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On Faith
The Rev. Anastasi St. Antony

Orthodox Easter opens
joyous season

You may be thinking, "Isn't Easter over already?" Not for Orthodox Christians.

Sunday, May 1, is the day that we celebrate the glorious Feast of Resurrection, or Easter. We use the lunar-based Julian calendar to determine the date for the Feast of Resurrection, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar used by western Christians.

The faithful prepare themselves for this feast by fasting, praying, reading the Bible and repenting from any sin they have committed. Church services during Holy Week, the week before the feast, correspond with the journey, the teachings and the events that lead up to Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. The focus of this "Feast of Feasts" is on Jesus Christ, the king of glory who rose from the dead and gives great hope to all those who believe in him.

Orthodox Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the blameless God-Man who truly died on the cross in the flesh and truly rose from the dead on the third day. The significance of this event is that God united himself to we human beings in the person of Jesus Christ and guided us in his path of victory over corruption and death.

Now, that last sentence is full of loaded terms. However, it can be summed up in this: As Christ rose from the dead, he will also gloriously raise our bodies from death and grant us an eternal inheritance with him in his heavenly kingdom.

Belief in the resurrection is a great source of courage and strength in a world of grief, pain, injustice and war. Christian martyrs throughout the ages prayed for their persecutors and sang joyful praises to God, even while being led to their deaths. The secret behind their joy is the resurrection of Christ.

The joy continues in the period after the Feast of Resurrection, known as "the Holy Fifty Days." During this spiritually joyous season, there is no fasting and no mournful tune. If someone were to pass away during this season, we would joyfully chant the resurrection hymn, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and bestowing life to those in the tombs." The anticipation of humankind's resurrection is a direct result of Jesus Christ's triumphant resurrection.

The theme of resurrection continues beyond the Holy Fifty Days. The Nicene Creed is proclaimed in every Orthodox prayer service throughout the year. It concludes with the words "...we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the coming age. Amen."

The resurrection is a very important and personal event for every believer. The Coptic Orthodox Church has instituted a canonical book of hours to assist the faithful with their daily prayers. The first hour is prayed in the morning, after rising from sleep, commemorating our Lord Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. We give thanks to God at the start of each day, and we glorify him for his holy resurrection.

The resurrection is everyday and for everyone. Jesus Christ rose from the dead to give life to everyone. On Earth, this message is proclaimed in the Bible through his church. The way to partaking of Christ's resurrection is beginning to live that life of resurrection here on earth, a life of love, joy, holiness and hope.

We invite you to attend Holy Week services and pray with us.

The Rev. Anastasi St. Antony is a priest at St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church, 1052 Ilima Drive. He can be reached at 277-8353.

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