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One of the great Christian struggles of faith is to overcome in our own minds and hearts the seeming paradox of darkness swallowed up by Light, death swallowed up by Life, defeat swallowed up by Victory, and Golgotha swallowed up by the Empty Tomb. The spiritual temptation for each of us is to want Light, Life, Victory and the Empty Tomb without any of the things leading up to those. The paradox is precisely in the fact that none of those are possible without passing through the crucible of darkness, death, defeat and Golgotha. Simply put, we cannot celebrate and rejoice in Resurrection without the Cross.
St. Paul tells the Corinthians:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. (1 Corinthians 1:18-29, Holy Friday Vespers)
The Apostle goes on to say, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) Jesus Christ and Him crucified was all that Paul preached, all that anyone needs to know, and the only path to the Kingdom of Heaven. If he preached, if we “live,” simply the resurrected Christ, he would be a fraud, and we would be deluded. Our crucifixion, our crucible, is repentance and a turning away from slavery to the passions which sink their teeth into our very souls and bodies. Then we know resurrection!
As we gather for the celebration of the glorious Resurrection of the Lord, we are reminded that if we seek signs, we get a stumbling block. If we seek worldly wisdom, we get foolishness. Great Lent has been the effort to stop looking for signs, stop looking for worldly wisdom; really, to stop looking to ourselves as the answer. St. John Chrysostom, in his Paschal Sermon, reminds us that whether we have labored from the first moment or the eleventh hour, Christ is Risen! Pardon shines forth from the grave and we who have been held captive by sin and death are liberated. Let us not lose the past forty days and our journey through darkness, death, defeat and Golgotha, no matter the strength or lack thereof of the effort, by simply singing joyfully for a bit, breaking the fast (finally, we made it!), taking our kids to Easter Egg hunts and then returning to the lives we live no different than before. Let us not neuter the Grace of God by loving signs and worldly wisdom, instead of the gift of the Risen Christ! If He is risen, so are we! We are called to live like resurrected human beings.
Brothers and Sisters, rejoice! We live in Him and walk with Him so that we, too, might be glorified. He destroyed signs and worldly wisdom that we might be freed from being earthbound instead of heaven sent. May the joy, peace, and light of the Day without End fill each of your hearts and souls!