Christ is Risen!
Beloved of the Lord, fathers brothers and sisters!
“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death” the Church sings this day universally as our confession of faith and unwavering hope. Saint Philaret of Moscow said, “As Christ is truly risen so we shall truly rise.”
“We celebrate the conquering of death, the destruction of hell.” And, “Christ our God leads us from death to life and from earth to heaven.” We hear these great words which give us hope and lead us to eternity during these holy days.
Death is annihilated, it no longer exists. There is repose, separation of the soul from the body and transition from this life to eternity; beyond the grave there is not only a place of torture, but a place of eternal life in blessedness with Christ.
The true word of God reveals to us a great mystery about eternal life. Beginning in the Old Testament we hear how the soul continues its path after separation from this corporal life, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12,7). This is a teaching on our future life, which people of that time so often forgot and as a result lived their lives in crude and sinful manners. The Lord often corrected the people of that time, through His chosen Prophets, directing them to not forget eternal life.
The Son of God, whom God willed to send to us on earth for our salvation and to teach us the Truth, continually assured us of our eternal soul and the life to come. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in Himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice” (John 5, 26-28).
Many of God’s saints rejoiced in the hour of their death. The saints and the righteous must all die, just as sinners shall. To this there are two exceptions, the holy ones Enoch and Elias. The greatest piety can not keep us from death which for the Christian is simply a transition to a better life.
The death of the righteous is blessed, the goal of this life, for they die with faith in Christ, love of God and peace in their heart for the Lord is with them. We know that Lazarus was taken by the Angels to the bosom of Abraham. The righteous die as conquerors. For the righteous, death is a triumph of their faith, repose, entrance to the Father’s house and partaking of the heavenly beatitude. Saint Ambrose of Optina was radiant as the sun before his repose, and Saint John of Kronstadt on his death bed wished to speedily enter into union with his Lord.
The very Feast of Pascha is the beginning of our faith in eternal joy. It is a foretaste of the eternal bridal chamber of Christ. We must remain eternally thankful to our Resurrected Lord for His struggle, redemption, suffering, death on the Cross and that He grants us resurrection. We must bear witness to this thanks by not suffering anguish over our loved ones who have fallen asleep as do those without faith. Such is to show that we do not believe in our hearts what we confess with our lips. Further we must live continually by the ways through which God promises us entry into eternal beatitude – a living faith in the Conqueror of death and hell, our Redeemer and Lord Jesus Christ and adherence to the commandments set forth in the Holy Gospels. One who lives as such already has within himself the beginning of eternal life and already in this life has a foretaste of eternity.
The Risen Christ showed an evident example of the life to come and eternity. He elevates our spirit, illuminates our conscience foretells our lives and mediates for us before God. He enlightens our spirit by showing that if we keep the Truth and have Love that we are children of the Heavenly Father. He shows that our true homeland is paradise. He gives peace to our hearts removing the barrier between us and God. He opens the heavens to us all and, resurrected from the dead, He gives us each a promise of eternity.
For this reason death is not an end, rather a beginning of a new and better life, an eternal life with Christ to Whom is due all Honor and Glory along with His Father without beginning and all Holy and Life Creating Spirit and to Him who will cleanse us of all defilement of soul and body, enlighten our lives and grant resurrection to our souls. Amen.
Truly He is Risen!
+ Archbishop Vladimir