Day 17/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – If then he is not the God of the dead, let us live – St. John Chrysostom

Wherefore he says, “Awake you that sleep and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you.” (Ephesians 5:14)

By the sleeper and the dead, he means the man that is in sin; for he both exhales noisome odors like the dead, and is inactive like one that is asleep, and like him he sees nothing, but is dreaming, and forming fancies and illusions.

Some indeed read, “And you shall touch Christ”; but others, “And Christ shall shine upon you”; and it is rather this latter. Depart from sin, and you shall be able to behold Christ. For every one that does ill, hates the light, and comes not to the light (John 3:20). He therefore that does it not, comes to the light.

Now he is not saying this with reference to the unbelievers only, for many of the faithful, no less than unbelievers, hold fast by wickedness; no, some far more. Therefore to these also it is necessary to exclaim, “Awake, you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you.” To these it is fitting to say this also, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32). If then he is not the God of the dead, let us live.

[St. John Chrysostom, Homily 18 on Ephesians] 

Day 16/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Before new life, our previous must end – St. Basil of Caesarea

When mankind was estranged from him by disobedience, God our Saviour made a plan for raising us from our fall and restoring us to friendship with himself. According to this plan Christ came in the flesh, he showed us the gospel way of life, he suffered, died on the cross, was buried and rose from the dead. He did this so that we could be saved by imitation of him, and recover our original status as sons of God by adoption.

To attain holiness, then, we must not only pattern our lives on Christ’s by being gentle, humble and patient, we must also imitate him in his death. Taking Christ for his model, Paul said that he wanted to become like him in his death in the hope that he too would be raised from death to life.

We imitate Christ’s death by being buried with him in baptism. If we ask what this kind of burial means and what benefit we may hope to derive from it, it means first of all making a complete break with our former way of life, and our Lord himself said that this cannot be done unless a man is born again. In other words, we have to begin a new life, and we cannot do so until our previous life has been brought to an end.

When runners reach the turning point on a racecourse, they have to pause briefly before they can go back in the opposite direction. So also when we wish to reverse the direction of our lives there must be a pause, or a death, to mark the end of one life and the beginning of another.

Our descent into hell takes place when we imitate the burial of Christ by our baptism. The bodies of the baptised are in a sense buried in the water as a symbol of their renunciation of the sins of their unregenerate nature. As the Apostle says: The circumcision you have undergone is not an operation performed by human hands, but the complete stripping away of your unregenerate nature.

This is the circumcision that Christ gave us, and it is accomplished by our burial with him in baptism. Baptism cleanses the soul from the pollution of worldly thoughts and inclinations: You will wash me, says the psalmist, and I shall be whiter than snow. We receive this saving baptism only once because there was only one death and one resurrection for the salvation of the world, and baptism is its symbol.

[St. Basil the Great, De Spiritu Sancto] 

Day 15/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Resurrection of the soul – Mar Isaac the Syrian

Question: What is the resurrection of the soul, of which the Apostle speaks, saying, ‘If ye be risen with Christ’?, (Colossians 3:1).

Answer: When the Apostle said, ‘God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts’ (2 Corinthians 4:6) the resurrection, he showed this resurrection to be the exodus from the old state (which in the likeness of Sheol incarcerates a man so that the light of the Gospel will not shine mystically upon him. This is a breath of life through hope in the resurrection, and by it the dawning of divine wisdom shines in his heart), so that a man should become new, having nothing of the old man. This the prophet also says, ‘And I shall give them a new heart and a new spirit’ (Ezekiel 36:26). Then the image of Christ is formed in us through the Spirit of wisdom and the revelation of the knowledge of Him.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Homily 37]

Day 14/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Ⲧⲏⲛ Ⲁⲛⲁⲥⲧⲁⲥⲓⲛ – Coptic Orthodox Hymns

Ⲧⲏⲛ Ⲁⲛⲁⲥⲧⲁⲥⲓⲛ ⲥⲟⲩ Ⲭⲣⲓⲥⲧⲉ Ⲥⲱⲧⲏⲣ: ⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲓ ⲩⲙⲛⲟⲩⲥⲓⲛ ⲉⲛ ⲟⲩⲣⲁⲛⲓⲥ: ⲕⲉ ⲏ̀ⲙⲁⲥ ⲧⲟⲩⲥ ⲉ̀ⲡⲓ ⲅⲏⲥ ⲕⲁⲧⲁⲝⲓⲱⲥⲟⲛ: ⲉⲛ ⲕⲁⲑ ⲁⲣⲁ ⲕⲁⲣⲇⲓⲁ ⲥⲉ ⲇⲟⲝⲁⲍⲓⲛ.

Your Resurrection, Christ Savior, is praised by the angels in heaven; and make us on earth worthy with pure hearts to glorify You.

(Hymn prayed by Cantor Ibrahim Ayad)

[3rd Greek Part for the Resurrection Procession, Liturgy of the Word during the Feast of the Resurrection and Eastertide, Coptic Orthodox Church]

Day 10/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Let us offer ourselves – St. Gregory the Theologian

Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us — you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.

Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become God’s for His sake, since He for ours became Man. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich; (2 Corinthians 8:9. He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonoured that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the Fall of sin. Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us. But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.

As you see, He offers you a Shepherd; for this is what your Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep, is hoping and praying for, and he asks from you his subjects; and he gives you himself double instead of single, and makes the staff of his old age a staff for your spirit. And he adds to the inanimate temple a living one; to that exceedingly beautiful and heavenly shrine, this poor and small one, yet to him of great value, and built too with much sweat and many labours. Would that I could say it is worthy of his labours. And he places at your disposal all that belongs to him (O great generosity!— or it would be truer to say, O fatherly love!) his hoar hairs, his youth, the temple, the high priest, the testator, the heir, the discourses which you were longing for; and of these not such as are vain and poured out into the air, and which reach no further than the outward ear; but those which the Spirit writes and engraves on tables of stone, or of flesh, not merely superficially graven, nor easily to be rubbed off, but marked very deep, not with ink, but with grace.

These are the gifts given you by this august Abraham, this honourable and reverend Head, this Patriarch, this Restingplace of all good, this Standard of virtue, this Perfection of the Priesthood, who today is bringing to the Lord his willing Sacrifice, his only Son, him of the promise. Do you on your side offer to God and to us obedience to your Pastors, dwelling in a place of herbage, and being fed by water of refreshment; knowing your Shepherd well, and being known by him; (John 10:14) and following when he calls you as a Shepherd frankly through the door; but not following a stranger climbing up into the fold like a robber and a traitor; nor listening to a strange voice when such would take you away by stealth and scatter you from the truth on mountains, (Ezekiel 34:6) and in deserts, and pitfalls, and places which the Lord does not visit; and would lead you away from the sound Faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the One Power and Godhead, Whose Voice my sheep always heard (and may they always hear it), but with deceitful and corrupt words would tear them from their true Shepherd. From which may we all be kept, Shepherd and flock, as from a poisoned and deadly pasture; guiding and being guided far away from it, that we may all be one in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and unto the heavenly rest. To Whom be the glory and the might for ever and ever. Amen

[St. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 1]

Day 9/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Resurrection and martyrdom – St. Athanasius the Apostolic

If, then, it is by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ that death is trampled underfoot, it is clear that it is Christ Himself and none other Who is the Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power. Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the sojourn of the Savior and the death and resurrection of His body, it is despised; and obviously it is by the very Christ Who mounted on the cross that it has been destroyed and vanquished finally.

When the sun rises after the night and the whole world is lit up by it, nobody doubts that it is the sun which has thus shed its light everywhere and driven away the dark. Equally clear is it, since this utter scorning and trampling down of death has ensued upon the Savior’s manifestation in the body and His death on the cross, that it is He Himself Who brought death to nought and daily raises monuments to His victory in His own disciples.

How can you think otherwise, when you see men naturally weak hastening to death, unafraid at the prospect of corruption, fearless of the descent into Hades, even indeed with eager soul provoking it, not shrinking from tortures, but preferring thus to rush on death for Christ’s sake, rather than to remain in this present life? If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ’s religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as not to realize that Christ, to Whom these all bear witness, Himself gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross?

No one in his senses doubts that a snake is dead when he sees it trampled underfoot, especially when he knows how savage it used to be; nor, if he sees boys making fun of a lion, does he doubt that the brute is either dead or completely bereft of strength. These things can be seen with our own eyes, and it is the same with the conquest of death. Doubt no longer, then, when you see death mocked and scorned by those who believe in Christ, that by Christ death was destroyed, and the corruption that goes with it resolved and brought to end.

[St. Athanasius the Apostolic, On the Incarnation of the Word]

+Lord help us to consider our fathers the martyrs “whose faith” we “follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (cf.Heb 13:7). Let that same belief in the strength and glory of Your Resurrection live in us, that we proceed every day as martyrs, not necessarily in the physical sense, but in dying to the world spiritually, so that we may live for You+

Day 8/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Thomas Sunday – St. Cyril the Pillar of Faith

“And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then said He to Thomas, Reach here your finger, and see My Hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My Side: and be not faithless, but believing.” (Jn 20:26-27)

Christ appeared once more unto His disciples miraculously by His Divine power. For He did not, like us, bid them open the doors for Him to enter in, but disdaining, as it were, the natural sequence of events, passed within the doors, and unexpectedly appeared in the middle of the room, presenting the same kind of miracle before the sight of the blessed Thomas as He had performed on the former occasion. For he that was most deficient in faith had need of healing medicine.

He made use of the greeting so often on His Lips, and solemnly gave them the blessed assurance of peace, as a pattern unto us, as we have said before. One may well be amazed at the minuteness of detail shown in this passage. For such was the extreme accuracy that the compiler of this book took pains to observe, that he is not content with simply saying that Christ manifested Himself to the holy disciples, but explains that it was after eight days, and that they were gathered together. For what else can their being all brought together in one house mean?

We say this to point out the diligent care that the Apostle so admirably displays, and because Christ hereby has made clear unto us the occasion of our assembling, and gathering ourselves together on His account. For He visits, and in some sort dwells with, those assembled together for His sake, especially on the eighth day, that is, the Lord’s day. Let us reckon it up, if you so please: On the one occasion He appeared unto the other disciples; on the other, He manifested Himself to them, when Thomas was also present. It is written in the preceding passage: When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut, He stood in the midst.

Note, that it was on the first day of the week, that is, the Lord’s day, when the disciples were gathered together, that He was seen of them, and that likewise also He appeared to them on the eighth day following. And we must not, because he says eight days after, suppose that he means the ninth day, but that when he says this he includes the eighth day itself, on which He appeared, in the number given.

With good reason, then, are we accustomed to have sacred meetings in churches on the eighth day. And, to adopt the language of allegory, as the idea necessarily demands, we indeed close the doors, but yet Christ visits us and appears unto us all, both invisibly and also visibly; invisibly as God, but also visibly in the Body. He suffers us to touch His holy Flesh, and gives us thereof. For through the grace of God we are admitted to partake of the blessed Eucharist, receiving Christ into our hands, to the intent that we may firmly believe that He did in truth raise up the Temple of His Body.

For that the partaking of the blessed Eucharist is a confession of the Resurrection of Christ is clearly proved by His own Words, which He spake when He Himself performed the type of the mystery; for He brake bread, as it is written, and gave it to them, saying: This is My Body, which is given for you unto remission of sins: this do in remembrance of Me.

Participation, then, in the Divine mysteries, in addition to filling us with Divine blessedness, is a true confession and memorial of Christ’s dying and rising again for us and for our sake. Let us, therefore, after touching Christ’s Body, shrink back from unbelief in Him as utter ruin, and rather be found well grounded in the full assurance of faith

[St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John]

Some points of contemplation and prayer from the above:

+ Lord, thank you for supporting our weak faith when we are most in need of it+

+Lord grant us to stand together on the eighth day, Sunday, in your name together, even if we cannot physically be together but through technology we may, that You appear and dwell among us You promised, and grant us Your heavenly peace+

Day 7/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Hope of the Resurrection – St. Cyril of Jerusalem

The root of all good works is the hope of the Resurrection; for the expectation of the recompense nerves the soul to good works. For every labourer is ready to endure the toils, if he sees their reward in prospect; but when men weary themselves for nought, their heart soon sinks as well as their body. A soldier who expects a prize is ready for war, but no one is forward to die for a king who is indifferent about those who serve under him, and bestows no honours on their toils. In like manner every soul believing in a Resurrection is naturally careful of itself; but, disbelieving it, abandons itself to perdition. He who believes that his body shall remain to rise again, is careful of his robe, and defiles it not with fornication; but he who disbelieves the Resurrection, gives himself to fornication, and misuses his own body, as though it were not his own. Faith therefore in the Resurrection of the dead, is a great commandment and doctrine of the Holy Catholic (Universal) Church great and most necessary, though gainsaid by many, yet surely warranted by the truth. Greeks contradict it, Samaritans disbelieve it, heretics mutilate it; the contradiction is manifold, but the truth is uniform.

[St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetichal Lectures, 18]

+Lord thank you for your great love, and the hope of the Resurrection and happiness you have prepared for us. Help us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)+

Day 6/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – a transition from falsehood to truth – Pope Shenouda III

The resurrection is transition from the world of falsehood to the life of truth. From the world of evanescence to the world of immortality. From a world in which everything will be abolished after a time to an everlasting world in which there is no falsehood but well fixed truth. It is a world free from sin where men live with each other in association very pure, clear and everlasting. What else about the resurrection?

The Resurrection Is A Multi-Faceted Miracle: Here appears the miraculous power of God. How will the bodies be gathered once more after they changed into dust!? Isn’t it He who created and formed them from dust; from nothingness? Dust had been a nonentity before it existed. He who looks attentively at the resurrection from this side can consider the limitless power of God, our creator. It is enough for Him to wish and everything will be accomplished according to His will, even without an utterance. It is His will which is in root and essence an effective order, capable of doing everything. We consider the resurrection a miracle not owing to its difficulty but because our mind is unable to perceive how it takes l place!! But though the mind fails to comprehend that matter, yet faith can easily understand it. Thus, the resurrection is the creed of the believers.

[H. H. Pope Shenouda III of Thrice-Blessed Memory, Contemplations on the Resurrection]

Day 5/50 of Eastertide (Holy Fifty Days) – Let us remember the Resurrection to come – St. Cyril of Jerusalem

We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with Angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed. And righteously will God assign this portion to either company; for we do nothing without the body. We blaspheme with the mouth, and with the mouth we pray. With the body we commit fornication, and with the body we keep chastity. With the hand we rob, and by the hand we bestow alms; and the rest in like manner. Since then the body has been our minister in all things, it shall also share with us in the future the fruits of the past.

Therefore, brethren, let us be careful of our bodies, nor misuse them as though not our own. Let us not say like the heretics, that this vesture of the body belongs not to us, but let us be careful of it as our own; for we must give account to the Lord of all things done through the body. Say not, none sees me; think not, that there is no witness of the deed. Human witness oftentimes there is not; but He who fashioned us, an unerring witness, abides faithful in heaven , and beholds what you do. And the stains of sin also remain in the body; for as when a wound has gone deep into the body, even if there has been a healing, the scar remains, so sin wounds soul and body, and the marks of its scars remain in all; and they are removed only from those who receive the washing of Baptism. The past wounds therefore of soul and body God heals by Baptism; against future ones let us one and all jointly guard ourselves, that we may keep this vestment of the body pure, and may not for practising fornication and sensual indulgence or any other sin for a short season, lose the salvation of heaven, but may inherit the eternal kingdom of God; of which may God, of His own grace, deem all of you worthy.

[St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetichal Lectures, 18]

+Lord help us to control our bodies and overcome the lusts of the flesh by dwelling within You. We don’t have the power to fight, but by remembering that we are members of Your Body, we know that you have the power to fight for us, and we have only to ask and You will fight for us. Let us remember the coming Judgement and Resurrection; “Nail Your fear to my flesh, for I have feared Your judgements” (Ps 119:120), Your Holy Fear that we remember how worthless earthly lusts are, and how costly they are.+