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Newsletter for April, 2010

Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:

In love of our newly departed Fr. Jack and his eternal remembrance, we offer below a teaching from an upcoming Academy booklet from the Gospel of John. It seems appropriate in this season of being freed from the fear of death and, in faith, learning to live in the hope of the Resurrection and the promise of the world to come.


Christ Is Risen!

"Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord" (John 20:19-20).

On the day Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, He also miraculously appeared to His disciples in the upper room, though all doors were shut. In so doing, He again reveals His divine ability to overcome nature when He deems it necessary for our sake. Let us not ask, then, "How?" but rather reflect on Him, Who, in body and soul, is enthroned with the Father and exercises Lordship over necessity itself, using means appropriate to His purpose. Thus let us not erroneously decide Christ rose without His human body, nor believe he set it aside, as if lacking importance, thereby severing Himself from the Temple He took at His Incarnation. Such false notions shake the very foundation of our faith and trust - His majestic Resurrection.

Remember the exclamation of Paul:

"If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up -- if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" (1 Cor. 15:14-17).

What, indeed, can be raised up except that which is fallen? How shall we expect to rise again, if Christ did not raise up His own Temple, making Himself, for us, the Firstfruits of those who are asleep and the Firstborn from the dead? Or, how will this mortal put on immortality (cf. 1 Cor. 15:53) if, as some think, it is lost in total annihilation? How does it escape this fate if it has no hope of a new life? So let us not then swerve from orthodoxy in the faith because a miracle was accomplished. Let us instead be wise and add this to the other marvelous works done by Christ.

Note how, by unexpectedly entering when the doors were shut, Christ once more showed He was God by Nature, and it was no other than He Who had dwelt among them. Further, by laying bare His wounded side and showing the print of the nails, He gave us absolute assurance that He had raised the Temple of His Body -- which had hung upon the Cross. To this, His Body, then, He had restored life, conquering death, which comes to all flesh, for He was by Nature both Life and God.

If as some irrationally believe, He did not rise again with His body, what need was there for Him to show them His hands and side? And, if He did not want His disciples to believe He had risen again in His own Body, why did He not appear in some other form -- thus, by rejecting the likeness of flesh, stirring up other thoughts in their minds? As is the truth, however, He thought it of such great importance that they should be convinced of the Resurrection of His Body, that when the time even seemed to call Him to change His Body into some form of indescribable and surpassing Majesty, He made it a point, in His Providence, to appear once more just has He had been when He walked among them -- so that He might not be thought to be wearing any other form than that in which He had also suffered crucifixion.

If His Body had not risen again after death, what sort of death would have been defeated and in what way was the power of corruption weakened? That defeat could not have been accomplished by the death of a single rational being or soul or angel -- only by the very Word of God. It is when the power of death affects only that which is doomed, by nature, to corruption, is the power of the Resurrection concerned with this, and with this alone, so that the dominion of the lord, of this world, might be done
away with.

This entry of our Lord through closed doors must be classed among the other miracles He worked here on earth. Having so entered, He greeted His holy disciples with the words, "Peace be with you," meaning by "peace," Himself. For when Christ is present among people, it follows that tranquillity of mind is also granted to them. Paul also proclaimed that this benefit is also granted to those who believe on Him, saying: "The peace of Christ, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts" (Phil. 4:7). By the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding, he means nothing else than His Spirit -- anyone who partakes of Whom shall be filled with everything that is good.

Of course those among the Jews whose minds were aroused to a frenzy of fury rejoiced when they saw Jesus nailed to the Cross, while the hearts of the disciples were heavy laden with an unbearable burden of sorrow. Because He is Life by nature, however, He overcame death and rose again. The joy of His enemies was extinguished, but the intense grief of the holy disciples was turned into joy, and nothing could rob or deprive them of their soul's delight. Christ, having died once for all to "put away sin" (Heb. 9:26), dies no more, as is written. For He is alive forevermore and will certainly preserve those whose hope is in Him, in unceasing joy. He once more greets them with His oft-repeated assurance, "Peace be with you" (v. 19) -- laying down, so to speak, this rule for the children of the Church.

With these words our Lord Jesus Christ ordained the disciples to be guides and teachers of the world -- and to be ministers of His Divine Mysteries. Also, because the time had now come, He told them to illuminate and enlighten not only Judea, but all under the sun, the peoples scattered throughout all lands, wherever they lived. Thus, the saying of Paul is true, "And no one takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God" (Heb. 5:4). For our Lord Jesus Christ called into His most glorious apostleship, before all others, His own disciples. When He did so, He firmly anchored the whole earth, which was nearly tottering and in the very act of falling -- as God, appointing men who were well able to support it, to be props of the whole.

In many ways, then, He explained the character of His own mission, saying:

'I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance' (Matt. 9:13). 'For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be save'(John 3:17).

Summing up - He says that as the Father sent Him, they too where being sent to call sinners to repentance and, as physicians of the Lord, to minister to those in great distress, both in body and soul. This would be done not by their own will alone, but the Will of Him who sent them. In this way, they began to save the world through their teaching, preaching and healing. We will, in fact, find the holy disciples eager to show the utmost zeal in doing all these things. This truth will be easily grasped for anyone who has examined the Acts of the Apostles and the words of the holy Paul" (St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John).

Thus, as St. Cyril notes, the Gospel entered the world and the message of His Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension began to be heard in all places. And it is to this goal ST. ATHANASIUS ACADEMY OF ORTHODOX THEOLOGY has committed itself, as best it's able. It is why we offer a Correspondence Study Program to all who can complete it - including prisoners, why we publish and mail out our many educational booklets. Most all, it is why we and more than 70 Orthodox Christians workers across the continent, give ourselves willingly to the arduous task of completing and making available the Orthodox Study Bible - Old and New Testament. Let no one underestimate the importance of the O.T. Scriptures to the fullness of our faith, its role in sustaining the Apostolic Truth, and bringing all of North America home to the Orthodox Church.


In Christ our Lord,


Paul Goetz

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