The Resurrection of Christ

The life and glory that the saints in heaven now enjoy are rooted in the Resurrection of Christ, which was not a mere resuscitation (like that experienced by Lazarus, who eventually died again), but a passage to immortal life. Through his death and resurrection, Christ trampled down death through the power of the Father, which resides in him as the only begotten Son. He is therefore the source of life and glory, and through our baptismal union with him, that life-giving power now flows into us as well, so that we now share his resurrected life (Rom 6:4, 8:11). That is why St. Paul declared that Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light (2 Tim 1:10). The saints—that is, all baptized Christians who live out their faith in Christ—share Christ’s resurrection glory (Rom 8:30, 2 Cor 3:18).

The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith, which is why the Icon of the Resurrection1 adorns the far east wall of every Orthodox church. When we stand in church, our eyes focus upon His Resurrection and upon the life that flows from him. That is why Christians do not fear death, for even now we share the immortal and eternal life of Christ, so that our death will not mean our destruction, but merely our stepping closer to Christ (2 Cor 5:8, Phil 1:23). Because Christ shares His Resurrection victory with us, we now live in a death-free zone.

We find this emphasis on the Resurrection in our hymns as well as our icons. Every Sunday commemorates the Resurrection of Christ in the weekly hymnic cycle,2 and the troparia and kontakia hymns sung on that day concern Christ’s Resurrection. Yet the resurrected glory of Christ is not his alone; He shares it with all his people. That is the reason the saints live in heavenly glory. It is also the reason we can speak to them. Because we are one with Christ, we are also one with everyone else who is one with him. Death cannot separate us from him, and so it cannot separate us from one another either, for Christ has abolished death. This unity of all the Christians with one another in the risen Christ is what is meant by the term “the communion of saints.”


Footnotes

  1. Or, more precisely, of Christ’s “harrowing of Hades.”

  2. Just as every Monday commemorates the angels, every Tuesday St. John the Baptist, and every Friday the Cross.