Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. Lo, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Hail!” And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Matthew 28:1-10 Bright Wednesday
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
The four Gospels each have an account of the Resurrection, and for the next four days, we will examine them. There are slight differences between each Gospel account, but that doesn’t make the Resurrection any less true. If any four people describe an event, there are going to be differences in their accounts. For instance, if four people describe the Resurrection service in the Orthodox Church, one might write, “It was dark and we lit candles.” Another might say “We went outside and sang ‘Christ is Risen.’” Another might say, “We lit candles and then we went outside.” And the fourth might say “We heard a Gospel reading and then we sang.” All four versions with be truthful because all of those things happened. This is how one accounts for four similar but distinctly different accounts of the Resurrection, one told in each of the four Gospels.
The first account that we hear read in the church is from the Gospel of St. Matthew. It is read on Holy Saturday at the Vesperal Liturgy. Saint Matthew’s account is the only one that gives a description of the actual moment of the Resurrection. It is the only account that mentions an earthquake and an angel coming down from heaven and rolling back the stone.
The tomb was being guarded by a detachment of Roman soldiers. The stone that had been rolled over the entrance to the tomb was very large and very heavy. It had also been sealed over the tomb. There was a great earthquake. An angel came and rolled away the stone. The purpose of the angel rolling the stone was not so Christ could walk out of the tomb. In His Divinity, He could have and would have passed right through the stone. (In John 20:19, which we will examine in a later reflection, we read that Jesus passed through the doors to encounter the Disciples later that day. He most certainly would have been able to pass through the stone over the door of the tomb.) The purpose of the angel rolling the stone back was to show that the tomb was empty.
As we will read in the other Gospel accounts, it was the women who were the first witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ. There is only one angel in the account from Matthew. And the angel tells the women not to be afraid. He refers to the crucifixion—“You seek Jesus who was crucified.” There is no shying away from the heinous manner in which Jesus was killed. This points to the “glory” of the cross, rather than seeing it as a sign of shame. In Matthew’s account, the women leave the tomb and run to tell the disciples. In other accounts, they are afraid and tell no one immediately.
While on the way, the women are met by Jesus. They immediately recognize Him and worship Him. He directs them to tell the Disciples that He is going to Galilee. Interesting that He would go there, since Galilee was primarily Gentile territory. He chooses Galilee because the Resurrection was for the salvation of all peoples, not only the Jews.
Finally the Resurrection is necessary. Saint Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:17, that “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Dying on the Cross for our sins was necessary, but death is only conquered through the Resurrection of Christ.
Even though You descended into the grave, O Immortal One, You destroyed the power of Hades; and You arose as a victor, O Christ our God, saying to the myrrh-bearing Women, “Hail!” and to Your Apostles granting peace; You also grant resurrection to the fallen. (Kontakion of the Paschal Season, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Continue to rejoice in the Resurrection today!
Note: There is no fasting the week after Pascha. You can eat anything all week and still receive Communion provided you not eat breakfast the morning you receive.
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