Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana
‘Do not fear’, said the angel of the Lord to the myrrh-bearing women, who were overcome with ‘fear and amazement’ at the sight of the empty tomb. ‘For I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. He has risen, as he said’ (Matth. 28, 6) Shortly afterwards, the risen Christ Himself ‘says to them “Do not fear”’. Thereafter, to the group of His cowering and fearful disciples, He declares: ‘Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts?’ (Luke 24, 38). He showed them the imprints of the crucifixion on his hands and feet, confirming the miraculous event of His Resurrection by His presence.
‘Do not fear’. The enduring message of the Resurrection proclaims our liberation from every cause of fear. Christ’s victory destroyed the dominion of the demonic forces, bridged the gap between God and humankind and restored relations between them. The ontological significance of the Cross and Resurrection was revealed in a unique way by Saint Paul: Jesus became human and accepted His Passion ‘so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death’ (Heb. 2, 14-15). The risen Lord is now the beginning of a new humanity: ‘he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy (Col. 1, 18). With Christ’s resurrection, a new mode of existence has begun for humankind. The certainty of the Resurrection, the conviction that He’d been given ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ (Matth. 28, 19) liberated the disciples from every form of fear and anxiety. And it transformed them into bold and courageous preachers of the new life in Christ.
‘Do not fear’. These days, there has been an increase in the fears that threaten our lives. Recently, in particular, these have been intensified by the general ordeal caused by the global economic crisis. New and old fears surround our thoughts and crush our heart. In this oppressive atmosphere, then, the feast of the Resurrection is a call to all the faithful to walk towards liberty, away from fear.
From the fear that makes enemies of us, from the fear that creates injustice and cruelty in our society. From the fear of the multitude of sins that invade our existence and warp it. From the fear of pain, indigence, sickness, loneliness, from the dangers and sorrows that threaten our lives. From the fear of the pressing problems of everyday life. From the fear of the unknown, of failure, of uncertainty over the future. And the culmination of the message of the Resurrection is liberation from the fear of death, ours and that of our loved ones, fear that human life will be crushed. The feast of the Resurrection isn’t merely an announcement, but an invitation to share in the freedom that Christ has given us.
This freedom, is, of course, founded on faith. When the Church proclaims joyfully that ‘Christ has risen’ it does not attempt to make arguments to enforce the truth it asserts. ‘As many as believe! ‘Happy are they who believe…’. Provided, of course, as Saint Paul points out, that we remain firm and well-grounded in the faith: ‘not moving from the hope of the gospel’ (Col. 1, 23).
Christ’s Resurrection dispels fear because the latter is incompatible with His overwhelming power, and, particularly on this glorious feast, we’re called upon to feel ‘what is the immeasurable greatness of his [God’s] power (Eph. 1, 19). ‘God put this power to work in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come’ (ibid. 20-21).
This liberation from freedom, the gift of our Resurrected Christ, has to shape our attitude to life. ‘For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters’, but with the clear admonition, ‘do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love serve one another’ (Gal. 5, 13).
Through His sacrifice on the Cross and the victory of His Resurrection, Christ, the personification and incarnate love of God, affirmed the unique power of love, which liberates us from any and every kind of fear. Those who are united to him in faith and love are enabled to experience the truth revealed by Saint John the Evangelist: ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment. Those who fear are not made perfect in love.
Let us, then, enjoy our liberation from every form of fear, especially in these times. Let us deepen our faith and love in the Victor over death, the Lord of our life. And let us remind our fearful brothers and sisters that ‘Christ has risen’.