I Cor.15:18-19 “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”( NKJV)
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is central to the faith of Christians. The resurrection provides hope for all believers in the present and in the age to come.
Every person experiences an earthly death. Family members and friends depart this life. How a person views the end of earthly life affects how the person lives the earthly life.
How one views the end of earthly life affects how a person understands and interprets earthly death. Jesus rising from the dead gives believers hope for themselves and for their loved ones departed this life.
The Holy Apostle Paul describes Jesus’ resurrection as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.(I Cor.15:19) At each Orthodox funeral believers hear the Epistle to the Thessalonians.
St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”(I Thess.4:16 NKJV)
A person’s world view is different when he or she believes the dead will rise with Christ. At Holy Baptism, believers recite the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and profess belief in the resurrection of the dead.
Believers recite the Creed at each Divine Liturgy and reaffirm belief in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the resurrection of the dead. This profession of faith is at the heart of the Orthodox faith.
Throughout life believers recite The Creed. The Creed is expected to be the structure and the guide for the life of the believer. At times when a believer falters, The Creed is an inspiration and a road map redirecting life toward the Kingdom of God.
Thinking carefully about the resurrection of Christ will sustain optimism in believers. Thinking carefully about the resurrection of Christ will give purpose to the lives of believers.
Dying with Christ on the Cross and rising with Christ in the resurrection is the way to combat sin and to live in Christ. Death to the sinful self and rising in unity with Christ requires love for Christ and discipline in service to Christ.
The Christian journey is limited by the conscious time of earthly life. Holy Baptism marks the official entry into the Christian life.. A period of preparation precedes Holy Baptism. Believers do well when immersed in thought about Christ’s resurrection.
I Cor.15:58-“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”( NKJV)
Pascha is a joyous time in the Church. The joy radiates in the Divine services of the Church. The joy radiates in the lives of believers present. Sadness is set aside. Depression is overcome. Hope replaces despair.
Thoughts turn to memories of departed family members and friends during the Paschal period. Visits to grave sites are a common practice. Memories of departed loved ones find their way into conversations during the Pachal period.
The Divine services during the Paschal period are rich in content with messages of Christ’s triumph over death.
The minds and hearts of believers are called to carefully consider the message of Christ’s resurrection. The careful use of mind and heart have a place in the Christian life.
The mind is to be filled with thoughts of Christ beneficial to the soul. The heart is to be filled with Christ radiating joy throughout the day and night. The resurrection of Christ provides a foundation for constant joy.
Believers are challenged to rid their lives of impediments deterring constant joy in Christ. A person whose life is focused in Christ will endure all things to experience the joy in Christ.
The Holy Apostle said he counted all things rubbish that he might know Christ and the power of His resurrection.(Phil.3:7-11NKJV) Material possessions and earthly pursuits take on a different understanding in this perspective.
Hebrews 12:2 states Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. Serious believers learn from Christ and try to do the same. The liturgical celebration of Christ’s resurrection is constant immersion in this joy.
The Church provides a period of preparation and transition leading to Great Lent. Great Lent and Holy Week provide an orderly movement to Christ’s death on the Cross and the celebration of the Resurrection.
Each year the Church devotes a set period of time following Pascha for the celebration of the resurrection. Throughout the year, every Sunday is a certain celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
Each life is strengthened when structured and lived according to the Ecclesiastical Year. When each home is structured and rooted in the Church Year, the family is strengthened and the community is enriched.
Serious believers with lives immersed in Christ’s resurrection will radiate the joy of the resurrection at home and in the community.
2 Corinthians 5:15-And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
Christians are expected to live for Christ. Certainly the salvation of the soul is of primary interest. Certainly believers are not expected to neglect their families or to abuse themselves.
There is no inconsistency in living for Christ and caring for the self or family. Living for Christ involves love and care of self-and others. Living for Christ involves realizing being made in the image and likeness of God(Gen.1:27)
Believers have a responsibility to care for the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit(I Cor.6:19). The body is not to be abused. The body and mind are not to be polluted.
Society has many traps and seductions which can corrupt a believer. Living for Christ involves being careful in relationships, in the development of goals and in assessing one’s self.
Jesus told the disciples: “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”(Mt.10:16) The same instructions continue to have merit. Keeping focus on the Kingdom of God requires a commitment to God and love of God.
Too often individuals get sidetracked in their journey to the Kingdom of God. Too often individuals become complacent or tired or lazy and yield to a lessening of fervor for Christ.
Christ suffered and died for us. Zeal for Christ should exist from the time we are convinced of His death for us until such time as our death. We can never repay Christ for what He did and continues to do for us.
At most we can be appreciative to Christ and show this appreciation by living responsibly as Christians.
The world is full of material distractions and temptations. The world is full of immorality and diversions. The fervor of baptism or conversion or following Holy Confession can easily be undone if the believer is undisciplined.
It is interesting the way individuals follow the orders of physician or having their children follow the rules established by athletic coaches but when it comes to adhering to the rules of the Church, they are ignored.
Athletic coaches or entertainment instructors can require lengthy practice sessions and vigorous physical exercise, possible even adhering to certain diets.
When a priest suggests attendance at a weekday service or observing the rules of fasting, the words more often than not land on deaf ears.
Once a physician complained because a church service was scheduled for quite early in the morning. yet it is absolutely common, even a daily practice for surgical patients to come to distant hospitals at 6:00 AM.
If a person can train for athletics or parents have their children take instrument or dance training, why cannot the same discipline apply to Church life?
I Thessalonians 4:16-“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in God will rise first.”(NKJV)
Believers go about daily life meeting responsibilities with varying degrees of seriousness. Believers recite the Lord’s Prayer and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed with varying degrees of attentiveness.
Believers attend funerals or church services and hear about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. What if today is the day of the Second Coming of Christ? How many believers are ready to meet the returning Christ today?
How many believers are prepared for judgment today? How many people have their lives in order to the point they feel fully prepared to be judged by Christ?
At Pascha the Resurrection of Christ is celebrated with great joy. At other times of the year, believers hear of individuals raised from the dead by Christ. In The Creed, belief in the resurrection of the dead is professed.
What percent of believers are fully attentive when reciting The Creed? What percent of believers live each day conscious that Jesus will return and judge the living and the dead?
What percent of believers incorporate the joy of the Risen Christ into their world view and live with the hope established by Christ as result of His Resurrection?
A radio preacher sometime ago said that Americans were among the most depressed people in the world. How can believers yield to depression while at the same time expressing belief in the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the dead?
When baptized or received into the Holy Orthodox Church, believers are expected to be serious about living as Christians. Joy in the Risen Lord is sustainable if the believer remains united with Christ.
Joy is restored to the Christian life through repentance, Holy Confession and Holy Communion. Parishes do well to assess whether the joy of the Risen Christ is prevalent throughout the year.
Individuals do well by taking a personal assessment and determining what is necessary to remain united with Christ in joy and peace.
The passage of centuries may lull the consciousness of believers regarding the Second Coming of Christ. The Second Coming holds great promise for the faithful in Christ.
When reciting the Lords’ Prayer, believers say each time: “Thy Kingdom come…”This is said with expectation and anticipation. Believers do well to think carefully about Christ’s Resurrection and Christ’s Second Coming.
Believers do well to think carefully about daily life and what is of lasting importance. Daily care of the soul deserves the first priority.
Colossians 2:12-Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (NKJV)
Periodically during life, believers do well to return in thought to the baptismal experience. It is good to think about entering the Christian life. It is good to think about how one has lived the Christian life.
It is good to think about the goals one has for the remaining days of the Christian life. A person needs to measure his or her progress as a question. Did Christian growth end when the person exited the baptismal fount?
Has the person’s view of God remained the same from the time of Holy Baptism as an infant or has the view of God matured as the person has matured from infancy to adulthood?
Infants require nourishment to grow to adulthood physically. Christians need nourishment for the soul to grow spiritually. The Church provides Holy Confession and Communion, the Church provides prayers and Divine services, the Church provides Holy Scripture, The Church provides teachings on the Christian life.
From birth to death, individuals exercise choices to nourish and care for the soul or impair the soul. Heightened awareness of the soul on a daily basis will improve the care of the soul.
Heightened awareness comes through conscious decision-making. Heightened awareness comes through desire for God and for a God-pleasing life.
Heightened awareness comes through love of God.
The love of God for humans is well known to those who come to church particularly during Great and Holy Week. The love of God is well known to those who carefully read the life of Christ in the New Testament.
The love of God is well known to those who study the Old Testament. The love of God remains through the centuries. The love of God is not limited by time or space. The love of God is accessible to individuals of every century.
The love of God is experienced at Holy Baptism. The love of God is experienced at Holy Confession. The love of God was evident when Jesus ascended the Cross, died and was buried.
Every person with faculty of mind has the potential for Christian growth. A person’s environment will affect to a certain degree whether Christian growth will occur.
A person’s environment will affect to a certain degree whether a person experiences the joy of the Risen Christ on a regular basis. Individuals hearing the Gospel preached and attending Divine services regularly are more likely to share in the joy of the Risen Lord.
Earthly life is finite as it is commonly understood. Choices regarding Christ are limited to this period of finite earthly life.
Colossians 3:1-“If you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.”(NKJV)
Believers achieve the goals they adopt and seriously work towards. The Lord Jesus Christ said to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness(Mt.6:33-NKJV) Goal adoption in life probably varies with age and consciousness of God and the importance of the soul. Young children may be aware of God but not very sophisticated about Christian goals. Adults vary in mental development and interests.
Priests have a responsibility to teach about the Kingdom of God. Priests have a responsibility to teach about the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Priests have a responsibility to continuously learn about Christ.
Christian educators have a responsibility to learn about Christ and to teach accurately about Christ. Christian educators have a responsibility to live in ways pleasing to God.
Individual Christians benefit from becoming very familiar with the Holy Scriptures. Reading the Holy Scriptures is beneficial and efficient in learning about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Known facts about God exist in the Holy Scriptures. Believers can increase their knowledge about God through study of the Holy Scriptures. Not everyone is a reader. Not everyone commits time to reading the Holy Scriptures.
The words of Christ as they are known are recorded in New Testament. To be intricately familiar with these words, reading the Holy Gospels of Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is a wise course of action.
If a believer is joined with Christ at Holy Baptism, remaining united with Christ should be a natural interest. Remaining united with Christ throughout life does not happen by itself.
Believers are responsible for their actions. Believers are responsible for choices made and actions undertaken. To aspire to the things above as the Holy Apostle Paul tells the Colossians requires an interest in doing so.
Interests which do not give rise to the things above must be subordinated. Decisions for Christ require a mental toughness and a determined purpose. The willingness to say “no” to detracting interests and goals is necessary to reach for the things of Christ which are above.
Saying “no” to certain lesser goals or interests may be painful in the short run but beneficial in the long run. The Holy Apostle Paul told the Corinthians: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you obtain it.”(I Cor.9:24-NKJV)
The joy in Christ makes the journey worth it. The joy in Christ makes enduring difficulties worth it.(Heb.12:2)
Philippians 3:10-11“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”(NKJV)
Believers have the Church to turn to in search of understanding of this earthly life. Believers have the Church to turn to in seeking understanding of earthly death.
The Lord Jesus Christ suffered death on the Cross. The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Wise individuals turn to Christ to seek understanding about life and death. By His Resurrection, Christ showed He had power over death.
In Christ individuals can find comfort when facing earthly death. In Christ individuals can find comfort when faced with the death of a beloved family member or friend.
Believers will not fully understand Christ’s power over death. Christ is much more than the finite mind can fully comprehend. Christ is accessible in prayer. Christ is accessible for believers turning to Him in faith.
Peace is achievable in Christ. Peace is a message of His Resurrection. When the Risen Jesus appeared, He said to the Apostles” Peace to you.”(Lk.24:36) The desire for peace is a common desire. It is a desire to be cultivated and maintained.
Vigilance is necessary to maintain internal peace in the midst of adversity. Vigilance and keeping the mind on Christ is necessary to maintain peace when threats and peril exists.
The lives of Christian martyrs show believers can be at peace in the face of extreme adversity. The account of the three youths in the fiery furnace is evidence that peace of mind can exist when confidence is placed in God.(Dan.3:19-97-SAAS)
The life of St. Stephen the Archdeacon and Protomartyr is evidence of Christian peace of mind even in the face of death.(Acts 7:1-60) Confidence in God found in legitimate faith is never misplaced.
Hardships are part of Christian life. Christ endured the Cross. Followers of Christ can expect no less.(Mt.16:24-NKJV) The way a believer responds to the crises in life reveals the believer’s faith and confidence in God.
When individuals are firm in faith, faith triumphs. Individuals confident in God see God at work in the outcome of difficult situations. For the firm in faith,
the dark Fridays of life are replaced with the brightness of Pascha.
The Holy Apostle Paul concentrated on Christ and the power of the resurrection. Believers need to work at concentrating on Christ and the Resurrection. Sustained concentration is not easy. It is possible. Discipline is possible if the goal is sufficiently desired.
Acts 17:2-3-And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
The Holy Apostle Paul was sufficiently familiar with the Holy Scriptures that he could speak with authority regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Apostle Paul spoke with sufficient passion that he is remembered until today.
Love for Christ is evident in the life of the Holy Apostle Paul and all the saints. The Resurrection of Christ has had sufficient impact and far reaching effects not to be nullified by the passing of time.
Contemporary believers choose whether to be serious about the life in Christ. Contemporary believers choose whether to love Christ with the fullness of love of the saints and martyrs.
The soul is hungry for the authentic Christ. The soul is hungry for the Crucified and Risen Christ. The soul’s hunger is satisfied through the reading of the Holy Gospel, attending Divine services, and being engaged in serious prayer.
The soul’s hunger is satisfied with the Precious Body and Blood of Christ.
The Precious Body and Blood of Christ is unequalled. When believers turn to other than the Triune God, the hunger of the soul goes unsatisfied.
The joy of the Resurrected Christ is supreme. The Holy Apostle Paul was convinced of the authenticity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Apostle shared his convictions about Christ with others he met.
When sharing our convictions about Christ with others, it is important this be done in love. The Holy Apostle Paul told the Ephesians: “I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forebearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”(Eph.4:1-3)
The way we relate with each other reflects the degree we have embraced Christ in our lives. If we love Christ and work very hard to live in ways pleasing to Christ, this will affect our relationships.
Embracing Christ and living for Christ over an extended period of time brings about change in a person. The ideal is to become more Christ-like, to live in ways that reflect belief in and love for Christ.
Proverbs 16:7 states: When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Believers need to think carefully about his proverb and be determined to pursue it as a reality in their lives.
The Holy Apostle Paul went from being a persecutor of Christ to being a leading apostle. The Holy Apostle Paul is an inspiration and model for today.
Acts 26:23-That the Christ must suffer, and that by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles.
The suffering of Christ preceded the Resurrection. Contemporary believers understand Christianity to a greater degree by keeping the Crucifixion firmly in mind.
When daily life gets difficult, believers do well to remember the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross. Believers do well to remember the experiences of the Holy Martyrs through the centuries.
Believers do well to think of the hardships experienced by the saints century after century as they choose to follow Christ. Making decisions to follow Christ can seem painful as a person removes from his or her life that which is not of Christ.
Jesus told His disciples: “A servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.”(Jn.13:16). Christians cannot expect to bear the honor of being Christian and expect to avoid pain and suffering.
Christians can expect that the Lord Jesus Christ will be ever present to help the believers endure the sufferings in ways acceptable to Christ. Suffering can produce tangible benefits. Suffering can put life in the proper perspective.
When suffering becomes a part of family life, the important aspects of family life become treasured. The unimportant and inconsequential aspects of family life are set aside. Life is treasured as the gift from God that it is.
Jesus does not ask more from His followers than what He experienced personally. Jesus experienced the Cross. He experienced death on the Cross. Those preaching a Christianity without preaching the Cross of Christ distort Christianity.
The Holy Apostle Paul felt so firmly about importance of the Crucifixion that he told the Corinithians: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”(I Cor.2:2).
Unexpected illness or a tragic accident can strike a family or an individual. War can devastate a country or portion of a country. Believers need direction. Believers need hope. Believers need to know where to turn for answers.
Strength, comfort and direction come from the Crucified and Risen Christ.
At the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts, the priest says: “The Light of Christ illumines all!”
The Light of Christ directs the believer to the Kingdom of God. The Light of Christ illumines the hearts and minds of believers. The Light of Christ overshadows the darkness of depression and devastation.
The Lord God showed His power to Ezekiel when life was breathed into dry bones.(Ez.37:1-14). The Lord God can renew the faith and increase the fervor of believers having fallen away from the Church.
Romans 8:33-34-Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?”
Each person will stand before God for the final judgment. The Crucified and Resurrected Christ is inspiration and cause for each person to use each day to be prepared for that final judgment.
The Psalmist said: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”(Ps.89/90:10). The wise person uses each day for the glory of God and for actions pleasing to God.
The wise person takes the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ very seriously and lives accordingly. The Resurrection brings joy and hope and foregiveness.
The Resurrection enables hope to be dominant in the lives of believers. The Resurrection enables believers to look beyond any dark moments in life to the brightness of the Resurrected and Triumphant Christ.
When death is overcome, as Christ overcame death, there are no other barriers which are beyond Christ’s ability to help believers to surmount.
The more a person places trust and believes in Christ, the more the person experiences the love of Christ and hungers for Christ. The Holy Gospel speaks about selling all to purchase the pearl of great price.(Mt.13:46)
The Lord Jesus Christ told the young man: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”(Mt.19:21)
Christ is the best foundation for life. Christ is the best goal for each day of life. Christ is the best nourishment for Christ. A person can have many interests.
A person can pursue many goals.
The wise person maintains interest pleasing to Christ. The wise person pursues goals compatible with the teachings and ethics established by Christ. The wise person engages in activities and behavior that Christ would approve.
The Resurrected Christ is reason for believers to begin and begin again when failures occur and when sin seems to creep in. The Resurrected Christ is reason to believe that life is better in Christ.
` When individual experience what seems to be personal failure, when individuals lose a loved one, when a marriage or relationship fails, when a job termination occurs, Christ can make the difference in what happens next.
Observers of the Crucifixion who wanted to see Christ die and never live again probably left the site of the Crucifixion and went home feeling their hopes were realized. They probably went to bed feeling the mission was accomplished.
The empty tomb and Resurrected Christ changed everything.
 The Orthodox Study Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee, 2008, p.1416.
 Orthodox Christian Service Book. St.Steven’s Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, Alhambra, California, 1996, p.196.