Audio length: 10:00 minutes
Transcript published: April 24, 2011
Fr. Gregory encourages us to live the joy of the resurrection all year round.
Ahead lies 40 days of joy, joy in the Saviour who is alive, risen from the dead! None of us feels this joy all the time and all of us understand why. We are simply not holy enough. Now that seems a strange answer for those who habitually think that Christianity is a wretched faith for miserable people. People who think like this have been blinded and deafened by the Prince of this world to the praise of the Angels which is pure joy in Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour. If we, however, can attain some degree of holiness and purity then we shall know joy and experience it more consistently. I think we are justified in calling this our personal resurrection, even though resurrection, in all its fullness, is the destruction of our death and the acquisition of a new and spiritual body. Nevertheless, even in this life we can have a foretaste of the resurrection to come and this frequently comes with a sense of holy joy. This has been the consistent testimony of all the saints.
When St. Silouan the Athonite, saw the Resurrected Christ he experienced Pascha within his being and within creation. Recounting this he said: “I was living in a paschal feast. Everything was beautiful; the world was grand, people were pleasing, nature was unspeakably lovely, the body changed and became light, strength was added… the soul overflowed with joy, it had compassion on people and prayed for the whole world.” We know also that the saints experience this joy in others. Resurrection is therefore socially personal. Whenever, for example, St. Seraphim of Sarov addressed a seeker or spiritual child he invariably called the other person “my Joy.” As St. John the Theologian taught, loving God and loving one another are expressions of each other. Love is all. (1 John 4:20-21). The resurrection is both social and personal. We are saved or damned together.
If we now look towards those 40 days ahead of us, the Paschal season, we shall note that the Sunday celebrations also reveal this personal and social dimension to the resurrection. On the second Sunday of Pascha St Thomas resolves his scepticism and confesses the risen Saviour as Lord and God by touching the wounds of Christ, a personal resurrection of faith. On the third Sunday of Pascha the Holy Myrrh Bearing Women find their grief turned to joy when they discover the tomb empty, a personal resurrection of hope. On the fourth Sunday of Pascha, the paralysed man by the pool at Bethesda discovers that God can end his self-imposed immobility, a personal resurrection of the vigour in life. On the fifth Sunday of Pascha, the Samaritan woman, Photini, encounters the risen Christ at the well and He is able to reach into the depths of her life and bring forth living water, a personal resurrection to wholeness of life. On the sixth Sunday of Pascha our Lord grants sight to the man born blind, a personal resurrection into an entirely new creation. That which he lacked from birth he now gains by grace. This last miracle is the one that most closely matches the resurrection of the body, albeit that only one organ and sense is involved.
All these personal resurrections are also social in their effects. St. Thomas is bonded with the other Apostles in a shared experience of the Risen Christ. The Myrrh-bearing women announce the resurrection and in this the women are at one with the men. The Paralysed Man is restored to human society from the margins. In Photini the ancient enmity between Jew and Samaritan is overcome. The man born blind gains new and unheard of sight in the firstfruits of a creation restored to its proper dignity and function before the Fall.
So, from all these examples of our liturgical celebrations and the lives of the saints we can see that a personal and social resurrection is always involved in every genuine encounter with the living Christ. Such transforming events are neither limited to the early Church nor to the saints. They are God’s promise to all who call on His Name and they witness to the risen Christ upon whose radiant power and loving Presence our whole faith and life depends.
St Augustine said: “We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song.” Let us prove this to be true in our own experience. Christ is Risen!