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Why is the Resurrection of Christ considered the feast of feasts? by Fr. Anthony Mourad

May 13, 2020

There are many feasts in the liturgical calendar of the Church. But there is one that holds the title of the Feast of Feasts – The Holy and Glorious feast of the Resurrection. Stay tuned to find out why this feast is a big deal to all Christians!  

 

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; One God, Amen.  

 

Why is the feast of the resurrection considered the feast of all feasts? Said differently, why is it such a big deal among Christians? In order to answer this question properly, we must consider a few important things. Many other religions speak symbolically of “dying to oneself”, or the importance of recreation, or new life…and while these themes and patterns are found in a variety of expressions, no faith other than Christianity is willing to make the extremely bold claim that our God took on the form of a servant, became human, and even died in the flesh for our sakes. But He did not simply die – he defeated death in rising from the dead! This unique claim is the cornerstone of our faith – Our God is the author of life and has even conquered death. For this reason, we no longer fear death – dare I say we look forward to it – because we believe that He will raise us up also into everlasting life with Him.  

 

 

My beloved I would like you to consider the following – if anyone were to somehow disprove the resurrection of Christ, or to somehow refute the resurrection and make us all believe, that without a shadow of a doubt, that Christ never rose from the dead, then our entire Christian faith would be dismantled. Truth be told, the event of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is single handedly responsible for what gives our Christin faith its meaning and purpose. As a matter of fact, these are the words of St Paul the Apostle – not my own! You see, there were people within the Corinthian community that were arguing that the resurrection of Christ didn’t happen, or that it didn’t matter. And when St Paul hears of this, he immediately takes action and writes to his spiritual children there to explain that the resurrection of the Lord is in fact indispensable! St Paul begins by explaining how this tradition was handed down through first hand eye witness accounts:  

 

“3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” (1 Corinthians 15: 3-8)  

 

Notice how Paul emphasizes that both the Lord’s death and his resurrection are according to the Scriptures. He is pointing to the fact that this was not mere coincidence of circumstance, but rather that this is preordained before all time and the scriptures prophesy and point to their necessity. He then goes on to explain that the Lord’s appearance after his death was not mere hearsay and rumor, but rather hundreds, including Paul himself, saw the Lord alive after his crucifixion and burial. Paul then explains the dangers of denying the resurrection of the Lord:  

 

“12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15: 12-17)  

 

I want us to pay attention to how St Paul doesn’t make his argument is not based on historical or scientific proofs – and this isn’t because there is a lack of evidence. No not at all! Rather, St Paul makes a much more impactful argument, which is that If you’re right, then our faith is useless, and we are all mislead and even liars! And More importantly, we are all still in our sins and under the bondage of death!  

 

St Paul finally makes the crucial point that in His resurrection – in His victory over death itself – that this is the way that the Lord offers life to all those who have been overcome by death:  

 

“20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15: 20-22)  

 

And this is the point of Christianity – He came that we may have life – His life! So just as in Adam, our forefather, we have all inherited corruption, alienation from God, and ultimately death, in Christ Jesus, we are rendered incorrupt, our relationship with God is restored, and we are given life anew. To deny the resurrection, or act as if its no big deal, is so say that we are still in our former state of hopelessness.  

 

 

In the liturgy of St Basil that is prayed in the Coptic Orthodox Church, there is a very powerful sentence that strikes me every time I pray it. We say:  

 

“He loved His own who were in the world, and, as a ransom on our behalf, gave Himself up unto death, [death] which reigned over us, whereby we were bound and sold on account of our sins.” [Liturgy of St Basil – Coptic Orthodox Rite] 

 

I want us to notice how we speak here of death as if it were a tyrant that held us captive – “death which reigned over us” – “we were bound and sold”. And this is precisely how we perceive death – as an oppressor or monster of some sort, that enslaved humanity because all human souls, before the resurrection of Christ, were doomed to spend eternity in Hades. And so this monster called death needed to be destroyed – and who better to this than Him who is life! St Cyril of Alexandria addresses this by explaining this it is through the death of Christ, and His resurrection, that he defeats this enemy of humanity. Lets read together what St Cyril says:  

 

For the sake of all he tasted death. Although by nature he was life and was himself the resurrection, he surrendered his own body to death. By his ineffable power he trampled upon death in his own flesh that he might become the firstborn from the dead and the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…Even if the resurrection of the dead may be said to be through a man, the man we know it is through is the Word begotten of God. The power of death has been destroyed through him. [St Cyril of Alexandria – Letter 17.11] 

 

No wonder the resurrection is so important to us as Christians – it is the very fulfillment of the liberation of God’s people! He destroys the enemy by demonstrating that He is life – the very antidote of death. And when death came face to face, with the God-Man Jesus Christ – it was destroyed and lost its eternal grip on humanity. We were restored in His resurrection, and this why all Christians both die with Him, and rise with Him in the mystery of baptism – that we may all share in His victory over death.  

 

So during this period of the glorious days of the resurrection, lets remember why we chant the anthem of Orthodoxy for 50 straight days: “Chris is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” It is because we believe that this is what restored our hope for true and eternal life. Lets also remember why we salute one another with the greeting of “Christ is risen” – it’s because of the importance and the power of the Lord’s victory and salvation.  

 

My beloved, for all these reasons, we celebrate the feast of the resurrection with great joy! It is truly the feast of feasts. For these reasons will not only celebrate a past event – rather we live a real, timeless, and everlasting victory as Christians – Khristos Anesti! Christ is risen my beloved. Glory be to the Risen Lord!  

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