Sunday, May 5, 2013

Christ's Victory is Our Victory

No matter how forcefully, brutally, or murderously Islam tries to deny the Son of God Jesus Christ and his voluntary and saving Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection from the dead *, Truth triumphs, Christ triumphs, the Church triumphs. This wonderful Paschal message from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill emphasizes that "God gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:57). This is a most encouraging word for us today, and especially for our suffering Christian brothers and sisters who are enduring horrible persecutions throughout all the Islamic world. Let us remember them as we greet one another freely with the great proclamation of victory over death, the world, the flesh and the devil:

Christ is Risen!

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia

Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:57)

Beloved in the Lord Your Graces the archpastors, all-honourable presbyters and deacons,
God-loving monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters!

On this great and radiant day I congratulate you from the depths of my heart on the Lord’s Passover and greet each of you with these ancient and holy words:


It is in these words, with which people throughout the ages have greeted each other during the bright days of Pascha and by which they have testified to the world of the truth of an event occurring two thousand years ago, that there is to be found a great inner power. They contain the tidings of victory and a call to joy, the desire for peace, and the hope and comfort of every human person.

He who was born of the Most Pure Virgin Mary, he who suffered greatly and without blame, he who was crucified and died on a cross between two thieves, he was the first among people to rise from the dead. ‘He has been raised, as he said he would be’ (Mt 28:6). The tomb is empty. There remain in it only the swaddling clothes in which his body was wrapped. The myrrh-bearing women came to the place of the Lord’s burial ‘very early in the morning … at the rising of the sun’ (Mk 16:2) and did not find Jesus there, for neither the stone that blocked the entrance into the cave, nor the guard who kept watch by it, nor even death itself could withstand the great power of the Living God. ‘Hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure’ (Is 5:14), exultant Hades had been ready to engulf its most powerful enemy, yet instead froze in fear, for it had been illumined by the light of the Godhead. Christ has vanquished corruption and destroyed death.

Through the first man, who disobeyed the Maker and fell away from the Fount of eternal life, evil came into the world and sin reigned over people. Christ ‘the last Adam’ (1 Cor 15:45) has vanquished death of the spirit, death of the soul and death of the body. ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,’ St. Paul tells us (1 Cor 15:22). All that we have lost in the first Adam we have acquired anew in Christ. The Lord’s Passover is truly the ‘great gift of the divine economy’ (St. Theodore the Studite).

Having overcome the human person’s alienation from his Maker, the Saviour has granted to us the possibility of being united with him. As St. John Damascene says, through the Cross of Christ we have been ‘granted resurrection … The gates of paradise have been opened to us, our nature now sits at the right hand of God and we have become the children of God and his heirs’ (An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book 4). We are all called upon to be worthy of this gift.

The Son of God, in assuming our nature, has become like us in all things apart from sin. Through his earthly life and sufferings on the Cross he has shown us an example of the greatest humility and obedience to the heavenly Father, an example of struggle against temptations and allurements, and through his resurrection he has destroyed the fetters of sin and granted to us the power and means to vanquish evil. It is in this struggle that one grows spiritually and becomes a morally free person.

We live at a time when freedom is often taken to mean moral chaos. Many sincerely believe that only power and riches, health and physical strength, bring liberation and in competing in service to the idols of this world they often fail in that which is most important, in the attainment of the true goal of life. The Saviour, who has risen from the tomb and granted to us freedom, has revealed to us this goal of knowing the Truth (see: Jn 8:32) and of life with God.

In destroying bodily death, Christ has promised eternal life, but not as an infinite continuation of the earthly path but as the transformation of the all human nature when the body will acquire new properties. It is in the Lord’s resurrection that the foreshadowing of our future resurrection is mysteriously revealed. In the coming kingdom of heaven, where there will be neither death, nor illness, nor parting, and not even time, ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes’ (Rev 21:4), and joy will be never-ending and love eternal. The Lord’s victory over death gives us steadfast hope that in following him at his second and glorious coming we will rise again to a new life – life in unceasing communion with God.

Let us then share the joy in our risen Saviour with all those who are in need of attention and care: with the sick, the elderly, those who suffer or who are despondent, those who languish in places of confinement, and those people who are without means or a roof over their heads. And, in becoming like the witnesses to the resurrection – the holy apostles – let us with faith and boldness proclaim to those near and far the good news that Christ has truly risen! Amen.

Pascha 2013


* The Qur'an not only denies that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and denies the historicity of the crucifixion, but calls down curses on Christians as blasphemers and infidels, and commands Muslims to fight against them until they "pay the jizya and feel themselves subdued" (Q. 9:29). This is the theological impetus behind Muslim persecution of Christians all across the Islamic world:

In fact, they never killed him, they never crucified him — they were made to think that they did. All factions who are disputing in this matter are full of doubt concerning this issue. They possess no knowledge; they only conjecture. For certain, they never killed him. (Qur'an 4:157)

In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the Son of Mary. (Qur'an 5:19)

They do blaspheme who say: “God is Christ the son of Mary . . .” They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them (Qur'an 5:75,78)

The Jews call 'Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the Son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say. God's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (Qur'an 9:30)

Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth [i.e. Islam] among the people of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Qur'an 9:29)

Kill the mushrikun [unbelievers] wherever you find them, and cap- ture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush. (Qur'an 9:5)

I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes. (Qur'an 8:12)