Renewal in Joy

12 May 2021

‘So that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life’ (Rom. 6, 4).

The triumph of Jesus’ Resurrection over injustice, violence and, in general, over sin and death, again fills our hearts with elation and is the culmination of his ministry on earth for the renewal of the whole world. Christ, the ‘Son of God and Son of Man’ did not merely suffer a terrible death on the Cross, but on the third day he rose from the dead ‘through the glorious power of the father’ and remains forever the Risen Lord. The Resurrection confirms the magnificent uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Billions of people have passed through life on this earth, many of whom have displayed astonishing genius and power and have attracted the support of multitudes. In the end, though, they’ve all succumbed to death. Through his voluntary sacrifice and his Resurrection, Jesus trampled down death and destroyed its dominion. The Church, the mystical Body of Christ, lives and functions perpetually in the light of his Resurrection. We Orthodox celebrate and enjoy Easter in an intense manner.

On this most radiant of feasts, we do not merely call to mind a historical event of monumental proportions. We’re also called upon to engage in a renewal of our spiritual efforts, to tread the path of a new, renewed life: ‘so that… we may walk in newness of life’. The feast of Easter invites us to apprehend the deeper significance of our baptism. The Epistle reading  for the Divine Liturgy on Great Saturday explains: ‘As many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.  Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life’ (Rom. 6, 3-4).

The Risen Lord invites us to continuous renewal: ‘if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation’ (2 Cor. 5, 17). He calls upon us to renew our personal relationship with him. Continuous spiritual renewal is a defining element of the Christian life. We’re summoned to renew our confidence in God’s power, his providence and his redemptive plan; to reinforce our efforts on behalf of the victory of truth and justice, and to strengthen our mutual support  and love. He calls upon us to renew our conviction that, in the end, hope will rout despair, that life will triumph over death.

This multivalent force for renewal is accomplished within the elation of Easter, with the calm joy which the Resurrection radiates within us and around us. We the faithful, those who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, feel it more profoundly. The more our certainty concerning Christ’s Resurrection is confirmed, the more intense do the Easter renewal and jubilation become. But the radiance of Easter jubilation spreads much more widely. Just as photons start from the light of the sun and enter the furthest dark reaches of creation, so the bright rays of Easter joy mystically touch even those who stand far off or who are hovering between faith and unbelief.

Easter joy is granted to us so that we can thereafter share it with others. It’s the custom at Easter that, as soon as our candle is lit, we pass the flame on to others. This symbolizes the obligation on the part of the faithful to transmit the glad tidings of the Resurrection, as the apostles did. The Risen Lord confirmed: ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth’. Then he added: ‘ Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…’. There’s a consequence here: ‘therefore’. You can’t restrict yourselves to your own salvation and joy; you have a duty to transmit the Good Tidings to those who haven’t heard them. They can’t be kept confined in only one community. They’re destined for everyone, for all nations, for the renewal of the whole world.

And another necessary observation: Easter is not a feast restricted to a single day or a single season. Its effulgence radiates throughout the year. In Orthodox liturgical tradition, on every Sunday, the hymns, our thoughts and our hearts are filled once more with the message of the Resurrection. The breath and ethos of the Resurrection are the seal of the Christian life. The hope of the Resurrection gives meaning to our path through life. The Orthodox Church is preeminently the Church of the Resurrection.

Let’s celebrate the bright feast of Easter, then, with as much awareness as we can muster. And let us entreat our Risen Lord to renew our life within his own truth. To renew our fortitude in the face of the various difficulties we face today. To renew our resistance to any decline. To renew our zest for creative initiatives. Let’s conduct our everyday affairs with the joy of the Resurrection, which doesn’t ignore the harsh realities of life but transcends them, transforms them with the grace and power of the Risen Christ. Let renewal with the joy of Easter, therefore, be our desire and prime concern. Christ has risen.