2007, An-Nahar, Articles

Resurrection / 07.04.2007

“Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.” (Acts 2: 31-32)

We do not have in the Gospel a description of the Lord’s emerging from the grave or to what might be called His revival. The well-recognized icon for resurrection is the one expressing Christ’s descent into hell, into the kingdom of death, dressed in raiment of light, raising by His hands the whole humanity, as they are represented by Adam and Eve. This is His victory over death. In our four Gospels, and in Paul, there is a confirmation of the appearances of the Master and a confirmation that this who has appeared to them is the one hanged on the wood. One of these appearances took place when “Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias” [John 21: 1], as His disciples were going fishing and they did not recognized Him in the beginning. And then, the disciple whom [Jesus] loved said to Peter that He is the Lord. Belovedness is [usually] perceived. And if we content ourselves by John’s testimony we are told that “early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”” [John 21:1-2] This is what we call the proof of the empty tomb. Then, there was the meeting of the Master with Mary the Magdalene in the garden, as she thought that He was the gardener, and then He called her by her name: “She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).” [John 20: 16] The evangelists wanted to present proofs in order to convince their readers. To me, however, the greatest testimony in all the books is the Savior’s appearance to Thomas, who doubted after His first appearance to the disciples as Thomas was not there. He did not believe whatever the disciples told him. In the second time, as the doors were closed, Jesus came and said to Thomas:  “”Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”” [John20: 27-28]

Thomas has viewed the scars in the hands and the side [of Jesus]. Maybe this apostle has thought that his friends have seen a ghost, and they were hallucinating. Here, John the evangelist, in his telling of the second event, wanted to say that the One whom Thomas has inspected is the same One who was hanged on the wood and that the traces of crucifixion are still present on His body. Hence, we can say that we encounter a resurrection-event.

Thus, we do not merely support the notion of resurrection but also that Jesus the Nazarene has moved from the tomb, which was in the form of a tightly closed cave, and came outside it. On this Paul has founded all his faith in Christ.

His death was the first event throughout this entire journey. This has been decided by the Jewish heads. The Roman governor has given the order, and many witnesses had witnessed it. Resurrection has showed us that the One who appeared [to many] was the same One who was raised on the wood, and then, God has raised Him to Godself. The question which poses itself is: how was the body of this Man at the resurrection? We have an evidence that He entered to [the place where] the disciples were and the doors were closed. We do not say that His body has penetrated the barriers. We say that He was present and we remain in complete mystery. The set of descriptions denote that He got rid of the opacity of the body, what the scientists call l’opacité de la matière. However, as we have seen in what we have [just] mentioned from the appearances, there is continuity between the crucified Christ and the resurrected One, or there is identification [between the two], yet, with the increment of light upon this person, who appeared to His beloved ones more than once.

Nevertheless, we can indirectly know something about Jesus’ appearance from the description, given about the people who would rise on the Last Day, in Chapter 15 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. [We read that] the human being will be imperishable (with the difference that the Lord has experienced decay neither before nor after death.). Then Paul continues about the human body: “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory” (Jesus had voluntarily experienced dishonor.). “It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” (The Master has experienced physical weakness voluntarily.) “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (Jesus had a biological reality.) [1Cor. 15: 42-44]

Through resurrection Jesus’ body has become a glorified body, that is, it has existed in divine glory in a sensible way, while, before His transfiguration on Mount Tabor, He was in divine glory in an insensible way. Resurrection did not give Him glory. It has only revealed it, and He, in His humanity, is seated on the right [hand] of the Father.

The impact of this truth on us is that we have become resurrectionists, namely able to overcome decay, sin and death on the Last Day. We believe that the resurrection of all humanity is the fruit of the resurrection which has been realized in Jesus Christ. Through repentance and the forgiveness of sins we have the Paschal power. And the Lord has empowered us to receive grace, which in my Church is an eternal, uncreated power of light, which God descends it upon us at our contemporary times. That means that we have the power of divinization and it becomes divinizing, namely we become partakers of God in these powers, without us being partakers in divine essence. This participation is not polytheism [shirk], since we do not pass from the situation of being a creature to being a Creator. There is no dissolving in divinity between the human and the divine natures. There is, rather, the pouring of light upon us and a continuous baptism of light, whenever we remain in repentance.

On these bases we understand that the Church celebrates resurrection every Sunday, before the constitution of Pascha, since we come from resurrection, and with its power we see divine glory as we are on this earth. From the Pascha comes the sacrifice of the elements on Sundays and on feast days, and through the elements we take the power of Christ, the One resurrected from the dead, and we move toward the power which shall burst at the end of times.

To this, the courage of the martyrs, who die as witnesses of Christ, comes from their confessing of Christ who triumphs through death. Those martyrs, though unarmed, fought the Roman Empire and they are also fighting all states, which similar to Rome have treated them harshly despite their radiating meekness. Their crime was that they refused to divinize the tyrannical ruler, though they did not refuse obedience. The state holds them responsible for whatever they carry in their believing hearts concerning the unity of divine authority. Those martyrs were trained to face the fiends and they were overstepping their bleeding violated bodies, with joy and courage.

In this respect, the story of Merdarius the martyr explains what those martyrs carried in their souls. Merdarius, who was a Roman noble, was walking in his palace. He heard songs coming up from the street. He looked out from his terrace and saw people singing. He asked his servants: Who are those and why are they singing? They answered him that they are called Christians, and that Christianity is a message which has emerged from the East. They also told that they were walking toward their execution, and that they were singing for their belief that whenever executed they would be united with their Master, who is called Christ. Merdarius thought that such a message should be great. He came down from his palace and joined them on the way to death.

For Christians the main rapture is not the Last Resurrection. It is rapture to Christ, whom Martha, the sister of dead Lazarus, has received and said: “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. … Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” [John 11: 21-25] The apparent meaning is that you have a real active resurrection before the Last Resurrection and that refers to the ‘I’. And then He explained His words saying: “everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” [John 11: 26] One might pass through the death of sin, yet, he/[she] will rise from that whenever he/[she] sees me on the cross and emerging out of the tomb. Namely, whenever one sees me present within him/[her]self. Christians who stare at the Savior now are being resurrected with Him in this vision. The reality of their emerging is for today and they might be purified now, with one glance at Him. Thus, they become new creatures created by His light. This intimate relationship with Him makes every soul of them a bride for Him, since it knows that it has no life in itself, rather it lives through Him.

Every soul is given that [relationship] whenever it lives the Easter [the Pascha], and this word refers to the Passover from all that has prohibited the soul to meet Him. Whenever the soul passes over to Him and stares only at His face realizes that He is fully present. In this context St. Seraphim, the Russian saint, was used to greet whoever he meets with the greeting: “O my joy, Christ is risen”. This means that He is within you, present in the depth of your heart, and He gives you life and you do not need to expect anything else, since nothing might be appended to Easter.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “القيامة” –An Nahar- 07.04.2007

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