This essay originally appeared as the May Rector’s message at saint-irene.com You can listen to an audio podcast of this text at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/rectorsmessage-2021-5
O great and most sacred Pascha, Christ; O Wisdom and Word and Power of God! Grant that we partake of Thee fully in the unwaning day of Thy Kingdom. –from the Paschal Canon by St. John of Damascus
When we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we proclaim it as the center of all history. By His Death and Resurrection, the Lord re-creates His work of Creation that was done at the beginning of the world, and He inaugurates the eternal Kingdom that will be fully manifested at the end of the world.
The curricula that dominate history education brainwash students with the idea that man’s history is a beginning-less and endless story of progress from ignorance and superstition into a liberated state of freedom and prosperity brought about by materialistic science. Those who hold this view classify Christ’s resurrection along with countless other fabricated myths that people can believe, if they want, but which must not be allowed to interfere in the march of history towards a bright and unlimited future of global unity and materialistic happiness under a benevolent and all-powerful government.
A Christian stands in absolute opposition to this view of the world. God created this world to have a beginning and an end, and this world is not an end in itself. It is, rather, an arena in which man works out his salvation. Each man’s life is a short and intense race which he conducts according to Christ and in Christ – or not. The purpose of each man’s life individually, and the purpose of every event in human history, is to prepare for God’s Judgment.
Our Savior’s Resurrection is not simply a miracle that demonstrates His Divinity, though it certainly does that. It is the destruction of death, the final and totally efficacious rescue of His creation from the corruption that the devil and sin brought into the world. He has already definitively triumphed over sin, death, the devil, and hell. All that remains now is for men to unite themselves to the Risen Christ or not, to join His Body the Church or not, to fight for Him or against Him. When He returns in glory at the end of the world, to judge all the living and the dead from the beginning of the world, the only thing that will matter is that we find favor in His sight. On that day, all the empty promises of a secular salvation and man’s progress will be revealed as the lies that they are.
Today, right now, it is critical for our spiritual lives not to fall back into a worldly and anxious way of living and thinking, but rather to nourish and sustain the spiritual vision we acquired during Great Lent and Holy Week. By staying faithful to prayer and spiritual reading, we can maintain the Paschal vision of our life, by which we interpret our daily activities not as part of some meaningless struggle for existence, nor as a restless, neurotic escape from being trampled by the march of progress, but as our advancing in hope “from glory to glory,” as we strive to arrive at the final vision of the face of our Beloved Bridegroom, Who shall reward every one of us who will have remained faithful to Him.
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
Concerning the Resurrection
For if there is no resurrection, let us eat and drink: let us pursue a life of pleasure and enjoyment. If there is no resurrection, wherein do we differ from the irrational brutes? 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. For observe how we see most righteous men suffering hunger and injustice and receiving no help in the present life, while sinners and unrighteous men abound in riches and every delight. And who in his senses would take this for the work of a righteous judgment or a wise providence? There must be, therefore, there must be, a resurrection. For God is just and is the rewarder of those who submit patiently to Him. Wherefore if it is the soul alone that engages in the contests of virtue, it is also the soul alone that will receive the crown. And if it were the soul alone that revels in pleasures, it would also be the soul alone that would be justly punished. But since the soul does not pursue either virtue or vice separate from the body, both together will obtain that which is their just due.
We shall therefore rise again, our souls being once more united with our bodies, now made incorruptible and having put off corruption, and we shall stand beside the awful judgment-seat of Christ: and the devil and his demons and the man that is his, that is the Antichrist, and the impious and the sinful, will be given over to everlasting fire: not material fire like our fire, but such fire as God would know. But those who have done good will shine forth as the sun with the angels into life eternal, with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him and being in His sight and deriving unceasing joy from Him, praising Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit throughout the limitless ages of ages. Amen.
– from The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith by St. John of Damascus, Book IV, c. 27.