The Hope of Easter Sunday
Written by Neil Simon
Christ is Risen! Indeed, Christ is Risen!
With the constant focus of the media on polarizing social issues and of the church hierarchy on moral righteousness, it is very easy to forget that Christianity’s central message revolves around the three gifts of the Holy Spirit: Faith, Hope, and Love (1 Cor 13:13). As we have just celebrated Easter Sunday, I felt that it would be appropriate to reflect on a tenet of Christianity that often gets overlooked: Hope.
As we all know, ever since the sin of Adam and Eve resulted in man being banished from the Garden of Eden, we have all been creatures of a fallen race. Orthodox theology teaches that even if we are not personally guilty of the sins of Adam and Eve, we bear the consequences of their actions, through the introduction of sin and death into our lives. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)
But on Easter Sunday, Jesus Christ completely changed everything. His sacrifice was an act of atonement on behalf of our sins and His resurrection proved that death could be defeated. “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:54-57). Through His resurrection, Christ has shown us that death is not the end, it is merely a stepping stone to our ultimate inheritance. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
From a secular perspective, hope can be described as the expression of a desire, but not one that is assured. However, from a Christian perspective, hope takes on a completely different dimension. Our hope is based on our faith in Jesus, for “Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21). Since Christian hope is a matter of faith, our hope is not wishful thinking, but instead full of confidence. Our hope looks forward to spending eternity in heaven with our Father.
To appreciate just how deeply hope is ingrained into Orthodox teachings, one needs to look no further than one of the most popular symbols in all of Christianity, the Crucifix. The Crucifix is the image of Jesus Christ nailed to the cross and is featured prominently throughout Roman Catholicism. However, one will never find a Crucifix in an Indian Orthodox Church, instead only finding bare crosses. For although the sacrifice and suffering of Christ on the Cross was important and necessary, it was the resurrection of Christ that was the climax of his life on Earth. Our focus lies in the hope that flows from Jesus’ victory. We no longer need to fear death for in the words of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “Christ has trampled death over death so we no longer need to worry about it. Death is only a victory for us Christians as it fulfills the hope and promise we long await for while we live in this temporary world.” Easter Sunday is an occasion for both the faithful living and departed to reflect and rejoice in the promise of eternal life as we await the Second Coming of Christ.