Life is a Mystery - A Paschal Mystery
Life is a mystery. It is a mysterious journey of joys and pains, of love and of suffering. It’s so easy to look around and see how beautiful life is, and yet how unfair life is as well. Think of the family you come from. Look at the country in which we are born? Reflect on the opportunities, as well as the grave challenges you’ve faced throughout your life. When we carefully look at our life story we can surely see that each of us have been blessed in countless ways, while we may also see how we’ve faced greater difficulties and challenges than others. We may think that some have journeys which seem much easier than our own. Of course, only God knows the real and entire life story of each person, and when we come face to face with Him on the last day, only He will truly know what He gave us, and what we did with all He gave us.
Life is a mystery.
I’ve been thinking all week long about the Christians in Sri Lanka, who last weekend on their Easter Sunday were murdered as they celebrated the holiest day of the year, the joyous day of Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s hard to even imagine going to Church for Pascha and experiencing the devastation of a suicide bombing from people so confused and broken in their darkness that they actually think they are doing God’s will by killing others. It’s hard to comprehend.
Life is a truly a mystery.
And where was God when that terrible tragedy occurred, and when other such horrible events happen in the world and in our lives? Well, part of life’s mystery is that God was with the Sri Lankan Christians being bloodied and traumatized and killed Himself. Our God isn’t a God who stands at a distance watching our pain and suffering? He isn’t simply with us, as a companion, but He actually is there experiencing all our trauma and tragedy Himself. God isn’t someone who doesn’t dirty Himself with the horrors and ordeals of life. He is right there in the middle of the tragedy, standing with the people who are suffering, suffering Himself with the people. He is tasting the hatred and rejection of others; He Himself is being maimed and murdered along with His beloved children!
Yes, God is all-powerful and all-mighty, yet the paradox we experienced through Christ’s week of Passion during Holy Week is precisely that the Lord is the God of mystery. He voluntarily accepts to be betrayed, rejected, despised, tortured, and viciously murdered on the Cross. He willingly accepts to die and go into the darkest depths of Hades, tasting the greatest horror of humanity, death itself.
God was in the midst of those Sri Lanka Christians experiencing the violence and death Himself, just as He experiences every evil act committed against any of His children. That is the God we believe in and worship!
Life is a mystery - a life full of the mystery of suffering, of violence, of darkness, of evil and of death. We can see it every day in the news around the world, as well as from people we know, and maybe even from our own life experience.
Yet, what we remember and celebrate today on Pascha is that the mystery of life doesn’t end with evil conquering goodness, with hatred winning over love, with darkness outlasting the Light, or with death prevailing over life! Jesus did not remain in the tomb! Death could not contain Him! Christ experienced His Passion yet rose out of the tomb and stands victoriously alive today! And this victory is what gives meaning to life, to our life, especially when it seems like such a mystery.
On Holy and Good Friday, one hymn beautifully expressed this ultimate victory. We sang, “Hades was pierced in the heart and was consumed by the force of Divine Fire for the salvation of the world.” Yes, Jesus Christ suffering a humiliating and painful death on the Cross, He was buried and left for dead, just like all humanity before Him, yet the story did not end there!
Christ is Risen, and through His Resurrection He pierced Hades in the heart and brought salvation to the world. Jesus revealed that there is a different ending to His story, and a different ending to our story!
The passion of Christ entailed suffering and death, yet in the midst of evil and darkness, Christ’s power shines forth. His love prevails. Satan can’t hold Jesus in the depths of darkness, just like he can’t hold God’s people in any form of darkness either.
When we choose to participate, truly partake, in Christ’s Resurrection, our life radically changes! We can’t ever remain discouraged; we never lose hope; we never despair; we won’t allow darkness to prevail in our lives; because we know that
Christ is Risen! and He has defeated all darkness and evil.
Christ is Risen! and He has overcome the sin of the world .
Christ is Risen! and fear is vanquished!
Christ is Risen! and suffering will not remain!
Christ is Risen! and the doors of paradise are opened for all who believe!
Christ is Risen! and He has annihilated death itself!
Through His resurrection, we see life through a new, joyous and victorious prism. We can’t stay hopeless when we know that we have a God who loves us so much that He willingly died in our place! Our celebration of Pascha marks a new era in human history, in our life story! As St. John Chrysostom so eloquently emphasizes in His famous Paschal Sermon:
“Forgiveness has dawned from the tomb, so let no one grieve over their sins!
The Savior’s death has set us free, so let no one fear death!
Christ has destroyed death by enduring it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive!
Christ is Risen and the Hell is overthrown.
Christ is Risen and life is liberated.
Christ is Risen and not one dead remains in the grave.”
Let us invite the Risen Lord to enter anew our livesand let us make His victorious resurrection central in our life story. Life is a mystery, yet when we understand that God is with us throughout that mystery, and that His victory over death is our own victory over darkness and evil and death itself, then we will have a new understanding to our life story. The mystery of life will bcome a mystery filled with excitement, joy and hope.
Christ is Risen. Christos Anesti!
Sunday of the 7th Ecumenical Council; Carpus, Papylus, Agathodorus, & Agathonica, the Martyrs of Pergamus; Benjamin the Deacon; Chryssi the New Martyr of Greece; Florentios the Martyr of Thessaloniki; Meletios of Pegas, Patriarch of Alexandria
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Holy Land Pilgrimage 2019