Sunday, April 26, 2009

Resurrection & Life The deep significance of life

Resurrection & Life The deep significance of life
Pope Shenouda III
Translated by Dr. Wedad Abbas

The resurrection is the return of the body to life. Life is the principle of man's existence, for when God created man He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so man became a living being (Gen 2: 7). The woman likewise was called Eve because she was the mother of all living (Gen 3: 20).

The greatness of life lies in its being an attribute of God.
We usually say "The Living God": an attribute often repeated in the Scripture, as in the words, "As I live, says the Lord" (Num 14: 28; Isa 49: 18; Ezek 5: 11; 14: 16, 18, 20); or in the words of the Revelation, "worship Him who lives forever and ever" (Rev 4: 10). And He describes Himself as "the fountain of living waters" (Jer 2: 13).

The Kingdom also is called "the land of the living".
This is clear in the words of the Psalmist, "I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living," "I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, 'You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.'" (Ps 27: 13; 142: 5)

Why is it called "the land of the living"?
It is because a sinner is considered dead, for the Scripture says, "The just shall live by faith." (Heb 10: 38) Also in the story of the Lost Son, on his return his father said, "For this my son was dead and is alive again." (Lk 15: 24) And the widow who lives in pleasure is described as "dead while she lives." (1 Tim 5: 6)

From all this we deduce that true life is not the mere life of the body, that is, a beating heart and a breath going in and out.
Many people even hate such earthly life because of the many troubles they undergo, as the Wise Solomon says, "I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me." (Eccl 2: 17) And Rebekah, having got tired of her son's wives, said, "I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth." (Gen 27: 46) Jonah the Prophet likewise in his critical situation said, "It is better for me to die than to live!" (Jon 4: 3)

What did the fathers say about such a life?
Jacob the Patriarch, speaking about his life, said to Pharaoh, "The days of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil … they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage." (Gen 47: 9) And James the Apostle says, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears fro a little time and then vanishes away." (Jas 4: 14) Therefore the life we live on earth is temporary and limited. It is not the real life with its spiritual joy or the everlasting life in eternity.

What then is life in its deep meaning? The apostle says:
"To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil 1: 21)
How can that be? The apostle explains, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." (Gal 2: 20) Indeed, this is the true life: that Christ lives in me! The aspects of this life are expounded in more detail in various Epistles, "Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?" (Heb 12: 9) "If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him." (2 Tim 2: 11; Rom 6: 8) "… that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness." (1 Pet 2: 24)

In this lies our life, but our mere life on earth I fear that an angel says to us about it:
"You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead." (Rev 3: 1) And a person who is spiritually dead can never have an eternal life. Those who live according to the flesh cannot please God, for to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Rom 8: 6, 8).

What then is life? What is the way to it? What are its sources?
True life is that which leads to eternal life, about which the Lord said to God the Father, "This is eternal life, that they may know You," "I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (Jn 17: 3, 26)

The way to this life is CHRIST.
For He said about Himself, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," "I am the resurrection and the life," "I am the bread of life … I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever." (Jn 6: 48, 51; 11: 25; 14: 6) And about His mission He said:
"I have come that they may have life." (Jn10: 10)

He wants this life for us, because "in Him was life, and the life was the light of men." (Jn 1: 4) And He called upon us, saying, "Abide in Me, and I in you," "Abide in My love," "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (Jn 15: 4, 9, 5) Since you are a branch you should abide in the vine so as to take of its juice and live, otherwise you will wither and become dry.

If you abide in Christ, He will give you the living water which waters you that you may live and grow.
The water of the world does not quench one's thirst, as the Lord says, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (Jn 4: 13, 14) The Lord says about this water, "He who believes in Me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive."(Jn 7: 38)

You cannot live except by the Holy Spirit who works in you.
This is the way to life: abiding in the Lord, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, abiding in the Lord means abiding in His love and in His word, because He says, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life," "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (Jn 6: 63; 15: 10)

How can you abide in the Lord?
To abide in the Lord means to have a continual relationship with Him, continual life with Him, and continual faith in Him that you may have life in His name (Jn 20: 31). Beware not to refuse this life and be involved in the worldly life; otherwise you will deserve the Lord's reproach to the Jews: "You are not willing to come to Me that you may have life." (Jn 5: 40)

You should know that if you live in sin you will die.
If you return to Christ you will pass from death to life (Jn 5: 24). This is the first resurrection attained by repentance and return to God, like the lost son who was dead and came to life (Lk 15: 32). It is the promise of the Lord, "He who believes in Me, though He may die, he shall live." (Jn 11: 25) He shall live spiritual life and eternal life in the Kingdom.

True life also is to have one's name written in the Book of Life.
St. John the Visionary says, "I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the Books." (Rev 20: 12) However, the Lord opens before us a door for rescue from this judgment, for He says, "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." (Rev 3: 5)

Now, are you among those who overcame? Is your name in the Book of Life?
Overcoming is a precondition for keeping one's name in the Book of Life, for life in heaven is only for those who overcome the world, the flesh, the devil, every evil lust, and every evil thought, those who have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5: 24).

Those who overcome will receive life and the crown of life as well.
The Lord requires us to be faithful unto death that we may be given the crown of life (Rev 2: 10). Unless you be faithful unto death you will hear the reproach of the apostle, "You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin." (Heb 12: 4) Be on your guard then lest anyone take your crown.

The crown of life is connected with the crown of righteousness.
Therefore Paul the Apostle said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord … will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Tim 4: 7, 8) It means that we have to live here in righteousness that we may be given the crown of righteousness in the eternal life in the eternal Kingdom.

We receive the pledge of the true life here on the earth.
We start it here on the earth and complete it there in heaven. Here we receive the taste of the kingdom, and in heaven we enjoy it fully. So, whoever has not tasted the kingdom while on earth, even though a little part, will never eat of it in eternity. And whoever cannot keep attached to the Lord a few days on the earth, how could he live in everlasting communion with Him?

Whoever does not find pleasure in God here on earth, cannot feel or enjoy such pleasure in eternity.
Unless you enjoy the communion with God here on the earth even a taste of it, we will not be able to live it in heaven. Therefore you ought to start this life from now, as David the Prophet said, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Ps 34: 8) Peter the Apostle likewise said, "If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious … you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house … to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God." (1Pet 2: 3 5)

See also what the Lord says in the Book of Deuteronomy:
"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life." (Deut 30: 19)

Here I would like to focus on these two phrases:
• Choose life, that you may live
• That you may love the Lord your God, for He is your life.
In conclusion I wish you all good of the Resurrection and Life. HAPPY EASTER

His Holiness Pope Shenouda III Patriarch 117th of the See of Alexandria and Successor of St. Mark. Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of Saint Mark the Evangelist of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. He is the head of The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.

WATANI International - 26 April 2009 - 18 Baramouda 1725 (Coptic Calendar) - Year 9 - Issue 428.
WATANI - 26 April 2009 - 18 Baramouda 1725 (Coptic Calendar) - 1st Issue Year 51 - No. 2470 - 2nd Issue Year 9 No. 436


1 comment:

  1. God bless you.

    I am really fascinated by monastary life.


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