Protocol Number 49/00
The Feast of Feasts
O Death, where is thy victory?
O Death, where is thy sting? . . .
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:54-65
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Day and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is risen from the dead, by death destroying death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life!
The reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is for us as Orthodox Christians not a matter of debate or conjecture. The Resurrection is an absolute and undeniable certainty of our daily experience of the presence of the Risen Christ, who ever abides with us, who ever lives to make intercession for us, who ever reigns over us in love.
As one of us He was born, as one of us He lived, as one of us He suffered and died. But unlike any other human being in history, He rose up from the realm of the dead and returned from the darkness of the tomb. For His resurrection was not merely the resuscitation of a lifeless body; rather, by His resurrection Christ transformed our humanity from an earthly form to a spiritual body. The flesh He assumed in the Incarnation, although sinless, was like our own, susceptible to death; the flesh that He raised in His Three-day Resurrection is splendid and powerful, for He graced the perishable with imperishability and the corruptible with incorruption (1 Cor. 15:42-50).
Certainly, Lazarus and others were raised from the dead before the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, but these were merely reawakened from the sleep of death, only to die again at a later time. Jesus Christ, however, brought forth a new humanity, one clothed in the grace of divine immortality. For we know, says the Apostle Paul (Rom. 6:9), that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. But the glory, the splendor, the honor, the virtue, and the power of the resurrection are not for Christ alone. By His grace He gives unto us all to share in His resurrection life, even as the Apostle John says (1 John 3:2): Beloved, we are Gods children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. We too shall receive a pure, immortal, and glorious new body through the transformation of our mortal flesh by the might of the Holy Spirit of God. Of the glory and blessedness of our new condition, no tongue can speak and no mind can imagine. Our present fallen condition cannot comprehend the incomparable inheritance we have as sons and daughters of God, anymore than an acorn can comprehend its future as a mighty oak or a lump of coal its destiny as a brilliant diamond.
With this hope in our hearts, we are able to look past the vanity of this present world and all of its false promises for satisfaction in this age. We are able to resist the lure of modern attitudes toward the human body. For we live in an age which glorifies and pampers the body, one which makes any and every effort to combat the aging process, to preserve the fleeting beauty of our nature, and to deny the painful sting of our mortality. Entire industries and new fields of scientific inquiry spring up with the goal of disguising, delaying, and denying the inevitable fate of our corruptible bodies. But utterly futile are the time, the effort, and the expense of all such endeavors. Only in Jesus Christ do we find the answer to the longing for immortality of our bodily existence, in the restoration and renewal that shine forth from His glorious victory over death.
In Christ alone we conquer time and the tomb. Where then is the sting of death? Where then is the victory of the grave? Sin is forgiven. The Law is fulfilled. The Cross is transfigured from a symbol of torture into a sign of healing. For us who are in Christ, death is but a falling asleep (1 Thess. 4:13f.), a passage into the presence of the Lord (Phil. 1:23). The curse of the Fall becomes a blessing, for in Christ we are raised up above the estate of Adam, and take on the glorious likeness of the immortal Son of God.
This is the day of resurrection! Shine forth, O people of God! It is Pascha, the Passover of the Lord! Just as He foretold, Jesus Christ has risen from the grave and has given us everlasting life and great mercy. In this indisputable certainty, in this imperishable hope, in this irrevocable promise, in this incontestable victory, we praise and glorify and thank the Risen Lord who has done and endured all things for us, who has clothed our humble perishable body with the splendor of incorruptibility.
Truly Christ is Risen!
With my warmest Paschal wishes
and love in the Risen Christ,
Archbishop of America