Dear Friend of St. Athanasius Academy:
As we joyfully celebrate Christ's Resurrection and coming
Ascension, I offer for your enjoyment some comments from St.
Cyril of Alexandria on Christ's appearance to His Apostles,
after His Resurrection, and His commission for them to evangelize
the whole world:
"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
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
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.