God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ (2Cor. 2: 14)
It is my pleasure to wish all of you the blessings of the Glorious Feast of the Resurrection, in which we celebrate the resurrection and victory of our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as our liberation from the bondage to evil and death.
During the feast of this year, we remember our beloved, who were martyred in Libya, and we ask for their prayers on our behalf. We also pray for their blessed families so the joy of Christ’s glorious resurrection may always fill their hearts.
I wish to reflect with you on a verse, which St Paul the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, “Now thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” (2 Cor. 2:14)
The procession of Christ’s victory is the procession of His suffering, by which He was triumphant over Satan. Our Lord Jesus Christ walked the road of the Passion, which began with His arrest on the eve of Friday. It was followed by his trials and sufferings, which He endured until the crucifixion.
From the outside, it all appeared as if the following was happening: the soldiers were leading our Lord Christ, Pilate sent Him to Herod, the chief priests and scribes judged Him, Pilate ordered to hand Him over to be crucified, the soldiers scourged Him and mocked Him, and then took Him to Golgotha to be crucified. However, this sorrowful but joyful procession was not under human control; it was truly under divine control, because Christ, the Incarnate God, accepted suffering by His own will.
Pilate said to Christ, “‘Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.’” (Jn. 19: 10-11) Our Lord Jesus Christ said about Himself, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (Jn 10:18)
The procession of the Passion of Christ is the procession of His victory, because by death He trampled down death, rose from the dead victorious over death, and liberated mankind from Satan’s dominion. Christ is calling us to walk in the procession of His triumph, and indeed He is always leading us in this joyful procession.
We saw Christ leading our martyrs in Libya in the procession of triumph. In the video, which showed the procession of the martyrs, it appeared that a group of evil men were leading a group of innocent men to death by the seashore. However, when we closely observe the procession and see it with the eyes of faith, we see the hand of Christ holding His children and leading them to Paradise and to victory over evil.
Therefore, when we carefully look at the martyrs’ faces, we see their calmness and peace, with their heads lifted and their faces bare, like joyful children in the bosom of their Heavenly Father. As for the wicked men, we see their faces covered with black, fearful of showing their faces to the world lest their uncovered faces reveal the fear that fills their hearts. Whereas, the criminal is the one, who covers his face for fear of facing society, the courageous, strong, and righteous person leaves his face uncovered, not fearing anything, and always has his face lifted up and looking towards heaven.
This scene of our martyrs reminds us of St Steven the first martyr. As the evil men were cut to their heart and they gnashed at him with their teeth, he did not look at them and did not lower his head nor was fearful to cover his face. The Book of Acts says, “But he full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55)
Indeed, the procession of the Coptic Martyrs by the Mediterranean seashore is a procession of triumph, led by our Lord Jesus Christ as part of the procession of His triumph. Christ diffused the fragrance of His knowledge everywhere through them. The video of the martyrdom of the Copts in Libya carried a message to the whole world testifying to the power of the Christian faith, as revealed in the martyrdom of those heroes, who refused to deny their faith and held fast to their Christian faith till the last breath. As they were led to martyrdom, they repeated the Name of our Lord Jesus. We ask for their intercession and prayers on our behalf, so God may support us to complete our struggle on earth.
Let us rejoice in our Living Christ, Who always leads us in the procession of His triumph, regardless of the surrounding circumstances. We are always peaceful and assured that our life is not in human hands, but in the hands of our Living, strong, and powerful Christ, Who died, resurrected, and lives to rule over the living and the dead.
Let us remember the saying of St Paul the Apostle, “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Rom. 14: 7-9)
Let us pray for the peace of the Holy Church.
Let us pray for our beloved father, H.H. Pope Tawadros II.
Let us pray that our Living Christ may fill our hearts with the joy of His Glorious Resurrection.
His Grace Bishop Serapion is Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles (www.lacopts.org)
12 April 2015