No. EN 292/19
By the Grace of God
Ignatius Aphrem II
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church
Our Beloved Children in Christ,
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24: 5)
In Christianity, death is not the end; for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14: 6), casts away nothingness, end, perishing, and death from the heart of those who believe, and fills it with hope, peace, and full joy. Through His Incarnation, our Lord Jesus closes the gap caused by the disobedience of Adam. He starts a New Testament where the relation between God and man is renewed, and man is newly created, because: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (II Corinthians 5: 17)
Through His death, our Lord Jesus showed full obedience, for He “became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (cf. Philippians 2: 8), in order to bring back Adam – the disobedient, to his original state. Mor Jacob of Serugh (+521) illustrates this in one of his homilies: “ܠܡܳܪܰܢ ܩܰܒܪܐ ܘܠܳܐܕܳܡ ܓܰܢܬܐ ܕܡܰܠܝܐ ܚܰܝ̈ܶܐ܆ ܚܰܣܝܐ ܒܰܫܝܽܘܠ ܘܚܰܝܳܒ ܡܰܘܬܐ ܒܶܝܬ ܐܺܝ̈ܠܳܢܶܐ” (The tomb became our Lord’s, and paradise – full of life – Adam’s, the Just in Sheol, and he who is deserving death [enjoys living] among the trees). Hence, our Lord made it clear that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16). Indeed, “if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (I Corinthians 15: 14). However, death has now come to an end by Resurrection, and man has returned back to the bosom of the Father, through the complete reconciliation and the eternal peace realized between the creation and the Creator.
The temptations and continuous changes in this world occupy the thought of man and blind his mind, so that he abandons faith and loses hope; this may lead him to sink in doubt, fear, and despair, and forget that, through Resurrection, he acquired a special status before God, and a glorious victory over the god of this age.
Luke, the Evangelist, tells us that the women – carrying spices, were perplexed, afraid, and bowing their faces to the earth, for they found the tomb empty, and they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus (cf. Luke 24: 4-5). We, nonetheless, children of the Resurrection, refuse to submit to despair and fear, for we believe that our Lord “is not here [in the tomb], but is risen” (Luke 24: 50), and we know exactly where to find Him. We have full faith that He gives us certainty instead of doubt, peace of mind instead of fear, and He raises our heads and faces as sons and daughters, and rolls before us all stones that hinder us from approaching Him and uniting with Him. Amid wars, tribulation, and pain, the great light of Resurrection shines, casting away all forms of grief and concern, and revealing before us the path which we should walk with firmness, determination, and strength. Amid heavy emigration, we carry, from this Orient, the Yoke of the Risen Christ and the good tidings of His Holy Gospel wherever we are, and to whomever we meet. We look towards the future, trusting God who defeated death and gave us victory, driving fear away from us, and fixing our eyes upwards, spiritually ascending and reaching the joy of the Resurrection. A joy which assures us that our two beloved Archbishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yaziji and Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim, are in the hands of our Merciful Lord Who is able to protect them and bring them back safely to their flock, that we may continue to lift up our eyes towards Him, Who is seated in Glory at the right side of His Father, because from Him we receive our strength and hope. In this manner, we show how certain our knowledge is that our Savior is living (cf. Job 19: 25), thus seek not “living among the dead” (Luke 24: 5).
On this glorious feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray the Lord to bless you with His grace, so that you may always celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord, and unceasingly glorify the Living God amid His Holy Church.
Christ is Risen… He is Risen indeed!