Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!
These words that we just said: they are so much more than a joyful Easter greeting. To greet one another with these words is to proclaim to each other the most fundamental, the most significant, the most impactful, the greatest truth of our hope, both at this moment and as our last moment nears.
St Paul says this clearly with these words:
[Now] if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14
And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. … 16
For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17
And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18
Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. … 20
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21
For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
So to say “Christ is risen” is to proclaim your certainty that Our Lord’s resurrection from the dead makes a difference for you. To say “Christ is risen” is to declare that you live in the confidence that you shall not die but live. It is to be able to stand over a grave and say “This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous shall enter.”
That is what it means when we say, “Christ is risen!” It is not just the celebration of an historical fact. Our Paschal greeting also means that those who die trusting in the Lord will also be raised to stand with the Lord in His heavenly kingdom, celebrating in eternity the Divine Liturgy that we celebrate here on earth.
We will make this eternal celebration in glorified bodies. And so that is also what “Christ is risen” means. It means that your body, the actual physical body that is inseparable from who you are, the body that God carefully fashioned and created—individually, uniquely, for you—that body is not to be despised or belittled or abused or mutilated. For it is both a gift, and a promise.
Your body is a gift because, even though it is truly yours, you had nothing to do with its shape, its size, its characteristics, its genetics, its background. All that you are, in your body, is a gift from God. So don’t denigrate it, and don’t try to make it something it is not, or something it was not given by God to be. Instead, receive, accept, and rejoice in this gift—and all the gifts—that God graciously gives.
More than that, remember that Our Lord decidedly and unequivocally has determined to knit our flesh to His divine nature. Without an constraint or necessity, He has become one of us. So that He might cleanse and scrub us clean from our brokenness, our ungodly passions, our perverse pleasures—everything that contributes to the death of body and that threatens our life in God. This is why Christ came in our flesh, why He was tempted, why He suffered, and why He died—to purge our bodies of their rottenness, to convert our suffering into a means for renovation, to make our death the way to fullness of life, and to restore in us His image.
Our Lord does this by taking our flesh into the grave, by burying the body He so lovingly made. Not to destroy it. Not to replace it. Not because it’s merely a shell. Heaven forbid!
For how can we think of being human without a body? How can you be you without being all that God made of you? And how can you truly be in God’s image if His image is merely a mirage or metaphor?
Because Christ Himself so honors your body by becoming flesh, because Christ Himself loves you in your body—with all its warts and charms, with all its disorderliness and promise—because Christ loves you with your body, and in your body—that is why Our Lord Jesus determined to sacrificed Himself on the cross and then rise from the dead.
He entered the grave with a body which suffered, and arose with a body incapable of suffering. He entered mortal, and arose immortal. He was buried in a body very much like yours, and came out with a glorious body. Not a complete different body, but the same body transformed.
So the same Jesus, in His flesh, who went into the tomb, is the same Jesus, in that exact same flesh, who rose from the dead.
And Our Lord retained His body in order to glorify your body. He retained His body not to annihilate, but to transform your body.
That is the great and wonderful promise that lies behind the words, “Christ is risen!” For, as I said before, the words “Christ is risen” are so much more than a joyful Easter greeting. Those words hold the promise of our resurrection.
But not simply our resurrection on the last day. Even more so, our resurrection now, today, here. For we kneel before altar trembling, blemished, perhaps even disfigured inside or out. Yet we arise glorified, renovated, refreshed, filled with hope. And why? Because we have received, not a reminder, not a figure, not a picture, but the actual flesh and blood of Our Resurrected Lord.
And with His glorified Body and Blood coursing through our veins, we now have the hope, the promise, and the truth of His resurrection in our bodies—not just for the future, but also for today.
Let us, therefore, rejoice with exceeding joy. For the resurrection of Jesus means that our bodies—the most unique and significant part of who we are, the very image of God Himself—all that makes you who you are is raised from the decay of sin, from the fear of hardship, from the distress of suffering, from the corruption of our passions, from the deterioration of your body. All of that is raised in Christ’s resurrection, so that we can stand unsullied, cleansed, purged, and restored before our heavenly Father; who, with His Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, throughout all ages or ages.
Christ is risen!