized by the fact that because of their hope in Him they bear every affliction that comes, not simply courageously but also wholeheartedly.”
– St. Ambrose, Concerning Repentance Book II, S. 48 from The Post-Nicene Fathers Series I
Again, it is by the experience of the Lord in the flesh that we can continue to have hope in tribulation and bear all things. Christ was resurrected, this is truth, but hopefully we have not forgotten that the Resurrection followed His Holy Passion. Only after enduring the pain did He rise in glory. Only after He endured shame did He conquer those who were proud. We see that the Lord of Glory Himself set the example of suffering ungrudgingly – he bore a shameful death but was the Firstfruits of them who slept when He rose in Glory.
If we put our hope in Him who endured and Rose, then we have no reason for worry or fear or anxiety in time of tribulation – we are not facing the impossible because it has been done already! If He endured death and conquered it – can He not give us from His grace to endure much more trivial matters? Of course He does, and we can only receive from it if we have a hope in Him! Saint Macarius the Great even says, “To escape is, then, in your own power; the Lord wills to be entreated. He wills that men should hope in Him, He wills that supplication should be made to Him.” (The Homilies, Homily VI)
It may also be said, that it is our hope in the Resurrected Lord that we endure tribulations – but through tribulation we will also build up more hope,
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope … (Romans 5:1-4)
Note how we do indeed come full circle here – Saint Paul acknowledges that we live in the hope of His Glory, the Glory of the Resurrected Christ, but that we then endure tribulation. Through tribulation we acquire patience (a virtue), and then experience – and through this experience we acquire … hope!
Always remember, we have this hope because He already did it:
“And the Savior has given us an example herein, who also was left alone, and exposed to the designs of His enemies, to teach us, that when we are persecuted and deserted by men, we must not faint, but place our hope in Him, and not betray the Truth. For although at first truth may seem to be afflicted, yet even they who persecute shall afterwards acknowledge it.”
– Saint Athanasius, History of the Arians, S. 47
B. Hope in the Resurrected Lord means we no longer fear sin.
That you may know therefore that God always loves His creatures…- He saw how the intellectual nature had gone down altogether into the abyss, dead altogether, and the implanted law of the covenant was dried up… The Father spared not His Only-Begotten, for the salvation of us all, but delivered Him up for our sins. (Rom.8:32 ) For our iniquities humbled Him, and by His stripes we all are healed (Isa. 53:5): and He gathered us from one end of the world to the other, making ‘members one of another’. (Eph. 4:25)
– St. Antony the Great, The Letters of Saint Antony the Great, Letter V , p. 14-15
That Christ was Resurrected means that He conquered death – death is the consequence of sin. But, more importantly, because He died means that He lived – and when He lived among us, He lived in our very own flesh. That Christ, the resurrected Lord bore our flesh and took our nature has serious consequences for sin, as the Gregorian Liturgy says,
Thou, the Infinite, being God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but humbled Thyself, and took the form of a servant; and blessed my nature in Thee; and fulfilled Thy Law, on my behalf. Thou hast shown me the rising up from my fall.
It was sin that caused our fall, and it is sin still that plagues us, but the Resurrected Lord in the flesh conquered that sin, even though He was tempted as we are tempted. He bore the consequence of sin as well (He was born with the same human nature of which we are born), and He has taught us the rising up from our fall, while in our nature! This is cause for hope – that because He defeated sin, we too based on His experience can also – though this will not be by our own might. That is, He blessed our nature, which is why we have hope – because He was able to conquer sin while in the flesh, and He blessed our nature that we too might have hope in such glory over sin. The Resurrected Christ is our only hope for defeating sin, because He is the only who can and has defeated it.
In addition to this, our hope in Him conquers our fear of sin because sin was killed by renewal that comes in the Resurrected Christ, “ For by the sacrifice of His own body, He both put an end to the law which was against us, and made a new beginning of life for us, by the hope of resurrection which He has given us. ” (Saint Athanasius, On the Incarnation, S. 5) We no longer fear sin because now exists cleansing, “And the hyssop expressed that quickening and saving resurrection of His, by which He has also brought health to us.” (Saint Dionysius, Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Luke (Luke 22:42 )
C. Hope in the Resurrected Lord means we no longer fear death.
For no more does death reign; but instead of death henceforth is life, since our Lord said, ‘I am the life;’ so that everything is filled with joy and gladness; as it is written, ‘The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.’ For when death reigned, ‘sitting down by the rivers of Babylon , we wept,’ and mourned, because we felt the bitterness of captivity; but now that death and the kingdom of the devil is abolished, everything is entirely filled with joy and gladness.
– Pope Athanasius the Apostolic, Fourth Festal Letter
There is no greater reason to hope in our own resurrection than the fact that He rose. There can be no reason, no logical explanation for fear of death if we have lived our life in the Resurrected Christ. If we have endured tribulation in this hope, if we have conquered sin through that hope, then what follows – our resurrection with joy and gladness – is hardly surprising; it is the natural consequence of the life of hope – built also on Hispromise of hope.
Prior to the resurrection, death was something to fear. Death had not been conquered, all were sent to Hades. Now, however, the Lord is risen, “He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;’ and raised us up together with Him, having loosed the bands of death, and vouchsafed a blessing instead of a curse, joy instead of grief, a feast instead of mourning” (St. Athanasius, 2nd Festal Letter)
There is nothing to fear! We are not cursed and condemned to damnation! Instead, we are promised a great inheritance! A contemporary father writes, “ Death became redemption, the grave turned from the pit of death into the fountain of life.” If by His death the gates of Paradise were opened, then our Hope is even greater. Our whole lives are spent preparing for that moment at which we will be able to see Him whom our soul loves, Him who is above all – if the Resurrection is the only way that this was possible, then no greater reason for hope exists than the resurrected Lord. Hope in the Resurrected Lord, it is the gate to unity with Him.
Living this life of hope will lead us to complete reliance in Him. Our carnal fears will be slayed in the glory of His Immortality. If we fear not sin and Satan who was conquered, if we fear not tribulation and death – no man can come near our soul, no power will have dominion over us. Our life and being will be in the Resurrected Christ.
“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. ” (1 Peter 1:3)