The Inner Existential Celebration of Christ's Resurrection
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
Christ's Resurrection should not be celebrated as a historical or social event, but as existential, which means that it should be a participation in the grace of the Resurrection. The fasting which precedes the feast during the whole of Great Lent, the ascetic struggle, aims at the best participation in the mystery of the Resurrection. In order to be successful, however, this requires, as all the Fathers teach, purification of the senses of both body and soul. St. John of Damascus sings: "Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ, radiant with the ineffable light of the Resurrection, and shall hear Him saying clearly, 'Rejoice!', as we sing the triumphant hymns!" Thus purification is a necessary condition for vision of God and communion with God. St. Gregory the Theologian says: "Therefore one must be purified, then one must converse in purity."
The purpose of the spiritual life is for one to be united with the Risen Christ, to see Him in one's heart. Christ is risen in our heart, mortifying the passionate thoughts which are present there under the influence of the demons and overcoming the impassioned representations and preoccupations of sin, just as He overcame the seals of the tomb (St. Maximus the Confessor). Therefore it is not a question of an outward symbolic celebration, but of an inner and existential one. In this light St. Gregory the Theologian recommends that we should not celebrate in a festive and worldly manner, but in a godly and heavenly manner.
Participation in the mystery of the Resurrection is an experience of deification. He who has been initiated into the ineffable power of the Resurrection has realized from experience what Christ's purpose was in creating the world (St. Maximus the Confessor). In reality, man was created in order to attain deification, and the world to share in the sanctification through man. Then he who is initiated into this ineffable power of the mystery of the Resurrection attains deification and fulfills the purpose of his existence. Thus he acquires greater knowledge.
The Apostle Paul commends this experience of life, and therefore he writes that we have been buried through holy Baptism with Christ into His death, "that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). This rebirth is essential, because otherwise man will die spiritually, according to the words of the Apostle Paul: "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh and you will live" (Rom. 8:13).