Christ is Risen … Truly He is Risen
It is my pleasure to wish all of you a joyous Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Resurrection of Christ grants us everlasting joy, as our Lord Jesus Christ promised His disciples, “Therefore you now have sorrow, but I see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” (Jn 16:22) The joy, which our Beloved Christ grants us through His Resurrection, is not a temporary or transient joy, but it is a permanent joy. All of the world’s evil, injustice, and temptations cannot remove from our hearts the joy and peace of Christ.
When Christ was crucified, the disciples were sorrowful, because they did not comprehend the meaning of the crucifixion. Their fear of the Jews and the sorrow that filled their hearts, made them hide in the Upper Room, and they locked the doors. But when the Risen Christ appeared to them, their sorrow was changed to everlasting joy. St. John described it by saying, “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” (Jn 20: 19-20) Through His resurrection, Christ granted the disciples everlasting joy and peace.
❖ The Ascension of Christ did not take away the joy of the disciples, as St Luke wrote, “He lifted His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.” (Lk. 24: 50-53) The joy of the Resurrection strengthened the faith of the disciples and made them believe that Christ was always with them, and not only when they saw Him physically. Through the eyes of faith and not through the physical eyes, the disciples were always able to see Christ’s presence with them. That is why their joy and peace were not affected by Christ’s physical ascension. This is what St. Paul conveyed when he wrote, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Eph. 3:17) Additionally, our Lord Jesus Christ gave us His Life-Giving Body to eat and His Precious Blood to drink, so that we may live and abide in Him, and He in us. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (Jn. 6:56)
❖ Persecution didn’t remove the joy of the disciples. The Book of Acts mentions that when the disciples were beaten and were commanded not to mention the name of Jesus, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (Acts 5: 41-42) Therefore, the persecution did not take away the continuous joy of the disciples. Instead, it gave them the power to continue preaching the Name of Christ, despite the threats they received.
Joy is a positive power, which helps us to do constructive work, despite threats and fear. The external persecution did not stop the Church from witnessing the Risen Christ. On the contrary, we find that God changed the evil of the persecution of the believers into good, which was the spreading of the faith. When a great persecution arose against the Church after the martyrdom of St Stephen, causing the scattering of many, we read in the Book of Acts, “Therefore, those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4) Also, when St. Paul and St. Silas were put in the inner prison with their feet fastened in the stocks, they were praying and singing hymns, thus turning the prison into a preaching arena, which lead the Philippian jailer to believe in Christ, and he was baptized along with all his household.
❖ Sickness does not remove the joy of the Resurrection. We see that God allowed St Paul to have a thorn in the flesh, and God revealed to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” As a result, St Paul said, “Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12: 9-10)
My Beloved children of the Church,
We must remember three important matters:
Firstly: We have to rejoice in the Lord always, as St. Paul encouraged us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4) “The Lord is at hand.” (Phil. 4:5), because He promised us, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)
Secondly: We should not be anxious or worried about the things that hinder our joy, such as tribulations, sickness, or persecutions. Instead, we should remember St. Paul’s saying, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. Let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6)
Thirdly: The life of unceasing joy is closely related to the life of holiness. Therefore, let us be concerned about keeping our souls, bodies, and spirits pure and holy through continuous repentance, as St. Paul said, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil. 1:27) “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Rom. 13:14)
Let us pray for the peace of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Let us pray for our beloved father, H.H. Pope Tawadros II.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
His Eminence Metropolitan Serapion is Metropolitan of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles (www.lacopts.org)
1 May 2016