When Christ first rose from the tomb and appeared to His disciples and the myrrh-bearing women, He greeted them with the word “Rejoice!”. And then later when He appeared to the Apostles His first words were “Peace be unto you!”; peace, because their confusion was very great — the Lord had died. It seemed as though all hope had perished for the victory of God over human wickedness, for the victory of good over evil. It would seem that life itself had been slain and light had faded. All that remained for the disciples who had believed in Christ, in life, in love, was to go on existing, for they could no longer live. Having tasted eternal life they were now condemned to expect cruel persecution and death at the hands of Christ’s enemies. “Peace be unto you”, proclaimed Christ. “I have arisen, I am alive, I am with you, and henceforth nothing — neither death nor persecution — will ever separate us or deprive you of eternal life, the victory of God”. And then, having convinced them of His physical resurrection, having restored their peace and an unshakable certainty of faith, Christ uttered words which may in the present age sound menacing and frightening to many, “As the Father sent Me, so I send you”. Only a few hours after Christ’s death on the cross, not long after the fearful night in Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas when Christ had been taken by His enemies, condemned to death, led out beyond the city walls and died on the cross, these words sounded menacing. And it was only faith, the conquering certainty that Christ had risen, that God had conquered, that the Church had become an invincible force that transformed these words into words of hope and triumphant God-speed.
And the disciples went out to preach; nothing could stop them. Twelve men confronted the Roman empire. Twelve defenceless men, twelve men without legal rights were out to preach the simplest message, that divine love had entered the world and that they were willing to give their lives for the sake of this love, in order that others might believe and come to life, and that a new life might begin for others through their death. [I Cor. IV :9-13]
Death was indeed granted them; there is not a single apostle except St. John the Divine who did not die a martyr’s death. Death was granted them, and persecution and suffering and a cross (II Cor. VI: 3-14).
But faith, faith in Christ, in God Incarnate, faith in Christ crucified and risen, faith in Christ who brought unquenchable love into the world, has triumphed. “Our faith which has conquered the world is the victory.”
This preaching changed the attitude of man to man; every person became precious in the eyes of another. The destiny of the world was widened and deepened; it burst the bounds of earth and united earth to heaven. And now we Christians, in the words of a western preacher, in the person of Jesus Christ, have become the people to whom God has committed the care of other people; that they should believe in themselves because God believes in us; that they should hope for all things because God puts His hope in us; that they should be able to carry our victorious faith through the furnace of horror, trials, hatred and persecution — that faith which has already conquered the world, in the faith in Christ, God crucified and risen.
So let us also stand up for this faith. Let us proclaim it fearlessly, let us teach it to our children, let us bring them to the sacraments of the Church which, even before they can understand it, unite them with God and plant eternal life in them.
All of us, sooner or later, will stand before the judgment of God and will have to answer whether we were able to love the whole world — believers and unbelievers, the good and the bad — with the sacrificial, crucified, all-conquering love with which God loves us. May the Lord give us invincible courage, triumphant faith, joyful love in order that the kingdom for which God became man should be established, that we should truly become godly, that our earth should indeed become heaven where love, triumphant love lives and reigns. Christ is risen!
Published: Newsletter № 261, 1993 May