What a precious message of personal hope and joy there is in the true realization of the Resurrection! Death has been overcome; the grave has been transformed into the gateway to Eternal Life, and we are assured of a glorious future. There is no other promise in the world that can offer the smallest fraction of the joy conferred by the Divine Presence in the experience of Easter when we are assured of our own immortality.
We human beings are so devised that we do not naturally linger long on the heights or in the depths of emotion. The memory of the most excruciating pain is gradually forgotten, nor can we recall with the same vividness as before the personalities of departed loved ones, no matter how close they were or how dear. Our joys and triumphs buoy us up for a while, but the pleasure or satisfaction they have brought us is eventually dimmed by time which brings us new experiences and new responsibilities to which we must address ourselves. Every so often we may recall hours of distress or pleasure, but we can never for long avoid the demands of the present in which we must carry on our daily existence.
The same is true of the realization of Easter. By rights it should illuminate every moment of our lives. Every Sunday's Divine Liturgy has the Resurrection as its theme, and Saint Seraphim of Sarov used the greeting "Christ is risen!" all through the year. But most of us know that our recollection is not strong enough to allow us to live the Easter message fully through every waking hour. We have the duties and responsibilities of our daily lives to engage our attention and distract us. Then too, the concept of the Resurrection overwhelms us by its very immensity, and its significance is connected somehow with the end of life while life itself demands our full attention so long as we are part of it.
The Resurrection is the doorway to fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ. This we can enjoy here and now through prayer and the Sacraments and self-sacrificing service to humanity. Our Lord expected that His disciples would enter the Kingdom here on earth by knowing Him in this world where they walked the pathway that He revealed by teaching and personal example. To follow Christ is the Resurrected Life, the Redeemed Life, the Christian Life. For those who experience this life from day to day, Easter is an event that occurs continuously. Full of confidence and hope, they walk through life close to the Risen Master. They know Him on the road to Emmaus, and in the Breaking of Bread they feel the painful wounds in His Sacred Body.
So it is that we need the annual renewal of the Easter experience lest we, caught up in the never-ending pressures of daily life, allow its significance to become hazy in our recollection. If we are trying to live in harmony with the will of our Lord and in keeping with the Easter message, we will welcome the opportunity which the Church offers us to relive the Resurrection and to break with Christ the bonds of Hades, to overcome despair, and feel new life flow through the community of the faithful as all stand again by the empty tomb to welcome the dawn of a new day.
For all its personal import, Easter is not a feast for individuals alone. It is experienced in the company of the Church and in the communion that binds us to each other in the Eucharistic Body and Blood. The Risen Lord sweeps away the barriers of self-centeredness and selfishness and unites all the children of the Heavenly Father, not merely for a moment or two of sentimental fellowship, not merely as a superficial gesture, but through dedication to the service of others. Freely we have received: freely must we give. The certain, infallible, and positive sign that we share in the Resurrection, that we live in the Kingdom, is our willingness to live for others. When our minds are alert to the desperate need of those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, when our hearts respond to the pain of friend or foe, when our hands serve to help and heal the evils of the world, we are showing that we have felt the liberating force of the empty tomb.
May Easter be for us, not just a happy annual holiday which is soon past, nor a short religious digression, but the renewal of a firm commitment to our Faith which will be evident to others as they observe our way of life. If we walk in the light of the Resurrection, Easter will renew and refresh us. Even if we have known it only as the retelling of an old story, let us have the courage this year to bow in faith to the Master who died-who suffered an ignominious death for us-and has given us life. This Easter can be the beginning of a new life as well as of a new day. The shining Figure beside the empty tomb beckons to us. For almost twenty centuries many thousands have witnessed to His power and His love. May we all be among that immortal fellowship both this year and forever!
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America