True Reality

Christ is risen!

Truly He is risen! 

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.  (John 8:42-45)

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Jesus says the devil is the father of lies and when he lies, the devil is speaking according to his nature. No wonder lying and deceit were thought of as being evil.  Fr Meletios Webber, speaking about addicts, gives us some insight into the nature of lying – not only with addicts, but habitual liars as well.

38195829935_4831a43b3b_w“To tell a lie is to create one’s own reality—the greatest accomplishment of the alcoholic.  To tell the truth means accepting real reality.”   

“Remember that an alcoholic will often tell a lie rather than the truth, because he can ‘control’ the lie, whereas the truth is beyond his control.  A lie can be anything he wants it to be, whereas the truth comes readymade.” (STEPS OF TRANSFORMATION, pp 43, 157)

The liar (or the addict) lies because lies are so much easier to shape and control then the truth which emerges from reality and is experienced by everyone. We see the same thing these days in politicians and political commentators.  It suits them far more to tell lies which they can shape into anything they want rather than to tell the truth.  With lies they also can deny what they said meant what we think it means since they give it any meaning they want.  It is still lying and evil.  It makes truth a rare commodity in our political discourse.  As Aja Raden writes (her context is the deception that occurs in nature – predator and prey both have deception as tools to hunt or hide) when it comes to humans and communication: “Lie with words, and you can lie about anything, anyone, anywhere; you can rewrite facts past, present and future.  Human speech allows deception to transcend space and time” (“Natural Born Liars”, DISCOVER June 2021, p 48).

Sadly, church people are also tempted to tell lies to make their spiritual experiences seem more supernatural or miraculous.  Embellishing hagiographies or exaggerating piety with all kinds of miraculous magic may seem to some to make the events more supernatural, but they also make them seem more superstitious. They become counterproductive causing the more skeptically minded to doubt anything Christians say. Better to speak the truth in love then to embellish spiritual experiences to impress people.

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For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.  (2 Corinthians 13:8)

But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  (Colossians 3:8-10)

Christian?

Christ is risen!

Indeed He is risen! 

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And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.  (Acts 11:26) 

St Gregory of Nyssa comments:

“What is meant by the term ‘Christian’?  . . .  For just as a person who longs to be called a doctor or an orator or a geometrician is not worthy of a title until he has some education as to what it means, that is, until he discovers from experience what he is being called, and just as the person wishing to be thus addressed in accordance with truth, so that the form of address will not be a misnomer, will want the use of the title to depend on the practice itself;

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in the same way, if we seek the true meaning of the word ‘Christian’ and find it, we will not choose not to conform to what the name implies when it is used of us, in order that the story about the monkey in secular literature may not also be applicable to us. [Gregory proceeds to tell the story of a man who trained a monkey to be a graceful dancer and dressed the animal up like a human – eventually the ruse is exposed when someone throws some almonds on the stage and the monkey according to its nature removed its mask to greedily consume the almonds.] 

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. . .  For, instead of a fig or an almond or some such thing, vanity and love of honor and love of gain and love of pleasures, and whatever else the evil assembly of the devil places before greedy men instead of sweetmeats, easily bring to light the ape-like souls who, through pretense and imitation, play the role of the Christian and then remove the mask of moderation or meekness or some other virtue in a moment of personal crisis.  It is necessary, therefore, for us to understand what the name ‘Christian’ means, for then, perhaps we will become what the term implies and not be shown up by the one who perceives what is hidden, namely, that we have disguised ourselves by mere assent and by the pretense of the name alone when we are actually something contrary to what we appear to be.  . . .  by participating in Christ we are given the title ‘Christian’ . . . 

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For it is not possible for Christ not to be justice and purity and truth and estrangement from all evil, nor is it possible to be a Christian (that is, truly a Christian) without displaying in oneself a participation in these virtues.  If one can give a definition of Christianity, we shall define it as follows: Christianity is an imitation of the divine nature.  . . .  Indeed, if anyone considers the first condition of man, he will find through the Scriptural teachings that the definition does not exceed the measure of our nature. The first man was constituted as an imitation of the likeness of God. So Moses, in philosophizing about man, where he says that God made man, states that: ‘He created him in the image of God’ (Gen 1:27), and the word ‘Christianity,’ therefore, brings man back to his original good fortune.” (ASCETICAL WORKS, pp 82-85)

St Gregory’s comments remind me of the old quip: if you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

A Christian Response to Oppression

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen! 

 Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover. Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.  (Acts 12:1-5) 

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How should Christians respond to oppression and persecution, St Ignatius of Antioch says: 

 “Regarding the rest of mankind, you should pray for them unceasingly, for we can always hope that repentance may enable them to find their way to God.  Give them a chance to learn from you, or, at all events, from the way you behave.  Meet their animosity with mildness, their high words with humility, and their abuse with your prayers.  But stand firm against their errors, and if they grow violent, be gentle instead of wanting to pay them back in their own coin.  Let us show by our forbearance that we are brothers, and try to imitate the Lord by seeing which of us can put up with the most ill-usage or privation or contempt so that in this way none of the devil’s noxious weeds may take root among you, but that you rest in Jesus Christ in all sanctity and discipline of body and soul.”   (WHAT THE CHURCH FATHERS SAY ABOUT … vol 2, pp 54-55) 

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One of the prayers the priest recites in the Liturgy of St Basil says of civil leaders and authority:  ‘speak good things into their hearts concerning your Church and all your people, that we, in their tranquility, may lead a calm and peaceful life in all godliness and sanctity.” We have to pray and work for peace in our lives, in the Church and in the world. 

Evangelism for Reconciliation 

Christ is risen!

Truly He is risen! 

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.  (Acts 10:44-11:10)

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The Apostles were taken by surprise that God would send His Holy Spirit upon Gentiles.  Like most of their fellow Jews, they considered the Gentiles as sinners, heretics, enemies, the damned.  This was based on their own long history, experience, their understanding of the Torah and all the Scriptures.  However, they were learning how the resurrection changed everything including the relationship between Jews and Christians.  Now in Christ those who formerly were enemies are now brothers and sisters.  For all Christians we have to reconsider our relationships with everyone – we all suffer from our sinfulness and our sins, we all are in need of God’s forgiveness and salvation, and therefore we all are brothers and sisters in need of God’s mercies.

We are commanded to have only one enemy, the devil.  With him never be reconciled!  But with a brother, never be at enmity in your heart. [St John Chrysostom]

It is a fearful thing to hate whom God has loved.  To look upon another—his weaknesses, his sins, his faults, his defects—is to look upon one who is suffering.  He is suffering from negative passions, from the same sinful human corruption from which you yourself suffer.  This is very important: do not look upon him with the judgmental eyes of comparison, noting the sins you assume you would never commit. Rather, see him as a fellow sufferer, a fellow human being who is in need of the very healing of which you are in need.  Help him, love him, pray for him, do unto him as you would have him do unto you.  [St Tikhon of Zadonsk]    (Jim Forest, FOR THE PEACE FROM ABOVE, p 114)

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In the life of St Jacob of Alaska, we read that his evangelism resulted in former enemies being reconciled and embracing each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Establishing his headquarters in the Yup’ik Eskimo village of Ikogmiute (today’s ‘Russian Mission’) he traveled to native settlements hundreds of miles up and down Alaska’s longest river (the Yukon) as well as the Kuskokwim River region. At the insistence of Indian leaders, he traveled as far as the middle of the Innoko River baptizing hundreds of Indians from various, and often formerly hostile, tribes. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps 133:1).

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Reconciling people, not dividing them, is the goal of Christianity.  Think about Jesus’s rebuke of His disciples who had a nationalistic hatred of the Samaritans and felt they were slighted by the Samaritans and so justified in condemning them:

And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.  (Luke 9:52-56)

Believing In And Witnessing To Christ

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen! 

4263457299_d973374b2e_wThen Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ – He is Lord of all – that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”  (Acts 10:34-43)

In St Peter’s sermon, he claims that what the Apostles were actually chosen for was to be witnesses to Christ and all the things He did, including his rising from the dead.  The main apostolic ministry was to testify to others about what they had witnessed themselves.  They were to testify to their own experience.  They were to share their experience with others which is not quite the same as offering ‘proofs’ of their claims.  They could not prove what Jesus had done, they could only claim to have witnessed these particular events and tell people what they believed the events meant.  What was on the line was their own trustworthiness – they couldn’t prove their claims with evidence of the events, but others would have to judge whether they believed the apostles were in fact reliable witnesses who could be trusted. Did they live as if they believed what they were saying – did their lives conform to their teachings?  Were they actually just interested in benefitting from their claims?  Would they hold to their claims even if opposed or persecuted for their claims?

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Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev comments:

“From the Christian perspective the one who testifies is not merely an eyewitness.  He does not simply retell events: he bears responsibility for the truth of this testimony.  It is no coincidence that the Greek word martyrs, which literally means ‘witness,’ has become firmly established in the Christian tradition as meaning one who endures martyrdom. Bearing witness to Jesus Christ throughout the ages has meant the willingness not only to speak about him and live according to his commandments, but also to suffer and die for him. It is no coincidence either that most of the apostles, including those whose testimonies formed the basis of the Gospel narratives ended their lives as martyrs.

Bearing witness is similar not so much to a photograph, as to a portrait that reflects not only the model, but also the personality of the artist.  The Gospel is the model by which the Church determines the authenticity of other portraits of Jesus written in subsequent centuries; some of these portraits are true to the original, while others are not.”  (JESUS CHRIST: HIS LIFE AND TEACHING Vol 1, p 14).

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Metropolitan Hilarion’s contrasting a portrait to a photograph is a good way to understand what it is for each of us to be a believer in and witness to Christ.  We can’t prove the claim that Jesus is Lord, but can only share what we have learned, experienced and believed.  We can think about the man born blind whom Jesus healed in John 9:. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”  (vs 17-19)

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What the Jewish religious leaders want to know is not the ‘facts’ of the blindman’s case, which they can’t dispute, but how did the healed blind man interpret what happened?  They cannot argue against the facts, but can debate the interpretation of the facts.   The healed blind man is a witness to what Christ did, and the authorities are dismissing his experience and understanding of the events.   As for the Apostles, they could only  say: for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.(Acts 4:20) 

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

The Order Which is the Cosmos

Christ is risen!  Truly He is risen! 

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We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.  (Acts 14:15-18)

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Seminary professor David Ford comments on nature as being a witness to the Creator:

“Chrysostom likes to rhapsodize concerning the beautiful order in all the natural Creation, and he uses this as a powerful argument against those who do not believe in a Creator-God who created all things out of nothing with specific design and purpose.  For instance, in his homilies on Ephesians, he asks rhetorically:

Could so many good things, tell me, really arise from themselves (apo tautomatou)?  The daily light?  The good arrangement (he eutaxia) of everything that exists?  The dance of the stars?  The equilibrium (ho isostasios) of the course of days and nights?  The regular succession of their natures (he tes physeos akolouthia) of plants and animals and humans?  Who is it, tell me, who manages (dioikon) these things?

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He speaks in the same vein in commenting on Romans 1:20:

Did you all not then hear the voice of Heaven by the sight, the well-ordered (eutaktou) harmony (harmonias) of all things crying out more clearly than a trumpet?  Have you not seen the established pattern (nomous) of night and day abiding unchanged continually, or the good order (eutaxian) of winter, spring, and the other seasons remaining both sure and unmoved, or the tractableness (eugnomosynen) of the sea amid all its turbulence and waves?  All these things remain in order (entaxei), and by their beauty and their grandeur proclaim aloud the Creator.”   (David Ford, WOMEN AND MEN IN THE EARLY CHURCH, pp 115-116)

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What Is So Great About Being Human? 

Christ is risen!  Indeed He is risen! 

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When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established; what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you made him little less than God, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  (Psalms 8:3-9)

A Christian monk writing in 4th Century Syria comments on what it is to be human: 

“For great is the dignity of humanity.  See how great are the heavens and the earth, the sun and the moon.  But the Lord was not pleased to find his rest in them but in humanity alone.  Man, therefore, is of greater value than all other creatures, and perhaps, I will not hesitate to say, not only visible creatures, but also those invisible, namely, ‘the ministering spirits’ (Heb 1:14).  For it was not of Michael or Gabriel, the archangels, that God said: ‘Let us make according to our image and likeness’ (Gn 1:26), but he said it concerning the spiritual makeup of the human, I mean, the immortal soul.  For it is written: ‘The ranks of angels of the Lord encamp round about those that fear him’ (Ps 34:7).  The visible creatures, therefore, are endowed with a certain unchangeable nature. 

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The heavens were once established, the sun, moon, and the earth, but in these creatures the Lord could not find lasting pleasure.  They could not be other than what he created them to be. They had no will.  You, however, for this reason are made according to the image and likeness of God.” 

“Behold the heavens, how vast! And also the earth! How precious are the creatures that inhabit them! And how great are some of their bodies!  But man is, nonetheless, much more valuable than all of these bodies, since in him alone the Lord is pleased.  The whales of the sea, the mountains and the beasts, in outward appearance far excel man in size.  See, then, your dignity.  How precious you are that God has made you superior to the angles since he came on earth himself visibly present to help and redeem you.” (Pseudo-Macarius, THE FIFTY SPIRITUAL HOMILIES, pp 116, 124-125) 

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It has been testified somewhere, “What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels, you crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one.

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For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”  (Hebrews 2:6-12)

Life Everlasting

Christ is risen!  Truly He is risen! 

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  (John 6:66-69)

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Metropolitan Kallistos Ware comments on the meaning of ‘eternal life’:

“Let us think of our human existence as a book. Most people regard this present life as the actual text, the main story, and they see the future life – if, indeed, they believe that there is any future life – as no more than an appendix. But the genuinely Christian attitude is the exact reverse of this. Our present life is in reality no more than the preface, the introduction, while it is the future life that constitutes the main story. The moment of death signifies not the conclusion of the book but the start of Chapter One.” (The Inner Kingdom, pg. 25)

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Our lives are chapters in God’s book of life.  The most wonderful, joyous and blessed news is that this life is but the preface, the beginning of our lives which will continue into eternity, but then in a place where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).  No matter how short or long our life on earth, the best is yet to come for this life is but a short preface to the narrative of eternal life.

St. Theophan the Recluse offers additional insight into understanding ‘eternal life’:

“‘I am a sojourner on the earth, hide not from me Thy commandments.’  A wanderer strives for his goal, passing by, lingering nowhere. Yet, very often, men live as if they had to live on earth eternally. How can he not forget his eternal destination and not get too much embroiled in the things of this world?” (Commentary on Psalm 118/119  by pg . 9)

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Our lives on this planet are very short compared to the grand scale of the universe.  Any one of us might live to be 90 years old, but the universe is already 15 billion years old, so my life span even if long by human standards, is an atom in a drop in the bucket full of water which is the universe.  Life on earth, life in time, are a tiny portion of all that is.  One only needs to think of the vastness of the universe to realize the magnitude of time and space, and to know our entire planet only occupies the tiniest portion of it all.  There is simply the grand scale of things.  And I, no matter how long I live or how important I am to the world am only a miniscule portion of earth and its history.  The greater part of existence – God’s own kingdom – is only minimally visible to us on earth.  I may taste of this Kingdom in my lifetime but will only fully experience it in the world to come.  Which means the greatest part of life and the universe are hidden from me for the time being.  I can, however, learn to see my life in the perspective of eternity, of the Kingdom, of God.  In God, we all overcome the limits of our minuteness and become part of all that is.  For in God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), we are part of eternity.

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When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established; what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you made him little less than God, and crowned him with glory and honor.  (Psalms 8:3-6)

The Tomb is Empty 

Christ is risen!

Indeed He is risen! 

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But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  (Luke 24:1-12)

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Orthodox scholar John Behr reminds us that finding Christ’s tomb empty was not enough to bring anyone to faith.  The Women Disciples and the Apostles all needed to have the meaning of the empty tomb explained to them as its meaning was not obvious – the empty tomb might simply be a crime scene (stolen corpse).  Behr writes:

“When the women arrived at the tomb early in the morning, they were perplexed, not knowing what to make of it being empty; they required an angel to explain what had happened. The Christian faith is not based on the empty tomb, for this ‘bare fact’ requires interpretation: was the body perhaps stolen?  The same holds true for the resurrection appearances: when he appears, not only do they recognize him, but they also start telling him about this Jesus who was put to death, and that the tomb was found empty (Lk. 24:22-24).

So, the Christian faith is not based on the appearances of the risen Lord. Only when the crucified and risen Christ opens the Scriptures to them, to show how it was necessary for him to have gone to his passion to enter his glory, do the disciples’ hearts began to burn, so that they are prepared to recognize him in the breaking of bread (Lk. 24:28-35). Yet once finally recognized, he disappears: ‘and their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he vanished out of their sight’ (Lk 24:31). At the very moment that the disciples finally encounter Christ knowingly, he passes out of their sight.” (Thinking Through Faith: New Perspectives from Orthodox Christian Scholars, pg. 72)

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Finding Christ’s tomb open and empty did not immediately cause the Women Disciples to believe in the resurrection. In fact it only caused them confusion. [Note also for the apostles walking to Emmaus, Christ is walking with them and talking to them and still they don’t recognize Him – ‘proof’ as such needs interpretation.]  The angels tell the Myrrhbearing Women that they will not find Christ at the tomb – they have to look elsewhere to find Him.  They needed help comprehending what they could see with their very eyes – seeing was not believing!  Today, we come to faith the very same way the Women Disciples and the Apostles did – by encountering Christ in the Scriptures rightly interpreted, in the Eucharist and in the assembly of believers.

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The experience of Christ is an act of faith, it is not really based on any kind of ‘proof.’  Proof as such (the empty tomb) did little to help the Myrrhbearing Women or the Apostles understand the resurrection. There also has to be a desire in our hearts to know love, to know truth, to know God.  That desire leads us to the Risen Lord.  A pilgrimage to His Tomb became very popular over time, but the reality is the same – He is not to be found at His empty tomb, but alive in our hearts and in the midst of all those who assemble together to give Him thanks, to hear the Gospel proclaimed and rightly interpreted, and to receive His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  Faith is not quite the same as knowledge, which is based on facts and proof.  Faith requires an openness to the unexpected, a willingness to accept that not every truth (like love or beauty) is based in proofs, but might represent a dimension to life beyond the empirical.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:24-25).

Commanded to Love

Christ is risen!  Truly He is risen!

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These things I command you, that you love one another. (John 5:17)

St Porphyrios teaches about the importance of love for the Christian:

“One thing is our aim—love for Christ, for the Church, for our neighbor.  Love, worship of, and craving for God, the union with Christ and with the Church is Paradise on earth.  Love towards Christ and towards one’s neighbor, towards everyone, including enemies.  The Christian feels for everyone, he wants all to be saved, all to taste the Kingdom of God.  That is Christianity: through love for our brother to arrive at love for God.  To the extent that we desire it, to the extent that we wish it, to the extent that we are worthy, divine grace comes through our brother.  When we love our brother we love the Church and therefore Christ.  And we too are within the Church.  Therefore when we love the Church we love ourselves.”   (WOUNDED BY LOVE, p 97)

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“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)