Monday, May 21, 2012

Fr. Georges Massouh: The Resurrection and Witness to the Truth

The Arabic original can be found here.

 The Resurrection and Witness to the Truth

"Christ is risen. Indeed He is risen," Christians call out during the glorious Feast of Pascha. Christianity, at root, is based on faith in Christ's resurrection from the dead after He was crucified and buried. Without the Resurrection, Christianity is futile. Paul speaks of this in his first letter to the Corinthians: "If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty" (1 Corinthians 15:14). The Apostle himself confirms that Christ's resurrection precedes the resurrection of the faithful in Him, when he says, "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:12).

This faith in the Resurrection made the first Christians face dangers, persecutions, tortures, and martyrdom without fear or hesitation. Their conviction was deeply-rooted that death is merely a passage into true, everlasting life: "So why do we stand in jeopardy every hour?" (1 Corinthians 15:30). Thus the Resurrection freed man of his earthenness and released him into a space of freedom that leads him to profess the truth, no matter how high the price.

Christianity is not limited to a system of beliefs, slogans, and ethics. It is a way of life based on imitating Christ in all things. Christ said to His disciples after washing their feet on the night He was given over for crucifixion, "I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:15). The cross is the most important thing that He gave them as an example in their life: "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mark 8:34). And so, the beginning of faith in God is man's denial of himself.

Christ did not come with philosophical theories, a complex dogmatic system,  a rigid law, or transcendent reflections about the reality surrounding man. He called for practicing the act of absolute love: "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends" (John 15:12-13). The life of love, which sometimes requires sacrificing the self to the point of death, is the sole criterion of true faith.

Christians are not acting truthfully if the cross is for them merely a banner that they wave here and there or an ornament that they place on their chest to boast and flaunt. They are not acting truthfully if celebration of Christ's resurrection does not mean faith in their own resurrection along with Him, and an absence of fear in facing whatever fate awaits them. They are not acting truthfully if they lose hope in bearing witness-- in word, in deed, or in death-- that they believe in Him. All dogma becomes vain and untenable when it is not lived and practiced in the depths of those who believe in it.

"For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37), said Christ at His trial before the governor Pilate. The Islamic tradition confirms this when it insists that Christ is "the word of truth" (Surat Maryam 34). The price for this witness to the truth was death on the cross, but also resurrection from the dead. Christ does not need for people to rejoice in His resurrection, but rather He desires that they bear their cross just as He bore His cross. And so they rejoice and He rejoices with them in their resurrection that, without a doubt, shall come. It is hoped that He will rejoice in them more than they rejoice in Him and in what He did for their sake and for the sake of the world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it is important to realize that our job is to act the way Christ and God the Father intended for us to act as so instead of asking "What would Christ do?" rather asking "What would Christ want me to do?" because if Christ would have done something it would happen because he is the Son of God.