Protopresbyter Themistoklis Mourtzanos
‘Now behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly”. And the chains fell off his hands. Then the angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me” So he went out and followed him’ (Acts12, 7-9).
‘Arise quickly’. With these words, the angel woke Saint Peter the Apostle, who was in the prison of King Herod, who, having agreed to Christ’s death warrant, refused to believe that he had risen. He didn’t accept the fact that the Lord’s disciples, whom the Jewish authorities had thought they’d banished to the margins of society after Jesus’ violent death, were, in fact, preaching his resurrection and making people believe that he was the Redeemer, and was both God and human. And secular authority was prepared to eliminate anyone who wanted to remind it of the wound caused by its unjust, wicked, immoral and ungrateful behavior. God, however, had other plans. So, the angel came into the cell at night to show the chief among the apostles that God had heeded the prayers of the Christians, who didn’t want to lose Peter; and also to demonstrate that he, God, doesn’t condone the wickedness of this world, which believes it’s all-powerful and self-sufficient and that it’s washed God out of its life, with no thought for the consequences.
‘Arise quickly’. These words of the angel are directed to each of us. They urge us not to dwell on what we experienced in Passion Week and at the Resurrection as mere memories, but to prepare, to tie on the sandals of fervor and love, to fasten our belt round the garment of faith and to follow Christ in the presence of every angel of his, in the Church, in spiritual discourse, in the works performed by the saints and everyone who experiences Christ in their hearts. And we should return to the community of the Church, because that’s where the angel took Peter: to the community of the Church. He didn’t abandon him to make his way in the world by himself, but took him back to where he had been before, to his family and ours. Because this is the paramount message of the resurrection. That, armed with fervor, love and faith, we all need to find our community and to speak with our whole being about the Christ we’ve experienced; about the Christ to whom we pray. About the joy of the resurrection, his and our own. About the fact that we haven’t experienced a private event, but an experience which we share with the Church. That we’ve taken communion. That we’ve each rejoiced, in the presence of others. Tears and laughter. Defeat and victory. Christ is everything and is all things to everyone.
‘Arise quickly’. This is also the experience of our saints. Outside the community of the disciples, Saint Thomas doubted, vacillated, pondered, submitted to the power of reason and denied the experience of the disciples. Inside the community, he found his way again, his faith and his ‘good confession’. Saint George performed miracles not in order to gain glory for himself but to confirm the presence of Christ to the Church community; in order for the place, and the princess, to escape the clutches of the dragon/devil who tyrannizes people. To show the emperor and the assembled pagans that faith in Christ and in his resurrection is truth and life. To bring to the faith the wife of the emperor, the warlock who tried to rival him, the soldiers and all those others who felt that the truth is in faith. The saints responded to the invitation from heaven and offered their good witness, as they continue to do, living, as they do, until the end of the age. We’re also called upon to experience this call to action.
Let us, then, wake up and demonstrate in practice that we’re living the joy of the resurrection. Christ has risen!