No death.

“Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life.”

It is no wonder that on the Great and Joyous Feast of Pascha, our hearts abound with joy. We have waited with anticipation from the beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year for this day to come, when we triumphantly cry aloud together: “Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!”

But what does this mean? A lot of times, we go through life just thinking of Easter as a holiday we celebrate by watching the kids do egg hunts and feeding them chocolate, having dinner with the family and shooting the breeze. The theological significance of what has occurred on this day is experienced every day and is present in all things — because the Christ has suffered on the Cross, was buried, and Ascended on the third day, we no longer have to bear the consequences of a second death.

It is true, however, that we must bodily die. We read that we are fashioned of dust and to dust we will one day return, inevitably, due to the consequences of the Fall of man — but because of the New Testament, the Perfect Sacrifice willingly given on behalf of all and for all, we too may walk in the newness of life, both now, and after our physical death, to a place where there is no pain, sorrow, or sighing, but life everlasting in the presence of He Who suffered on our behalf. We have the assurance that, if we follow in His footsteps, there is the eternal assurance of peace, dwelling forever in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Jesus said, in the Holy Gospels, “Follow Me.” More specifically, He said “Deny yourself, pick up your own cross, and follow Me.” In this, we see that, we are not promised a life without sorrow or pain. It is through sorrows that we gain a better understanding of eternity. St Isaac the Syrian, a holy ascetic who lived in the 7th century, wrote “The glory of the Cross is concealed in the sufferings of the Cross.” We can’t understand the mysteries of God until we too have experienced pain, loss, suffering, denial of ourselves and of our pleasures. The reasons for this, on one hand, is to emulate what Christ has done and felt, and on the other hand, is a great Mystery that we aren’t meant to understand in this life.

We may ask, “Why is it that God takes those who we love when we need them the most?” It is because He takes them when He can show them the most mercy. We can’t look only to ourselves and our scattered human reasoning, we have to look upward and see that because Christ is Risen, we have the promise of being with them again one day…

… but only if we take it upon ourselves to walk the path that Christ Himself walked. The relationship between God and man is synergistic, that is to say, working together. We don’t reap the newness of life by continually walking in death, but in bearing our own cross and following Him daily. We don’t change ourselves and go to God, we go to God, and He changes us. We aren’t expected to have all the answers, only to hope in Him Who has made all things new. We aren’t to believe that those who have passed on are separate from us, but praying for us, waiting for us, near to us, and more alive now in paradise than ever in this fallen world we still live in.

Because Christ is Risen, there is no more death. Because God descended and took human flesh, human blood and a human soul, in Christ Jesus, and was crucified and buried, all humanity has been given the promise of this same Resurrection.

But realize, and consider, that the way to life was cloaked in death, even the pain of crucifixion. He did not promise us an easy way, He promised us that it would be worth every sigh, every tear, every sorrow, every pain. He did not promise it would always be easy, only that His grace is sufficient when we are weak, and that He will beckon to us when we call on Him. Because of these things, we don’t ask for a break, we don’t ask for a lighter load, we ask for a stronger back… so that we can partake of the sufferings of Christ, and because of this, we can partake of the newness of life that is promised us.

One day, if we want it, all will be revealed, it will all make sense, it will all be worth it. Today, we must hope in the resurrection, and be assured that we don’t suffer because we are being punished, we are being pruned to be made fruitful. We aren’t suffering because we aren’t loved, but rather because we are loved — the strongest steel comes only from the hottest flames, and God works in mysterious ways.

When new life enters the world, glory to God. When life departs from the world, glory to God. In health, in prosperity, in thanksgiving, glory to God. In sickness, in pain, in sorrows, glory to God. All works according to His glory, and He remains in control of all things in this world.

— Dedicated to my Stepfather. I can’t imagine the pains you have surely felt in these past couple of years and I’m sure it is undeniably hard, but I know with certainty that those who have gone on look upon you and the entire family with new, radiant eyes, eternally. They are not gone, but because of Christ, even death has been conquered, and they are alive forevermore. This is the promise of the New Testament. —

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