Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Volume 6 No. 341 March 26, 2016
II. Featured Articles on Easter

Holy Pascha, The Day of Resurrection

by Father Nektarios Serfes

Why is the celebration of Holy Pascha, the day of Resurrection, so important in the Orthodox Church?

Holy Pascha, the day of Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, is very important in the Orthodox Church, because it's the greatest and oldest feast in the Christian calendar. Especially for Orthodox Christians, there is no greater feast than the celebration of Holy Pascha. Let us note that the reasons the celebration of Holy Pascha has preeminence among the Orthodox are many. They are all based on a particular passage in the Holy Apostle St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, 'if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain' (15:14).

Characteristic of the importance of the Resurrection for the Orthodox is the fact that Holy Pascha is also called in Greek "Lampra", the brightest day of all. At the mid-night Paschal Divine Liturgy the Resurrection light that is brought to the Orthodox home and to the graves of our loved ones, is taken to be the visible symbol of a new life in the Resurrected Christ, a life of joy after the sorrow of the Cross. And though the Passion is observed with the depth and significance it befits the supreme sacrifice of Christ, it is His Resurrection that seals the redemption issuing from the Cross.

Without it, the Orthodox feel, the divine drama would have remained unfulfilled in terms of the experience of human life by which a triumphant katharsis must follow all sacrifices including that on Golgotha. In the Orthodox Church, the Sunday Liturgy of the year is devoted to the Resurrection rather than to the suffering Christ. Hence the joyful tone the Orthodox Eucharist and underlying victory against the forces of evil implied in the Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. In this respect, the etymology of Pascha claimed by some as deriving from the Greek verb 'paschein' (to suffer) is erroneous. The name Pascha is merely the approximate rendering by sound of the Hebrew name for Passover. Therefore, Christ's Passover from death to life is offering us all everlasting life through His Glorious Resurrection.

Easter Sunday - The Meaning of Resurrection

by Fr. Robert Barron

Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Indeed He is Risen!!

Friends, on this Easter we should remember that Jesus is not just a soul that's gone to heaven. The resurrected Christ, as Paul said, is the first fruits of a new life. A whole new human nature has appeared and emerged.

Resurrection can't simply mean, as many contemporary authors want us to believe, that the cause of Jesus goes on. (As though you listen to the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven and the society of Beethoven lovers says, "Well, the spirit of Beethoven goes on.") People don't give their whole lives, don't go to the end of the world preaching, don't go to their death in support of a vague metaphor. What galvanized the first Christians was that Jesus - the crucified one who had died - is now alive again.

On this Easter, we Christians must avoid another problem: seeing the Resurrection simply as a return to this life. Lazarus was raised from the dead, only to die again. He still belonged to the realm of death. When Lazarus came forth, he was still wearing his grave clothes. He still belonged, in some way, to the tomb.

That's not what happens in the Resurrection. When Jesus rises from the dead, He leaves his grave clothes behind. Jesus now lives a new life exalted through the power of the Father. His relationship to space and time is now completely changed. He passes through locked doors. He comes and goes as he pleases.

Jesus is the first fruit of a new way of being, a new life. It's still a human life, but it is now lived at a higher pitch of intensity. This is such good news for us because this is what God intends for all of us: that we now will share in the risen life of Jesus.

It's our human life - yes, still bodily - but now lived at a higher level, spiritualized and glorified.

Jesus is Real to Me! A Homily for Easter Sunday

By Msgr. Charles Pope

Nearly all of the Resurrection accounts in the Gospels present the apostles and disciples on a journey to deeper faith. In stages, they come out of the darkness of despair and of this world into the light of faith. Matthew's account (28:1-10) is no exception.

Let's look at the Easter journey that Mary Magdalene and Mary (likely, Mary the Mother of James and Joseph) make out of darkness into light. Mark (16:1) adds that "Salome" went with them. Salome was the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of James and John. From Luke (24:10), it also appears that Joanna, wife of Chusa, Herod's steward, was with them. Hence, though Matthew only mentions two women by name, it would seem that our analysis includes these four women. As these women journey through the events of Easter Morning we see their faith deepen and brighten. In a condensed sort of way, we see in this a microcosm of the whole life of the Christian. Similarly, we, journeying in stages, come to a deeper faith and a brighter vision of the Paschal mystery that is our life.

Let's observe their journey in four stages.

Stage 1 - Disturbance at Dawn.

The text says,

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men.

Note that in this first stage it is still quite dark. The text here says, with hope, that the new day was dawning. The Greek word actually used, however, properly means as the first day "approached," or drew on, without specifying the precise time. Mark (16:1-2) says that it was very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun - that is, not that the sun "was risen," but that it was about to rise, or that it was the early break of day. Luke (24:1) notes that it was "very early in the morning" (in the Greek text, it was "deep twilight," or when there was scarcely any light). John (20:1) says that it was "very early, while it was yet dark," that is, it was not yet fully daylight, nor had the sun risen.

So the point is, it is still quite dark, but dawn is near! And all this creates for us, who read the account, an air of great expectation. An old song in the Taizé Community says, "Within our darkest night, you kindle a fire that never dies away!"

Next, there is a great earthquake! Sometimes God has to shake things up to open new doors and new vision. And in our lives too, there are often violent shakings. But, remember, we are at the dawning of a new day. In just a few short years, if we are faithful, we'll be with God. And so it is that this earthquake is not unto destruction, but is unto the opening of the tomb that has claimed our Lord, and unto the opening of tombs that have claimed us, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and so forth. This earthquake, frightening though it may seem, serves only to draw these women deeper into the Paschal mystery and toward the risen Christ.

Now, notice that they haven't seen him yet or even heard that he is risen. There is only this earthquake. But it has a purpose. Yet for now, it is barely dawn and things are still very unclear to them…

Stage Two: Declaration: Do Not Be Afraid.

The text says,

Then the angel said to the women in reply, "Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Note that the angel summons them to deeper faith. He exclaims, "Do not be afraid." Now to most of us, this may seem to be almost a "throwaway" line - one we often hear when we are perceived by others to be anxious. And frankly, when others say this to us it is both annoying and unhelpful. But in this case, the Angel presents a basis for their faith to grow and their anxiety to dissipate.

That they should not be anxious or afraid is firmly rooted in the Lord's promise and in his Word. The angel is reminding them that the Lord had promised to rise on the third day, and that he has done just as he said. The Lord, who had raised others from death and healed multitudes, has now done exactly what he promised.

Hence, the angel summons them to grow in their faith by pondering the Word of Jesus Christ and coming to trust in His promise.

The angel also presents evidence to them: the empty tomb. He invites them to connect the dots between the promise of Jesus and the present evidence of an empty tomb.

So, it's getting brighter, by the power of God's Word and the application of that Word to the present situation.

We too must journey through this stage as we become more deeply immersed in God's Word and apply it to our present situation. As we grow in knowledge and remembrance of God's promises and his Word, our anxiety begins to diminish. This happens especially when, like these women, we begin to connect God's Word with what is actually happening in our life. We start to notice the empty tombs, the many signs of God's favor and blessing. Things start to add up and we begin to connect the dots between faith and experience. And as we do this, it gets brighter and our faith grows stronger.

Stage Three - Deepening Dispatch.

The text says,

Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.' Behold, I have told you."

Learn by teaching - Having been instructed in the Paschal mystery, and having grown deeper in their faith, they are sent by the Lord to inform others. An interesting aspect of teaching is that we often learn more by teaching than we ever learned as a mere student. Hence, we grow in our faith as we begin to teach and testify to it. And simply the acts of teaching and witnessing cause us to grow.

But note the text, "Behold, I have told you." The true faith is received from God, not invented by us. St. Paul says, "Faith comes by hearing." Do NOT go and invent your own faith; that is a very bad idea! We receive the faith from God through the Church and through the Scriptures approved by the Church. These women had first been instructed by God's angel, and only after that are they told to go and tell the disciples. We too are instructed by the Church. Our faith comes from what is heard and then we pass on what we have heard.

So, these women are sent. And as they go, we shall see that they have a great breakthrough. But prior to that breakthrough, they are sent to witness, to proclaim. And this very act for them, and for us, deepens their faith even more.

There is one final stage that they must attain. For they are still only able to pass on what others have said; they have not yet personally seen the Risen Lord. That comes next.

Stage Four: The Discovery that is Definitive.

The text says,

Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me."

Here we see an important and powerful stage that, frankly, too many Christians ignore. Note that, in this moment, they go from inference to experience. Inference is a form of knowledge based only on what others have said. But experience includes personal witness. Experience means that I myself can personally vouch for the truth of what I proclaim. As we have seen, inference is a necessary stage of our faith (do NOT go and invent your own religion). But the Lord invites us deeper to more personally experience the truth of what the Church has always proclaimed and what her Scriptures have always announced.

Inference to experience - These women have heard from the angel that Jesus is risen, and they receive the teaching with joy. But, on the way, on the road of their lives, they come to personally meet the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Suddenly the truth of what they have been taught is made quite personal to them and they experience it as real. They have gone from inference to experience. And now they will tell not only what they have heard from others, but also how they have personally experienced its truth.

We too are invited to do the same. I need to be able to say, "In the laboratory of my own life I have come to personally experience as true all that the Church and her Scriptures proclaim." I am now a firsthand witness to Jesus, for I have experienced him personally in my life. I have met him in my prayer and in my experience. He is alive and real to me, and he is changing my life. I have done more than hear about the Lord; I have met him. I do not merely know about him, I KNOW him.

Do you know the Lord, or do you just know about him? Have you met him, or have you just heard about him? On Easter Sunday morning, we have observed a group of women go from the darkness of this world to the light of the normal Christian life. And what is the normal Christian life? It is to be in living, conscious contact with God in my life and to know, personally, the Lord of all glory. It is to be in a living and transformative relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

From Fear to Faith in Four Steps: A Meditation on the Johannine Easter Gospel
by Msgr. Charles Pope

One option for the Gospel for Easter Sunday morning is from John 20:1-8. And like most of the resurrection Gospels it paints a portrait of a journey some of the early disciples have to make out of fear and into faith. It shows the need to experience the resurrection and then come to understand it more deeply. ...

This is the companion to Msgr Pope's article 'Jesus is Real to Me! A Homily for Easter Sunday'

You can read this article in its entirety Malankara World Passion Week Supplement.

What If There had Been No Easter?

by Dr. Adrian Rogers

It's an unthinkable question: What if there had been no Easter? What if death had conquered and Jesus Christ stayed in the tomb?

Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

There are six tragic things that would be true if Christ is still in that grave.

1. Preaching Would Be Profitless

"And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain."

If Christ is still in the grave, you're wasting your time; I'm wasting mine. Preaching would be profitless, vain and empty.

"This is the gospel, that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried and rose again the third day…" (v. 4).

Without that, there is no gospel to preach.

2. Faith Would Be Foolish

Faith is no better than its object. Why put faith in a dead Messiah? A dead man can't save anyone. Our faith in Jesus Christ is worthless if He is still in the grave.

But He is shown to be "the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). Confucius died; he's dead. Buddha died; he's dead. Mohammad died; he's dead. Jesus Christ is alive. But if He's still in the grave, faith is foolish.

3. The Disciples Are Deceivers

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God… (v. 15)

Paul is not saying "We're mistaken." It's one thing to be mistaken; it's another to be a false witness. Paul asserts, "If Jesus Christ is still in the grave, then we're telling a lie."

Were the disciples liars? If so, why would they lie? The disciples openly exclaimed, "Listen, we have seen Him! We have touched Him!" And they died as martyrs: tortured, persecuted, burned at the stake, torn apart by lions. Hypocrites and martyrs are not made of the same stuff. People tell lies to get out of trouble, not into trouble. Few will die for what they know is a lie.

Was Peter a con man, John the apostle a crook? Was Paul a known perjurer? If Christ is still in the grave, the disciples would be deceivers.

4. Sin Would Be Sovereign

"And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." (v. 17)

You have no hope of forgiveness apart from the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. If He is in the grave, then God did not accept the sacrifice of Calvary.

How do we know that Jesus Christ is not just a religious fanatic with a martyr complex who happened to get crucified? How do we know God accepted the sacrifice of Calvary? The resurrection. No resurrection, no Savior. No Savior, no forgiveness. His death without His resurrection cannot save anybody.

5. Death Has Dominion

"Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ have perished." (v. 18)

Do you have a loved one who has died? If Jesus Christ be not raised, then they've perished. It is over. Life is nothing but a cruel joke. All we can look forward to is the downward spiral to the grave. No! Something as glorious as human life has more meaning than that. Those fallen asleep in Christ have not perished. The Lord Jesus Christ grappled with the iron bars of death and is victorious. Death does not have dominion! Christ arose!

6. The Future Is Fearful

"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (v. 19)

Without the resurrection, we're just poor, deluded fools, of all people most miserable. A wise man once said, "If Jesus Christ is still in that grave, nothing really matters. But if Jesus Christ came out of that grave, nothing but that really matters."

A Hope Steadfast and Sure

Jesus Christ took the sting out of sin, the dread out of death, the gloom out of the grave, and gave us a hope that is steadfast and sure. Preaching is profitable, faith is feasible, the disciples are dependable, sin has been subdued, death has been defeated, and the future is fabulous…for we know where we're headed!

The Turning Point of Time: An Easter Meditation

by Ravi Zacharias

We often hear the phrase, "the crux of the matter" or "the crux of a situation." The word "crux" comes from Medieval Latin, and simply means cross. Why has the word "crux" come to be associated with a critical juncture or point in time? Because the Cross of Christ is truly the crux of history. Without the Cross, history itself cannot be defined or corrected.

There is another word we often hear when we are in the throes of indescribable pain, the word, "excruciating." That, too, derives from the Latin and means "out of the cross." Across time and human experience, the historical event of the Cross intersects time and space and speaks to the deepest hurts of the human heart.

But we live with more than pain and suffering. We also live with deep hungers within the human heart, such as the hunger for truth, for justice, forgiveness, and peace. As I see it, there is only one place in the world where these hungers converge: it is in the Cross of Christ, where perfect peace and perfect justice became united in one death on a Friday afternoon.

The Cross defines what love's entailments are. You see, in Christian terms, love does not stand merely as an emotion or even as an expression to just be reconciled to God. In a relationship with God, love ultimately flowers into worship. All earthly relationships as we know them will someday end. It is in worship alone that wonder and truth coalesce, prefiguring the consummation of eternal communion. That enrichment from worship feeds all other relationships and helps us to hold sacred all of life's needed commitments.

Never has it been more obvious that this world needs redemption - and that redemption is costly. The Cross more than ever, in our language and in our longings, is necessary to bridge the divide between God and us and between ourselves. Without the Cross, the chasm that separates us all from truth, love, justice, and forgiveness can never be crossed. The depths of mystery and love found in the Cross can never be fully plumbed, but it must be the lifelong pursuit of the Christian to marvel at its costliness and to celebrate its meaning.

That is why we celebrate Easter. The Cross stands as the defining counter-perspective to everything this world has to offer. As you observe this Easter weekend, may you be moved to wonder and worship.

Copyright © 2015 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved. 

The Day Death Died

by Dr. Adrian Rogers

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.... For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 25-26

One day, a mother and her two children were in the park having a wonderful time. They were enjoying the outdoors until a big bumblebee landed on little Brother and then stung him! He began to cry and scream like any child would as the wound on his arm became swollen. The bee was still buzzing around, and his little sister was petrified. The mother comforted her daughter by saying, "Darling, wait a minute." As she was wiping Brother's tears away, she said, "Look down here on your brother's arm." Right in the middle of that swelling was the bumblebee's stinger. "You see that, Sweetheart? That bee can buzz and fight you, but he can't hurt you. You see, he can only sting once and he has left his stinger in your brother."

While death is a decided fact, Death is also a defeated foe. We are able to laugh in the face of Death if we know the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to tell you, friend, Death may buzz around you and frighten you, but our elder brother, the Lord Jesus, bears that sting. Jesus took the sting out of Death, and He has given us a hope that is steadfast and sure.

Jesus told Death that he couldn't keep Him. You see - Jesus willingly and vicariously laid down His life. The wages of sin is death, but Jesus was not a sinner and did not have to die. Jesus willingly, voluntarily, vicariously laid down His life.

Death thought he had a victory. Old King Death laid his icy, bony hands on the Lord Jesus Christ and shackled Him with the bonds of death. Jesus lay cold, stiff, and stark in that tomb. Old King Death possibly clapped his bony hands, shrieked a hoarse laugh and declared, "I have Him! He's mine. I am going to keep Him." But after three days, the Lord Jesus stirred, and He majestically rose from His resting place. Jesus did more than survive death. He defeated and decimated death in that tomb.

He got up from that stone slab. He turned around and folded the napkin that covered His face. There was no hurry. He was in complete control. I love that part - when the disciples entered the tomb, they found that folded napkin placed over His face.

There was that cruel king of terrors, Death, sitting upon the throne. But this time Death had a terrified look on his face because no one had done this before. Jesus began to walk toward him. Jesus reached up and pulled him from the throne and cast him to the floor. Death cowered in the corner of that tomb that had become his dungeon. Jesus put His heel on the neck of Death and reached down and pulled the sting out of Death. Jesus put the crown upon His own head and walked out of that tomb a risen, living, victorious Savior. Hallelujah!

One of these days there's going to come a shout from the lips of the Lord Jesus when He returns. And that shout will go into the tombs of those who have named Him as Lord and Savior. We're going to hear the shout that Lazarus heard. Our Lord is going to step down from His majestic throne in glory, and I believe the shout will be: "Come forth, come forth." The voice of the Savior will roll through the length and breadth of Satan's ruined empire and bring it crashing down.

At the command of the Lord Jesus Christ, the seas will heave and give up the dead which are in them; the winding sheets of the deserts will give up the dead that are in them; the battlefields of this world will give up the dead that are in them and the graveyards will, perhaps, look like plowed fields as the Lord Jesus shouts, "Come forth."

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
1 Corinthians 15:55

Source: Love Worth Finding


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