by Fr. M. K. Kuriakose
The Lord is risen! Indeed He is risen!
The greatest festival of Christians is at hand. Often the world misunderstood Christmas as the greatest festival of Christians. In fact still the world believes that there is no greater festival than Christmas. Considering the magnitude of financial activity, Christmas is the greatest. But Christians know that it is not true. It is not Christmas but the resurrection of the Lord the greatest festival for Christians.
The name Easter given to the day of resurrection is rather strange. Easter was a pagan word used in the Anglo-Saxon and German mythology in the name of the goddess Oester. Oester was the goddess of spring who is remembered in the month of April. In the Babylonian culture the goddess Ishtar the Goddess of fertility also has some similarity. The Easter eggs the symbol of fertility and bunnies the animal of fertility are all used to indicate new life. In the western world the end of barren winter and beginning of the new leaves in spring (in April) are all part of common man’s life which took the name Easter for resurrection. Other than that there is no connection between the Lord of resurrection and the goddess Oester. It is unfortunate that the greatest event for Christians is given the wrong name and unrelated interpretation. I prefer to use the word Resurrection than Easter in this connection. Nothing else makes any sense to me.
Orthodox Christians do not greet each other saying, “Happy Easter!” Instead they will greet with the words, “The Lord is Risen!” and the response will be, “Indeed He is Risen!” This is the declaration of faith done during the divine worship. In the Early Church that was the greatest declaration of faith. Let us ponder on what resurrection means to Christians:
1. Resurrection Pre-conditions Suffering and Death:
Nothing good comes without a price. Resurrection is the reward for the suffering of the Lord. St. Paul in Romans 6:4, 5 explains this in connection with his teaching about holy Baptism. ‘We are buried with him by baptism into His death and like Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, we have resurrected with Christ. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.’ Christians are those who are ready to suffer even death to live in Christ. Resurrection is guaranteed for those died in Christ. It is only through losing one’s life that he finds his life. Jesus said, “The one who is trying to save his life will lose it but the one who loses his life will save it.” St. Luke 17:33. When we live in a consumer society it is rather difficult to understand and practice these ideals. Everybody wants to make more material wealth and gain. Saving for one’s own life is the main purpose of life for many people. For this reason alone we can see the most competition, fights, wars and unrest in the world. In Luke chapter 12:15 through the parable of the rich fool our Lord taught us, “for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.” However, the present world will not approve this thinking. Unless the present world makes an attempt to take suffering unto itself there is no hope of resurrection and life. The Church has that responsibility to show this to the world, like what was done by the faithful in the Early Church. In the hope of resurrection, they considered that all resources are common and no one needs to hoard things for oneself. Private earning and private spending are the evils of our times. No one wants the suffering of sharing it with others. It is very clear to all of us that our material gains end with the material life and that which lasts for ever is what we earned for eternal life. If we are dead with Christ we will resurrect with him.
2. Resurrection is the ultimate answer for Hope.
St. Paul in I Corinthians 15: 14 and 17 points to the importance of our faith in the resurrection of the Lord. If Jesus did not resurrect, our faith and our preaching are in vain. Resurrection is the ultimate fact on which the entire Christian faith is based. Had that not been the case, Christianity would have disappeared from the earth long ago. The powerful Jewish community and the mighty Roman Empire tried to destroy Christ and His Church over three centuries but they failed because Christians did not flinch in their faith in the resurrected Lord. The stories of martyrdom that we read from the accounts of the early fathers, it is very clear that death was not a threat to them. Death was only considered a promotion to the superior life to live with Christ for ever. The heinous crimes that the Roman emperors inflicted on Christians did not deter them from their true faith. We have the famous saying, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Christians of our times hardly know this. Most of them are even afraid or hesitant to say this because their mind is set on the materials of this world. St. Paul says, “to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) St. Paul instructs us on the ultimate hope of resurrection only because he experienced the presence of the living Christ on his encounter with Him at the gate of Damascus. Anyone who has that little experience of meeting Christ in his/her life will proclaim this hope. St. Paul said, “if we set our hope only in the present world, we are the most miserable people.” I (Corinthians 15:19) Therefore, Christians proved that they are able to hold on to the person of Christ in spite of all adversities. No one could shatter their hope. In our own times, there is hardly anyone who would live for Christ. Thus we can see people living in hopelessness. This hope is not a mental deliberation but an experience.
Recently I went to a small town called Selinsgrove in Pennsylvania attending a conference. I went out to eat some food in the McDonald’s. There were two elderly men sitting at the next table eating their sandwich. I heard on man asking the other man, “Are you confident that you will go to heaven if you die now?” I could see the frantic search for words to respond to the question. The man continued to say that he lives with that hope all the time. I was amazed, in a remote village where common people lived, there is faith and hope in their life. How soothing to know that there are Christians who still live with the hope in the living Lord.
May the resurrection of the Lord be part of experience than an old story that we heard.
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