The Victory Over Death

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My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

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THE VICTORY OVER DEATH
By Saint Nikolai Velimirovic

Christ's victory is the only victory in which all humanity can rejoice, from the first-created to the last. Every other victory on earth has divided, and still divides, men from one another. When an earthly king gains the victory over another king, one of them rejoices and the other laments. When a man is victorious over his neighbor, there is singing under one roof and weeping under the other. There is no joyful victory on earth that is not poisoned by malice: the ordinary, earthly victor rejoices both in his laughter and in the tears of his conquered enemy. He does not even notice how evil cuts through joy.

Christ's victory alone is like a sun that sheds bright rays on all that are beneath it. Christ's victory alone fills all the souls of men with invincible joy. It alone is without malice or evil. A mysterious victory, you will say? It is; but it is at the same time revealed to the whole human race, the living and the dead.

A generous victory, you will say? It is, and more than generous. Is not a mother more than generous when she, not just once or twice, saves her children from snakes but, in order to save them for all time, goes bravely into the snakes' very nest and burns them out?

A healing victory, you will say? It is, healing and saving forever and ever. This gentle victory saves men from evil and makes them sinless and immortal. Immortality without sinlessness would mean only the extending of evil's reign, and of that of malice and wickedness, but immortality with sinlessness gives birth to unconfined joy, and makes men the brethren of God's resplendent Angels.

Who would not rejoice in the victory of Christ the Lord? He was not victorious for His own sake, but for ours. His victory did not make Him greater, or more alive, or richer, but it did us. His victory is not selfishness, but love, not grabbing but giving. Earthly conquerors take the victory; Christ is the only Conqueror who brings it. No single earthly conqueror, king or commander desires that his victory be taken from him and given to another; only the Risen Lord offers His victory with both hands to each one of us, and is not angered but rather rejoices when we, by His victory, becomes victors--that is: greater, more alive and richer than we were.

Earthly victories look better when viewed from afar, but uglier and more repulsive when seen close at hand; while, as for Christ's victory, one could not say whence it looks better, from afar or from close at hand. Looking at this victory from afar, we marvel at it as unique in its brightness, purity and saving grace. Looking at it from close at hand, we marvel at it because of the terrible enemies who are overcome by it, and also because of the vast numbers of slaves who have been freed by it.

By His Resurrection, the Lord overcame the two fiercest enemies of human life and dignity: death and sin. These two enemies of the human race were born when the first man sundered himself from God, treading underfoot the commandments about obedience to his Creator. In Paradise, man knew neither death nor sin, neither fear nor shame. For, cleaving to the living God, man could know nothing of death, and, living in perfect obedience to God, could know nothing of sin. Where death is unknown, there is no fear; and where sin is unknown, there is no shame born of sin. As soon as man sinned against his saving obedience to God, both fear and shame came with the sin: man felt himself infinitely far from God, and had a premonition of death's sickle over him. Therefore, when God called to Adam, and asked: "Where art thou?, he said: I heard Thy voice in the garden and was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself" (Genesis 3:9-10). Up till then, God's voice had encouraged, gladdened and vivified Adam, but then, when the sin had been committed, this same voice weakened, terrified and deadened him. Up till then, Adam knew himself to be clad in the immortal vesture of the angels, but he then knew himself deflowered by sin, looted, debased to the level of the animals and reduced to the size of a pygmy.

So, my brethren, you see how terrible is the least sin of disobedience to God...One sin, with lightning-like speed, attracted a second, third, hundredth, thousandth, until man finally became of the beasts, beastly, and of the earth, earthly, in both body and soul. The sinful path on which Adam set out led him to the earth and into it. And so God said: "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:19), expressing not only God's judgment but also a further process in man's earthboundness and fragmentation, only just begun but making quick progress.

Adam's descendants, generation after generation, became more and more earthbound and fragmented, sinning with shame and dying with fear and horror. Men hid from God amongst trees, rocks, gold and dust; but the more they hid themselves, the more separated they became form the True God, and the more they forgot Him...The human race had reached the depths of despair when the Heavenly Hero appeared to save it.

This Hero was the Lord Jesus. Eternally sinless and eternally immortal, He passed through the graveyard of the human race, scattering the flowers of immortality as He went. The stench of sin fled from His breath, and the dead were revived at His word. But He, in His love for mankind, took the mountain of sin on Himself, in the same way that He, in His love for mankind, clothed Himself in mortal, human flesh. But human sin was so heavy and terrible that, under its weight, the Son of God Himself went down to the grave.

Blessed a hundredfold be that grave from which a river of immortality for the whole human race burst forth! The Hero went down beneath the grave of Hades, where He toppled Satan's throne and destroyed the breeding-ground of all the wicked plots against the human race. From this grave the Hero rose to the highest heavens, opening up a new path--to the city of the living. He destroyed hell in His might and, in His might, glorified His body and rose from the grave--in His own might, that is indivisible from that of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Meek as a lamb, the gentle Lord went to suffering and death, and mighty as God He endured the suffering and conquered death. His Resurrection is a real event, and is at the same time the prophecy and the image of our resurrection--"for the trumpet shalt sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible" (I Corinthians 15:52).

There are some who will ask: how can it be said that the risen Lord has conquered death, when men still die? They who come into this world through their mother's womb will leave it through death and the grave. This is the rule. Only, death for us who die in Christ is no longer a dark abyss, but is birth into new life and a return to our homeland. The grave is, for us, no longer an eternal darkness but a gateway at which God's resplendent angels await us. For all who are filled with love for the beauteous and Loving Lord, the grave has become only the last obstacle to His presence - and this obstacle is as weak as a spider's web. And so the glorious Apostle Paul cries: "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain!" (Phil. 1:21).

Come then, all you my brethren who fear death. Come closer to Christ the Risen and the Raiser, and He will free you from death and the fear of death. Come, all of you who live under the shame of your open and secret sins. Draw nearer to the Living Fount that washes and cleanses, and that can make the blackest vessel whiter than snow. Come, all of you who seek health, strength, beauty and joy. Lo, the Risen Christ is the rich Source of them all. He awaits you with compassion and yearning, desiring that no-one be lost...

The Risen Lord has torn down the curtain that divided True Godhead from true humanity, and has show in Himself the greatness and beauty of the one and the other. No man can know the True God except through the Risen Lord Jesus; neither can any man know true man except through Him alone.

Christ is Risen, my brethren!

By His Resurrection, Christ conquered sin and death, destroyed Satan's dark kingdom, freed the enslaved human race and broke the seal on the greatest mysteries of God and man. To Him be glory and praise, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity consubstantial and undivided, now and forever, through all time and all eternity. Amen. [Source: Orthodox Heritage)

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"We needed an Incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live. We were put to death together with Him, that we might be cleansed; we rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him; we were glorified with Him, because we rose again with Him" (Saint Gregory the Theologian).

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George