‘Where, death is your victory? Where, death is your bite? The bite of death is sin, the strength of sin is law. May God be thanked, who gives us victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Cor15.55-57)
Christ is Risen!
Dear Beloved in Christ!
Of all the great feasts in our church year, the oldest, most resplendent and joyful is the bright feast of Christ’s Resurrection. In the Paschal Matins, we sing “feast above feasts, celebration of all celebrations” (Matins Irmos 8)
Christ’s Resurrection is the foundation of our faith. St. Paul writes: “When Christ has not risen, then our message is in vain, vain also is our faith. But Christ has indeed risen from the dead.” (1 Cor.15.14-20) The Pascal joy of Christ’s victory over death is indeed exceptional. Unfortunately, our hearts this year, apart from joy and celebration, are filled with trouble and sorrow before the face of death caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As with the disciples going to Emmaus, full of sorrow, the Risen Christ approaches us. They did not recognise Him because “they did not hear with their heart” his words about suffering and resurrection. Perhaps, today, we would also like to say to Christ just as they did” but we expected.” (Lk. 24.21) He as the Divine Teacher again and again teaches us “God did not create death.”(Wisdom1.13)
Throughout this year, death has come closer and closer to us.
The mystery of death for many of us is a closed matter. We do not want to think or talk about it. We seek to avoid it in our daily lives. On the contrary, whether a person wants to think about death or not, he or she is however confronted by this question daily. Today, there is not a single person in the world, who has not experienced the impact of death because of the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout this year, death has come closer and closer to us. We have lost many of our parishioners, relatives, friends and those close to us. Very often, many questions have arisen in us, why?
According to God’s plan, man and woman have been created for holiness and eternal life in a living relationship with the Creator. However, due to the original sin of our forefathers, human nature has been wounded and death is the consequence of their choice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church Art. 1008 teaches us “Death is the consequence of sin. Death entered into the world because of man’s sin. Although man had a mortal nature liable to death, God appointed it for immortality. Therefore, death stands opposed to God the Creator’s plan. It entered into the world as a consequence of sin.”
We believe that death is not an end or a departure to non-existence or an end of our existence as a person.
Notwithstanding the fact man chose death, the Merciful God has not abandoned him but promised to send a Redeemer. God’s plan for salvation takes its beginning in the Garden of Eden and is consummated by Jesus Christ on Calvary. The Lord chooses willingly to die in order to grant eternal life to mankind. “Christ rose from the dead, conquering death by death and to those in the tombs, granted life.” (Troparion of Pascha)
Christ’s Resurrection for Christians is a sign of victory life over death, good over evil, truth over lie. From its first days, the Church believed and preached that Christ’s Resurrection guarantees resurrection to all who believe in Jesus’ Resurrection. In John’s Gospel, the Lord says to Martha:
I am joined in spirit with everyone in the joy of the Resurrection and wish from the heart that Christ, who is risen, strengthens us in our faith.
“I am the Resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in me even though they die, will live and everyone who lives and believes in me, will never die.”(John 11, 25-26)
By His death, Christ frees us from sin and by His Resurrection opens up access for us to a new and eternal life. Therefore, we as Christians believe that our life does not end with death. We believe that death is not an end or a departure to non-existence or an end of our existence as a person. Death like life has a sense of purpose when we open it up in the light of Christ’s Resurrection.
I greet all the faithful with the great feast, wishing blessings and a joyful Paschal Feast. I am joined in spirit with everyone in the joy of the Resurrection and wish from the heart that Christ, who is risen, strengthens us in our faith. May the Risen Christ fill our souls with peace, love and hope in a better life.
Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen!
The blessing of God upon you!
+ Mykola Bychok CSsR
Bishop of the Melbourne Eparchy of Ss. Peter and Paul