May 8, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2009 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 The Prophecy of the Resurrection

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The resurrectional atmosphere of these days brings joy to all of us, because we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, Who is the Head of the Church, but also because we gain the certainty of our own resurrection. It is a feast that refers to Christ, but also to ourselves.

Christ rose and gave us the hope of our resurrection, first from our passions, which are an experience of death, and then from the death of our body. Man was not created by God to live with the passions of carnality, pretention and avarice, but neither to die. In Paradise, before the fall, man lived differently than he lives today, he had real communion with God, and with all creation, and he had the possibility of remaining immortal. But after the fall, pleasure and pain developed in man, and death came into his being. Thus, now with the Resurrection of Christ a new life begins, man experiences his own resurrection from the passions, he is freed from the tyranny of pleasure and pain, but he also acquires the certainty of the future resurrection of his body.

We see this in a wonderful way in a prophecy of the Prophet Ezekiel, which is read in the Holy Temples on Great Friday night, when we return to inside after the Epitaphios procession. It is on this day we chant the Matins of Holy Saturday, when Christ triumphed over hades and defeated death. By reading this prophecy, the Church wants to impart to us the certainty of Christ's victory over death and to assure us of our own resurrection.

In this text it appears that the Prophet Ezekiel by the Spirit of God found himself in a plain that was full of dry human bones, which had no life, that is, in a plain of death, desolation, but also of despair. God asked the Prophet to speak to these dead bones and address them with the word of the Lord. Immediately, as soon as the Prophet preached the word of God, which has energy, there was an earthquake, the bones came together and were assembled, forming the bodies, then nerves and flesh grew on the bones, which were covered by skin, without yet the existence of the spirit, i.e. soul. Then God instructed the Prophet Ezekiel to speak on His behalf to the Spirit, so that he would come and blow on the dead bodies to give them life. The Prophet spoke and then "the spirit came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army" (Ezek. 37:1-10).

This Old Testament prophetic event expresses the future resurrection of dead bodies. A time will come, as we believe as Christians, in which, by the power of God, there will be a resurrection of bodies, souls will enter into them by God's command, and they will be spiritual bodies, so that the whole man, with soul and body, will live in the Kingdom of God and have communion with Him. This is what God then said to the Prophet Ezekiel: "Behold, I will open your graves and bring you out of your graves and bring you into the land of Israel." And He says: "I will give you my spirit, and you will live, and I will place you on your land, and you will know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 16:12-14).

When a man's soul leaves his body, then the body dies, it is dry bones. At the Second Coming of Christ, the souls, by God's command, will return to the body to resurrect man, but those who will also have the Holy Spirit will enter the Kingdom of God.

This spiritual resurrection also takes place in this life, since we can gain the experience of spiritual resurrection. The man without the Holy Spirit is spiritually dead and when he hears the word of the Lord he is spiritually resurrected, the Grace of the resurrected Christ comes into his being and he lives spiritually, so he is not disappointed by sin, he is not afraid of death, and lives the resurrected life from the present life.

So even today, each Cleric, as another prophet, feels that he is in a plain of death, in which the cry of human suffering and of creation as a whole is heard, since in this tragic plain people live, like bones dried by despair, unbelief, loneliness, tragedy, people without the spirit of life, without meaning of existence and life, without the Holy Spirit. And as long as man is in this state, where he has no spirit of life, that is why all society and creation suffers and is tormented. Society is disconnected, relationships between people are altered, the environment is violated, the earth is polluted. Man is spiritually sick and all creation suffers and is tormented. In this plain of death and pain, the Clergyman, as another prophet, must address the word of the Lord, which animates and resurrects everything, to speak about the Resurrection of Christ who gives life to every form of death, to preach the resurrected Christ, who is the true Light that dispels darkness and gloom.

The prophecy of the Prophet Ezekiel is relevant today more than any other time, since today there is an excess of human pain. Our society is a plain with many dried bones, everywhere there are divisions, wars, hunger, despair, disease, death. Therefore, imitating another Prophet, Habakkuk, as we chant it in the Resurrection Canon, we stand on a high place, on the "divine watchtower" and show "the angelic messenger, who, shining, utters glowingly, 'Today, salvation has come to the world, because Christ is risen, as being omnipotent.'" Rejoice, brethren, in the Resurrection of Christ who assembles bodies from dry bones and gives life and spirit to these lifeless bodies, and let us participate in this spiritual resurrection from the present life, foreshadowing the future resurrection.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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