The Resurrection and Human History (Acts of the Apostles)

April 27, 2008 Length: 7:57

Throughout the Paschal season, the Church reads from the Acts of the Apostles, a history book, in place of the Epistles during the Divine Liturgy. In this homily for Pascha, Fr. Pat asks, "What does the resurrection of Christ mean to human history?" (7:57)





In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This is a day of history and geography. The end of this morning’s reading from The Acts of the Apostles, tells how Jesus sends his disciples out to make disciples of all nations. The Orthodox Church celebrates Pascha, my brothers and sisters in Christ, by beginning the first book of Christian history, The Acts of the Apostles. All through the Paschal season, regular readings from this book replace the normal reading from the New Testament Epistles during the Divine Liturgy. We begin to think about the Resurrection, that is to say, by reading a history book. Now this is very significant because it indicates an important truth about the Resurrection itself. What does the Resurrection of Christ mean to human history?

Now in truth, the Resurrection begins an entirely new and defining phase of history because it introduces into human experience for the first time a transcendent and utterly certain foundation of hope, and it is hope that chiefly makes history. The Resurrection is a radically new reality, an absolutely novum quid. We ourselves, we Christians, structure each week and each year on the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The week is structured around Sunday, the weekly commemoration of the Resurrection. The liturgical year is structured around Pascha, our annual celebration of the Resurrection.

That is to say, we endeavor to consecrate time by structuring it on the weekly and annual observance of the Resurrection. With God’s vindication of Jesus of Nazareth, there was posited into history the preaching of the Gospel, an entirely new thesis with respect to human destiny. For those who put themselves under the sway of the Gospel, history could no longer be more of the same or business as usual. History could no longer be, in the unforgettable expression of Henry Ford, “just one damn thing after another”, because the Resurrection of Christ conferred on history, something it had never known before and does not otherwise know, a metaphysical telos, a goal, directing and energizing, giving purpose deliberately placed into the process itself. Since that first Christian Pascha the Resurrection of Christ has worked as yeast in the dough of the human enterprise actively raising that history towards its final shape.

Those who confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead stand most literally on the side of history, because this is where this is going. It’s not a cyclical thing, big cycles, you know, like certain philosophers. It’s not two steps forward and one step back, according to other philosophers. It’s not a bunch of little tiny things like this. It’s something else. For this reason the Orthodox Church celebrates Pascha by beginning the first book of Christian history, The Acts of the Apostles. All through the Paschal season, as I mentioned, during the Divine Liturgy, this will be the book we read in place of the Epistles. This Book of Acts records the first thirty or so years of mankind’s new history: Church history. We appropriately commence our reading of that book in the liturgical context of the Resurrection, because it enunciates to the world the novum quid, the new reality. We find in the Book of Acts the first blossoms to grow from the root of the Resurrection.

Throughout the history of the church, the Resurrection of Christ, my beloved in Christ, is the perennial source of renewal and power. This is the reason the Church has survived its worst enemies and always will. All of Christian history thus becomes a revelation and an extension of the Resurrection. Christians live and thrive on the compound interest of the Paschal mystery, a limitless font of joy, strength, perseverance and victory in the face of the myriad demonic forces raised against them.

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling down death by death
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

Christ is Risen. Indeed He is Risen.
Christ is Risen. Indeed He is Risen.
Christ is Risen. Indeed He is Risen.