Author: Fr George Dimopoulos
Source: Orthodox Sermons for all the Sundays of the Year – Volume I
Publisher: Christian Orthodox Editions
With hearts and faces of radiant joy, dear brethren, we celebrate again this year the Divine Resurrection – the miracle of miracles of our Faith, and the greatest event in all of history. The resurrection is simultaneously an historical event and an event and an extraordinary miracle. As an event, it occurred in history, certified by men in the same way as other historical events. As a miracle, it remains beyond time and space, as well as the comprehension of man. It is explicitly a miracle, and naturally inexplicable. For this reason, the Church does not seek to explain the Lord’s Resurrection; she merely proclaims it in faith. Such metaphysical acts of God cannot be scientifically researched by the believer. Rather, they must be venerated in faith.
The Apostles, as eyewitnesses of the Resurrection, presented themselves to the world, not as interpreters of how Christ rose from the dead, but as preachers of the fact that He did rise! With this faith they ended their lives, more often than not with martyrdom, “for we cannot keep from telling what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
The Resurrection can be demonstrated to be an historical fact; but as an incomprehensible miracle, it cannot be explained. As an event of history, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis and foundation of all of the Church’s preaching over the centuries. The Church herself is a living testimony to the authenticity of Christ’s Resurrection. How else could the Church have come into existence? “It is what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have beheld, what our own hands have touched, about the very message of life – and that life has been unveiled to us, and we have seen it and now testify to it, and we now announce it to you, yea, the eternal life that was with the Father and has been unveiled to us. I repeat, it is what we have seen and heard that we now announce to you, so that you too may share this fellowship with us, for this fellowship that we have is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ”, (1 John 1:1-3).
And St Paul penetrates even deeper into the mystery when he writes: “And if Christ didn’t rise, our preaching means nothing, and your faith means nothing”, (1 Corinthians 15:14). Thus we see that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is inseparably linked with the Christian message and its proclamation. Our preaching and faith would be empty indeed, were it not for the life-giving Resurrection of our Saviour. The preaching of the Apostles was not founded upon clever myths, nor yet upon philosophical ideologies, but upon unquestionable historical fact. “We didn’t follow any clever myths when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and His coming. No, with our own eyes saw His majesty”, (2 Peter 1:16).
The Resurrection of Christ, as something that occurred within the limits of time and space, is not only witnessed by the existence of the Church, but by the tremendous influence that the Church has exerted upon secular world for nearly two thousand years. If the Resurrection of Christ can be denied, then so can every other indisputable historical event. This same Jesus “showed Himself alive…by many infallible proofs;” (Acts 1:3) for forty days and nights speaking to His Apostles, appearing to them, allowing them to touch Him, eating with them, walking with them, and teaching them. They felt His presence so vibrantly that their hearts were aflame. Who ever saw or heard of dead man exerting such influence on the living; arming them with such power and wisdom; emboldening and enlightening such simple, uneducated men. St John Chrysostom writes, “A great proof of the Resurrection of Christ is the great power He manifested after His death. His Resurrection convinced the living to abandon their country, their home, their friends, their relatives, their wives, children and parents, and to take little thought of the danger to their own lives. All these are the achievements, not of dead man who remained in his grave, but a resurrected God”.
The Resurrection of Christ as a miracle, is not only an historical event, but something which we live every day. Not only in apostolic times, but even in our modern epoch, numberless are the people who preferred to die rather than deny their Lord’s Resurrection. The Gospel proclamation that the Lord is risen is a witness to the historic Faith of the Apostles, the martyrs, the righteous; it justifies all of their struggles, even the blood which they shed for the mysteries of the Faith. The Apostles knew that their Lord was risen. Out of this faith and conviction was born the Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen) which the Church so gloriously proclaims for 40 days; and the witness of nearly 2,000 years answers joyously, Alithos Anesti – Indeed, He is Risen!