“Dying Daily through the Resurrection”
By: Sherry Mikhail
Christ is Risen! Trampling down death by His death!
“I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” (1 Corinthians 15:31) First let us start by noting that this verse does not say “I die daily in times of fasting” or “in times of want” it just says “daily”. Thus, there is no limitation to the time dedicated to this calling.
During the Holy Pascha Week, the Church teaches us to delve intensely into communal Pascha prayers consisting of readings, prayer and praise. It’s a time for contemplation and for sharing in the sufferings of Christ, eventually leading to the Cross. The Great Lent is the long lead up to this one, Holy week that the church highly anticipates from year to year. And so, we live this week spending every moment sitting under the Cross of Christ whilst seeing the church dressed in black; hearing the Word through the Old Testament prophecies and their precise fulfilment in the Gospels; tasting as we partake of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday; smelling the incense and worshipping via prostrations and strict fasting. By the end of the week, we are finally met with the Glorious feast of the Resurrection of Christ, or rather, our own Resurrection in Christ as we are fully transformed.
Death was defeated on the Cross, and manifested in the new life of the Resurrection. “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
On the Glorious feast of the Resurrection, we are transformed as we continue with the presence of the Church in us. For the following 50 days, the church is draped in white, the hymns sung are joyful, and the church ceases from fasting and prostrations. A festive procession for the Resurrection takes place on each day leading to Pentecost. And so, all year round the Orthodox Church, in its wisdom, engages us as a whole person in worship through our senses.
Although the church radiates joyfulness in the Resurrection and most noticeably when fasting has ceased, we often overlook our continued need to be fed spiritually. In saying this, let’s not forget the Lord’s prayer; “Give us this day our daily bread” referring here to the ‘Bread of Life’ that is, Christ and His Kingdom.
To be Christ-like means to die on the Cross. Let us die with Him. Dying to all that is of this world in order not to hear His rebuke “get thee behind me, Satan!” (Luke 4:8)
Some things that we have learnt from the journey of Great Lent and Holy week can be extended into the Holy 50 days with adjustments to suit the joyful spirit the Church has set out for us. Just because we have ceased fasting for the coming season does not mean that we may begin to succumb to our laziness. One such exercise that could help may be that when we step into the church, just as we did during Holy Week, we can attempt to free our minds and to enter church with clear goals set so that we may be focused in our prayers. More so, we may continue to bring our problems to the altar, leaving it there knowing confidently that the Lord will take care of it.
Our laziness may be due to another issue. It could be because of the way we consume food, which plays a huge role in our lives, with the Church identifying this in the way it prescribes fasting. Therefore, it is ideal to still consider our eating habits. Continuing to eat reasonable portions is an excellent idea because, let’s not deny it, gluttony is still a sin. We need to be eating according to what our body and health accepts, keeping in mind any health restrictions keeping us from consuming certain foods. We are still called to be both reasonable and sensible in taking care of our bodies. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It is likewise valid to add that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
The Church doesn’t call us to ‘take a break’ from Sunday Liturgies or other spiritual activities otherwise the church itself would’ve taken a few weeks off. The church continues again on Easter Monday commemorating The Road to Emmaus where “He was made known to them in the breaking of Bread” (Luke 24:35). So, let us commune with the Life-Giving Body and Blood of our Risen Lord, who through our union with Him and through the light of His knowledge abides in us and grants us eternal life.
As we can recall, there is a lot of emphasis on the Sunday’s of Lent, but in fact it is still important to understand that the Sunday Gospels during the Holy 50 days are also highly relevant. The first Sunday after the Resurrection, ‘Thomas Sunday’, is so significant that it is considered as one of the Minor Feasts of the Lord unlike any other Sunday in the year (besides Palm Sunday being a Major Feast). Likewise, the Sunday readings during this period are commonly referred to as the “I ams…”, in other words, Christ reveals that His Person is the life, way, truth, water, bread etc. For example, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35); “the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13); “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6); “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (Jn. 12:46).
Furthermore, as mentioned previously, the church does not call any of us to idleness during this season; it is therefore the best idea to keep on reading our bibles and praying from our Agpeyas daily. How else do we enjoy the Resurrection if we do not die daily with Him only to rise again as we wake up every morning in prayer and thanksgiving?
How then can we say that the best proof of the Resurrection is the living Church if we do not immerse ourselves in the teachings and practices the Church is setting out for us? If time allows, let us also pick up a good spiritual book that can further our eagerness to live the resurrection.
“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” (1 Corinthians 15:14). St John Chrysostom says the following; ‘Although what followed in due course would have been, “but if Christ is not risen, you fight against things evident, and against so many prophets, and the truth of facts;” nevertheless he states what is much more fearful to them: “then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” For he wishes to shake thoroughly their mind: “we have lost all,” says he, “all is over, if He is not risen.” See how great is the mystery of the economy? For thus: if after death He could not rise again, neither is sin loosed nor death taken away nor the curse removed. Yea, and not only have we preached in vain, but you also have believed in vain.’
Let us be joyful in Christ in a way that cannot be taken from us! Let our soul be joyful in the Heavenly Bridegroom and say with the Shulamite of the Song of Solomon, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s mine…When I found the one I love, I held him and would not let him go, until I had brought him to the house of my mother and into the chamber of her who conceived me (the Church).” (Song of Solomon 6:3, 3:4)