by Rev. Dn. Vijay Abraham Thomas
"He is risen!"
It is with these three words spoken from the empty tomb that the women were sent out to proclaim the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The apostles carried these three simple words and preached them to the nations. The Church has passed these simple three words down throughout the centuries. It is in the truth of these words that we have been baptized. And now, we have journeyed once again through the Great Lent and Passion Week so that we can cry out together these three words.
So, this glorious and new morning, we do not greet each other with just a "good morning" or a "how are you doing?", but rather we say:
(English) Christ is risen!
(Malayalam) Christu Uyirthezhunnettu!
(Syriac) Meshiha qam!
(Greek) Christos Anesti!
The faithful members of the Church respond to this greeting with an equally powerful statement, "Indeed, He is risen!" (In Malayalam: "Theerchayayum Uyirthezhunnettu!")
But we must take a moment to think about this response. Do we really believe it? How do we proclaim it with such certainty? Have we seen the empty tomb? How do we know that He is truly risen?
It seems as if every year around this time, a major magazine publication reports on some new finding by scientists or scholars that calls into question our faith in Jesus Christ. Some reports will say that they have found the bones of Jesus or that they found evidence that Jesus was not dead. Regardless of the report, these small articles place the seeds of doubt in our heads. Some of us are able to root them out and others find themselves falling into doubt. The simple fact of the matter is that as the voices of atheism, secularism, and syncretism grow steadily in this world, we are constantly tested in our faith in His resurrection.
We could try our best to ignore these wrong teachings, but the Fathers of the early Church have taught us that we are called to defend the faith from the false teachers. In order to do that, we must answer for ourselves this simple question; how do we know that Christ is risen?
As the Fathers did, we also turn to our scripture, the Bible, in order to help us answer this question.
It is interesting to note that the doubts of the modern world parallel that of the ancient world, which is evident in the complete lack of faith demonstrated by those who come into contact with the empty tomb of Christ.
In the Gospel of Mathew, the Pharisees learn of the empty tomb and hear of the witness of the soldiers, and still do not believe. The soldiers that witnessed the resurrection do not realize or understand the significance of what they have seen and thus they fall to the bribery of the Pharisees.
In both Gospels of Mathew and Luke, the women who came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus were surprised to find the tomb empty. They were shocked and worried that something bad had happened to the body. Their lack of faith and understanding is surprising because these same women were followers of Christ. They knew him personally and heard him speak often. Why did they not immediately recognize that He is risen?
In John's Gospel, our own St. Thomas doubts the resurrection accounts told by his friends. He does not believe until he sees the risen Christ for himself. Jesus says in John 20, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." The question still remains. How do we believe if we have not seen?
Part of the answer lies in Luke 24: 13-34, where two men find themselves walking on the way to Emmaus. The two men are joined by another person who they do not initially recognize. As they talk with this other person, they learn much and they invite that person to share a meal with them. It is when that person took the bread and broke it that the eyes of the two men were opened. They finally recognized this person as their crucified and risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
The importance of the action of the breaking of the bread cannot be stressed more. Their eyes were opened by the breaking of the bread. But what is this breaking of bread? Today, we call it the Holy Qurbana. The Scripture teaches us that it is in the Holy Eucharist that we experience the presence of the risen Lord.
The story in Luke Gospel goes further when the two men also marveled saying, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" We learn from this verse that we can find the risen Lord in the preaching and study of the Holy Bible.
The truth is that the disciples of Jesus Christ did not believe Jesus was risen from the dead by seeing the empty tomb or seeing any other evidence. They were only convicted in their faith by the breaking of bread, preaching, and the study of the Scriptures, which is the activity of the Church.
Our life in the Church gives us the experience to meet the crucified and risen Lord daily. But some of us go to Church every Sunday and still do not know Jesus Christ. We try to participate but we do not feel like we get anything out of these services. So, what are we doing wrong? How can we experience the risen Christ within the liturgy of the Church?
To answer this question, we look to the example of Mary Magdalene. Unlike all the others who came to the empty tomb and marveled, she came and cried. Her weeping captures the depth of her desire to meet with Jesus Christ.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we must also approach the empty tomb with tears. We are called to cry out to God in our prayers to meet with Him and to seek His face. It is in our perseverance to meet with our risen Lord that our eyes will be open and our hearts will burn. When we come to the Church with this intention, we will not be able to deny that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.
Let us continue to pray for God's saving grace to work in and through our Church, so that all may cry out with one voice, "Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!"
Passion Week Supplement
Great Lent Resources - HomeThe Easter Sermon by St. John Chrysostom
Devotional Thoughts for Easter - (Holy Pascha, Kyamtho)
by H.G Yakob Mar Irenaios
Devotional Thoughts for Easter Sunday
by H. G. Zachariah Mar Theophilos
Devotional Thoughts for the Easter Sunday
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril
by HG Alexios Mar Eusebius
HE IS RISEN, INDEED HE IS RISEN!
by HG. Dr. Yakob Mar Irenaios
The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
The Papal Message from HH Pope Shenouda III
The Easter Message
by Fr. Wade Fahnestock
by: H G Yuhanon Mor Meletius
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