We have gotten used to greeting one another with the main greeting in our lives: “Christ is Risen!” But what is the meaning of the Resurrection for each one of us, personally? Obviously, it is the center of our Orthodox Christian confession, because the essence of our faith lies in the fact that Christ is risen. All of our church doctrine and Holy Tradition speaks of this. The Apostle Paul says that if Christ is not risen, then we are the most miserable people on earth, because then our faith is entirely meaningless.
We begin with the subject of the gospel announcement. The one who is risen is Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, prophet from Nazareth, Messiah of Israel, friend of publicans and sinners, healer of the sick, proclaimer of the Kingdom of His Father. Here is why we have been given the four gospels of the New Testament—to identify this Jesus whom God has raised from the dead. The gospel is good news precisely because it is Jesus—this Jesus named and identified in the gospels—who now lives. The gospel is good news because it is this specific man, Jesus of Nazareth, who has destroyed death and will return in glory to judge the quick and the dead.
Something should happen to us in these days that would make this known not only to ourselves, but to all those around us. The tidings that Christ is risen cannot concern ourselves only. This cannot be only our little private matter; a joy for our parish family only. This is something bigger, something global. If Christ is risen, then our life should change on its own – and not only our life. Of course, our life should change first of all, but from every Great Lent, from every Pascha, our life should change so much, that it affects someone, touches someone, truly surprises someone, enlightening him and compelling him to turn in our direction. The fruits of our labor and our great joy should extend to the world.
Because God is unconditional love, therefore all of your sins are completely and forever forgiven. You may therefore let go all of your guilt and self-condemnation.
Because God is unconditional love, therefore you can stop trying to earn your way into God’s good graces. You are already accepted by him.
Because God is unconditional love, therefore you are assured a place in the kingdom. His love will triumph over your disbelief and sin.
Last Wednesday was Mid-Pentecost, recalling the Savior’s teaching at a synagogue that He had come to heal the whole man (John 7:23) and to give him life; and also, remembering that Christ is the Source of life (John 7:37); asking God to give us His healing grace through the visible matter of water. Today, as if continuing to point to the salvation pool, to the spring of pure water, the Holy Church offers us a Gospel reading about Christ which likens His coming to the water of life, which quenches all thirst and flows into eternal life.
On His way from Judea to Galilee Christ passed through Samaria (John 4:4) where the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel lived. Having been divided due to political reasons and later religious ones, Jews and Samaritans usually avoided close contacts. Tired from his journey, Christ sat down to rest by the old well of Jacob near the town of Sichar, where Abraham had brought a sacrifice to God (Gen. 12:6-7), and He asked a woman who had come to get water from the well, to give him some (John 4:7). Christ began to talk with the Samaritan woman, probably because he felt that she had a seeking heart. After their talk, the Saviour exclaimed that peoples’ souls, tired of fruitless searches, are ripe and ready to receive the Word of God (John 4:35).
When the Lord asked for water, the Samaritan woman was amazed that a Jew lowered Himself, in her opinion, to speak with her and even take water from her (John 4:9). Seeing that the woman was serious about her faith and respectful of the traditions of the Jews, Christ revealed Himself to her. Using water as a symbol, He told her Who He was—the Source of life—and why He came—to give life to everyone who thirsts for it (John 4:14). But the Samaritan, it seems, did not understand the symbolic words of Christ and decided that He was strange— He offered water to her, but he had neither a bucket nor a ladle (John 4:11).
Nonetheless, although half-jokingly, she said, “Sir, give me this water!” (John 4:15). Then Christ talked to her; and directed her in a miraculous way through prophetic words about her life (John 4:17-18). And now, seeing before her, not an eccentric or strange man, but a prophet, the woman asked Him about that which was most important to her. And again we see the pure heart of the woman: that which was most important for her was not how many more husbands she would have, nor whether she would win a lottery and what the winning numbers were, and not even how much longer she would live, but rather how she should live: where and how to worship God (John 4:20). Today the Orthodox Church recognizes this woman as a Saint – Saint Photini.
What is the difference between modern people and the ancient Samaritan woman, you may ask?
The difference is, perhaps, that she had, had five husbands and the one with whom she lived was not her husband, but in modern society today, people often have relationships with a multiple of others without the Sacrament of Marriage, also committing adultery without thinking twice about it. In all the rest, we are still the same: we continue to thirst, continue to seek what to fill our lives with, continue to get drunk on the worldly, that which passes by, that which does not quench our thirst for the eternal, the heavenly. We continue to crawl, forgetting that the Saviour gave us wings.
We measure a person by his or her achievements at work, by diplomas, by hobbies, or, like the author Tolstoy, how many apple trees he or she planted, forgetting that we must raise only one seed, the one that was planted by God. We strive to fill our bellies rather than our hearts. Even from Christ we expect health, wealth, luck, and often complain that He has neither a bucket nor a ladle. Where and how to worship God is not even important to us—in modern society such questions are not accepted, let us not ask them, they are not polite—everything is spiritual in its own way, and what is truth? Lord have mercy on us!
Exhausted, used, emptied, having given ourselves to anyone and anything, some five or six times or more, we continue to pull the clay pot out of the old well and continue to thirst. But Christ is already waiting for us. He always is. He does not shun us. He is ready to accept us even as we are—lost, lacking understanding, shallow, having “tested everything” (1 Thess. 5:21), but not held on to the good. He wants to give us life. And we say, “Okay, give us that water that we won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15), and He gives “to the full” (John 10:10).
The Will of God concerning man is for man to participate in His Divine Glory. God created man not to be a servant of sin, but to be the living image of God on earth. The restoration of man was achieved through Christ's Sacrifice on the Holy Cross. Man is called to the freedom of Christ.
This freedom is granted when man denies his sinful desires, seeks and takes up his cross and follows the example of life which Christ gave to mankind. Christ is the Truth, the Way and the Life for all men. Through Him, man finds the true goals of life. By the Grace of our Lord, man is able to resist sin and to become a virtuous vessel of holiness. In God, man finds his true health.
Each and every one of us had or has fallen into different types of sin. Let us approach Christ our God, Who loves man so much, that He gave His life for us. Let us ask with all our hearts and faith to bestow upon us His Divine Healing Grace; to heal us from all our spiritual wounds caused by sin.
There is one Way for salvation and that is when we approach God. There is one Way to restore our health and that is when we humble ourselves before God and acknowledge our own sins.
Christ our True God calls us saying: Come all of you who are wounded by sin and I shall grant you your health. Come all of you, who are tired, because of worldly anxieties and concerns and I shall give you rest. Come all of you, who wish to be saved and I shall grant you My Father's Kingdom. Let no man remain in spiritual thirst, but in Christ let all men stand before our Resurrected Christ, for to Him belong all glory, honour and worship both now and ever and to the ages of ages.
What are we waiting for?
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Christ is Risen!