The Word Magazine April 1980 Page 15
homily by father james c. meena
A Dead God?
The words spoken by the young man in the long white robe, whom the Ointment-bearing women found at the tomb when they went to anoint the body of Jesus (St. Mark 16:6) ring down through the centuries in the most challenging terms. “You seek” are the first words of this statement; “You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is not here. He is Risen. Behold the place where they laid Him.”
You and I go through life “seeking” day by day. Each of us seeks for different things. Some look for security, some for peace of heart, some for the best formula to get along with our neighbors and families, some for financial and career success, some for intellectual achievement. Each of us has labeled that for which we think we are searching. But in reality each of us is looking for that source of power greater than ourselves by which we might somehow reconcile ourselves with life and with the seeming inequities of life.
Let’s face it. No one ever promised that life in this world had to be good or sweet or peaceful or enriched materially or intellectually. Those of us who believe Christ know what we are searching for even though we sometimes feel that the object of our search is nebulous because we becloud that object by our own intellectual thrashing about. We go to the tomb to look for a corpse and yet we can’t accept the statement of the angel who says: I know for whom you are looking . . . You are looking for Him who taught you life. But “He is not here. He is Risen. Look at the place where they laid Him.”
Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome and all those faithful women who had been devoted to Christ in His lifetime expressed their loyalty even in His death by coming to His tomb to anoint Him against mortal corruption, to somehow retard the decomposition of that body which they held to be so precious. Even they, when they heard the statement of the angel, were afraid. They went back, according to one of the accounts of the Apostles, “and they said nothing to any man.”
Rather than rejoicing, rather than be filled with the great spirit of victory and the conquest of death by Him who had promised them that He would rise, they were afraid. They could not accept. How like them we are, you and I. We give lip service to our faith, to our Christianity, to being members of the Orthodox Family of God, but when it comes right down to basics we are very much like these pious women. We go to anoint a corpse and we are frustrated when we find not death but a statement of life!
Jesus Christ, and all that which is taught in His name through His Church is not religion. If you believe that being Christian means belonging to a religious institutional body, or if you believe that being Christian means following a “way of life,” then you believe incorrectly. “For I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly,” (St. John 10:10) said Christ. We have embraced life itself! How dare we to say “He is Risen,” and still worship a dead Messiah? How dare we say that we have embraced Him who has risen and conquered death and still go through life as if we were going to the tomb to anoint a corpse?
We worship together in the Eucharistic celebration for more than an hour and we walk together liturgically through the life of Christ from all the prophecies that were spoken of Him, His teachings, His life and for about two minutes we dwell on His death. That’s all! And the rest of the time it’s Resurrection! Victory! The Conquest of death and the promise of eternal life for all those who believe. “We trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe,” (I Timothy 4:10).
Some of us believe that all of this “religion” is just so much ritual and so much social necessity. That’s too bad, because we are missing the whole point of being Christian in accordance with the Orthodox faith . . . The Right Believing Faith . . . that is living! That’s what it means to be a Christian . . . Living as Christ wants you to live… Living as though you lived with Christ . . . Living as though Christ is in you and you in Him. Believe in Christ, be committed to Christ, and it is impossible for you in your lifestyle to contradict the things which He demands of you.
“I am the Resurrection and the life,” He said. “God is the God not of the dead but of the living.” If you are alive you are in Christ. If you are in Christ you are alive! You cannot worship a dead God! If you believe that Jesus died and rose again from the dead and that by His great power, God will bring all those who believe in Jesus with Him in the Resurrection, and if you believe, with your whole heart when we sing “Christ is Risen” that we are proclaiming the victorious cry of the Church that resounds through the ages, that we are repeating the words of the Angel to the Myrrh-Bearing Women, “He is not here. He is Risen, come and see the place where they laid Him,” you are part of Him already.
Forgive me if I seem to berate you, dear reader, for sometimes I become anxious for your oneness with Christ and I lose sight of your humanness. But Jesus never loses sight of our human frailties. St. Athanasios put it perfectly when he said: “God became man so that men might become God.” Christ nullified our corruptible humanity. He set us apart from the world and paid a great price in order that we might be different, that you and I might be alive rather than dead. That means something to me and I hope it means something to you as well.
As we exclaim, time after time after time, “Christ is Risen,” let it be with conviction and let that conviction so transform the style of our lives that we never again bow down to a dead God.