Glorious Feast of Resurrection 19 April 2020 - H.H. Pope Tawadros II Message
From Fear to Love: 3 Essential Steps to Live the Resurrected Life
Saturday April 18, 2020
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. One God. Amen. May His grace and mercy rest upon us, from now and forevermore. Amen.
Christos Anesti. Alithos Anesti. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. I congratulate you, beloved ones, on this glorious Feast of Resurrection, after 55 days of holy fasting and after having spent the Holy Week in much prayers, Holy Bible Readings, and comforting melodies and chants.
And although the circumstances this year do not permit for us to celebrate together in our churches because of the ill effects on people around the world due to this pandemic, yet this year we celebrate in a spiritual way with our families and in our homes, and this is wonderful. I see the image of celebration on the level of each individual family in their home, as they follow the prayers on the various media screens and social media, and this is a very powerful way of building spiritual thinking within a family, of the building up of the family altar, and of the renewal and reenergizing of the spiritual life within each home.
The Lord Christ arose on the third day after the cross and His resurrection had its mark historically, geographically, archeologically, ecclesiastically, as well as upon the many places that witness of the resurrection and the eyewitnesses of its events. This Resurrection proved that life is more powerful than death, that love is greater than hate, that good is more powerful than evil, and that truth is superior to vanity.
The number “3”
Because of the resurrection of the Lord Christ on the third day, the number three now holds great importance and meaning in a person’s life. They say that a person’s life is 3 days: the day of birth, the day of death, and between them is one long day called “the day of life.”
And the day of life is a long day that characterizes the system of human life. In this life, night comes and day departs, the seed dies in the ground and resurrects to bring forth much fruit, a generation builds and another reaps, tears are shed and joys are born, and so is life, containing many things, but I want to concentrate on one point today and that is that a person’s life is associated to having many fears.
There are many fears a person faces throughout his or her life and the presence of these fears keeps a person in a continual state of fear. A person may fear failure, fear sickness, fear death, fear losing loved ones, fear old age, or fear change – these many fears keep a person living in a state of continual fear.
And while it may be that the sudden presence and spread of the corona virus in the world today has caused the fears to increase and has made it so that people are living in a state of anxiety, yet the resurrection is the means by which a person can be transported from a state of fear to a state of love, and I will explain to you how this happens, but before I begin, I would like to mention that David the prophet also went through such times of fear, to the point where in one of his Psalms he cried out and said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps 27:1).
A person stands confused before the many fears that confront him in his long day of life and he may sometimes stand before God and ask, “Lord, where are You in the midst of all these fears?” Other times he may have the thought, “Lord, have You forgotten Your creation? The humans You created with Your own Hands?” Still, other times a person may have the thought, “Lord, do our prayers not reach You?”
Sometimes when going through many fears, a person will feel that they are passing through a tunnel. Many writers and philosophers speak about life as a journey through a tunnel, and whether a long one or a short one, when a person walks through a tunnel they cannot see the light, but towards the end he sees the light and so he gets a sense of safety and peace.
If we remember St. Paul the apostle, he lived the first half of his life far from Christ, but in the second half he became so close to Christ and became an evangelist for Christ. And towards the end of his life, accompanied by others, he boarded a ship heading toward Rome because that is where he was to be tried [before Caesar]. And the seas rose and the ship was wrecked, but amidst all these many great fears he said, “So we gave way and let ourselves be driven along” (Acts 27:15), and this is the experience of strong faith that each one of us needs to have.
Also, in the Old Testament, David the prophet fell into a sin, the sin of taking a census (counting) of the people, and we may wonder, “What’s the sin in that?” But the counting of the people meant that he was depending upon his own strength and his own resources and not on the help of God. This was a sin and a sin requires correction, so he was given three corrections to choose from: either a famine in the land for 7 years, being persecuted by his enemies for 3 months, or a plague that would last for 3 days. David was to choose one of the three and we see that David chose the third option, saying, “Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (2 Sam 24:14).
What I want to say is that the resurrection enabled people to cross over from a state of fear to a state of love, and the state of love is the most valuable emotional state that a person can experience because it is a state of utmost rest, utmost joy, and utmost inner satisfaction. And so, resurrection is what can transform a person, allowing them to live in their true human state, which is joy.
Resurrection transformed many people from being in a state of fear to being in a state of perfect love, and I will explain 3 points we find illustrated in the beautiful scenes from the events of the Resurrection.
Because it is impossible for a person to enjoy the resurrection and to pass over from a state of fear to the state of love except by being pure, the first step is the step of purity, and I’m referring to purity of the heart. For a person to live their life before God in the right way, as God intended, a person must take this step of purity, as it is written, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8).
The greatest example we find of this is Peter. Just a few days before the resurrection of Christ, Peter denied Christ. He had fallen into a sin that often makes us marvel and wonder, “How is it possible that you were a disciple and yet you fell into this sin? And how is it that you were able to deny your Master before a servant girl?” And we marvel.
And even the apostle Peter himself felt that it was over for him, that he had now been disqualified, and so he lived in a state of fear and far away from Christ, because after the resurrection of the Lord Christ, Peter went back to his old work of being a fisherman. Peter forgot that he was a disciple of Christ and he forgot all about the miracles he had witnessed and the teachings he had learned, he forgot all of that.
And because he was a fisherman, Peter was present at the miracle of the catch of 153 fish (John 21:11). Along with a few other disciples, Peter saw Christ standing at the shore and Christ invited them to “Come and eat breakfast” (Jn 21:12), so they did, and in the midst of this gathering Christ called the apostle Peter who had denied Him and asked him, “Peter, do you love Me?” (cf. Jn 21:15).
It is a very short question: Do you love Me? And peter answered the question and repeated his answer once, twice, and three times. And at the end he tells Christ, “Lord, You know that I love You. I love You!” (cf. jn 21:17). And so because he had purified his heart and his heart had become filled with the love of the Master, it was at that very moment that Peter crossed over from being in a state of fear to being in a state of perfect love. And from that moment on, Peter became an evangelist, and he preached in many places and in many countries and his life ended in martyrdom.
This is the step of purity, which is the first step to leads a person to move from a state of fear to a state of love, and it is the resurrection that is able to do this in deed in a person’s life; to transform a person from fear to love, and the one who lives in this love will never fear.
The second step is hope, and of course we know that hope and faith are very closely related. A person who lives in fear always has negative thoughts and inhibiting thoughts, and inhibiting thoughts can lead a person to some very difficult points in life. For example, if a person loses hope, he may reach a stage of despair, or he may even get to the point of suicide.
Hope is a critical step if a person is to move from a state of fear to a state of love. The greatest example of this is Mary Magdalene, who we read about in the Holy Bible. Mary Magdalene was someone who Christ did a great work in. He drove out demons from her (“Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons” Lk 8:2), and she followed him and walked the life of holiness.
And despite all the fear and all the tears and all the questions that must have been in her mind, she went to the tomb hopeful, and this powerful hope that drove her to go to the tomb and search for her Teacher and find Him – this step of hope is no small thing. She overcame her fears and her inner pain and her tears just to go see Christ, even if He was still in the tomb.
For the person who wants to move from a state of fear to a state of love, hope is a necessary step to take. And we see that with Mary, because of the hope she had, when Christ called out her name, personally, the melody of her name fell upon her ears and she recognized that it was the Christ and “She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher)” (Jn 20:16).
And because of her surprise and astonishment she wanted to cling to Christ, but Christ reminded her that she still had a purpose and a mission to fulfill: “Go and tell the news of the resurrection to My disciples” (cf. Jn 20:17).
Beloved one, you who live in many fears, you must keep hope alive within you. So long as your faith is strong and so long as you abide in the joy of the glorious Resurrection, the Resurrection itself will help you with any fears you may have until it brings you to a state of perfect love, and the life of a person who lives in perfect love will be a very joyous one. This is why when we pray we always say to Christ, “You are the Hope of those who have no hope, You are the Help of those who have no help.” Lord, You are our Hope, and through the Resurrection You have transformed fear and despair into joy and hope.
The first step is purity and the second step is hope – a hopeful mind that is full of positive thoughts. There are people whom when you talk to them, their words are always inhibiting (they speak of limitation), or their words leave you in a state of despair, but there is another person whose words make you feel that they always have hope for the future. They see the good and they believe that tomorrow will be better than today, and so on.
3-Building: taking action
As for the third and final step, it is the step of building, and by this I mean taking action. A person who builds starts from the ground and builds up, he works, and so this is the step of ascension, of increase, of growth.
If a person has taken the steps of purity and hope, then he will be active and productive. We hear of the apostle Peter and of Mary Magdalene and of Thomas, Thomas the doubter, who doubted the resurrection of the Lord Christ. But one week after the resurrection, Christ appeared to the disciples and Thomas with them, and He invited Thomas to “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side” (Jn 20:27), and Thomas cried out with a loud and powerful cry, “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28), the cry of confession.
And what did you do after that Thomas? Well, can you imagine that Thomas moved from Jerusalem and went all the way to the other side of the world, to India, to preach the Name of Christ there? This was an action step, taking a step of action.
If a person attains purity of heart and a mind of hope, he will be able to build, he will be able to work, he will be able to embrace others and serve them, he will be able to move from a state of fear to a state of love, and this is something that will bring joy to his life. This is what caused David the prophet to one day declare as he did in Psalm 18, “I love You, Lord, my strength” (Ps 18:1 NIV). I love You Lord, my strength.
The Resurrection is not merely a celebration nor is it merely a historical event. Resurrection is a way of life, an experience. And as we are in our homes today, as families, celebrating the glorious Feast of Resurrection and each person, each family member bringing joy to the others and living in joy, in order for us to feel the joy of Resurrection, I invite you to read the writings of our teacher John the beloved, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
John wrote 5 books containing a total of 50 chapters:
1. The Gospel of John – 21 chapters
2. The three Letters of John – 7 chapters
3. The Book of Revelation – 22 chapters
These 5 books with their 50 chapters are perfectly suited to be read during the Holy 50 Days, that we may read them and experience and rejoice in the glorious Resurrection.
We rejoice in the glorious Resurrection and in this Feast, and even though the Church’s celebration is somewhat limited this year, yet the joy of Resurrection cannot be limited by any events for Resurrection is within a person’s heart.
And while it is true that our country and the countries of the world are experiencing a pandemic that is probably the first of its kind, and that the spread of it has led to an increase in the number of people affected by it and who have died from it in many countries, we thank God that our country was warned early on and that she took the necessary steps to help the reduction and quarantining of this virus that is able to reach any human being.
And in the Book of Habakkuk we have a promise from God that was spoken through the mouth of the prophet Habakkuk, it says, “Before Him went pestilence, and fever followed at His feet” (Hab 3:5), and so we have the confidence and awareness that God is able to remove these many fears and troubles.
I send love and greetings to all the fathers, the metropolitans, and the bishops in all the patriarchates in Egypt and across the world, and also to the deacons and archons and Church boards. And I congratulate every Christian home and every family, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, young men and young women and the children, and ever business providing services.
We congratulate all our beloved throughout the whole world. We congratulate our Patriarchate in the See of Jerusalem, in the USA, in Canada, in Latin America, in Europe, in the Sudan, in Africa, and in Australia. May it be a joyous Feast for us all and may we also be a cause of joy to everyone.
We thank everybody and I wish to give a special thank you to the people working in the television and media channels, who have transmitted the live prayers from this monastery, the Monastary of Anba Bishoy in Wadi El Natrun in Egypt, making it so that every home and every Christian family can easily view these prayers. I thank you all for your love.
I encourage you to please continue to stay at home and enjoy this Feast and this spiritual time with your family, this will continue to help in the quarantining and limiting the spread of the virus.
All glory and honor to God, forever and ever. Amen.