Each year the Easter Midnight Service of the Russian Cathedral at Ennismore Gardens, London SW7 1NH, is broadcast to the Soviet Union by the BBC. Metropolitan Anthony's sermon at this service in 1985, stressing the material reality of the Resurrection of Christ which some are prepared to question, was published in English in the Cathedral Newsletter, No. 176 (June 1985).
Saint Paul in one of his Epistles says that if Christ is not risen we are the most miserable of all men... And, indeed, if he was not risen we would be, because then all our faith, all that we call our spiritual experience, all the life we build on it would have been nothing but a delusion or a lie, a hallucination. But we are the most happy of all men because Christ is risen. This not only hundreds and thousands, but millions know from a direct, personal experience. Many could say: God exists because I have met him, Christ is risen because I have met the risen Christ. And not only in spirit but also in the flesh; because we have the witness of the Apostles, simple men who had run away from Calvary, knowing – as they thought – that Christ was defeated when he was taken down from the Cross and buried, knowing that everything they hoped for had come to an end.
And yet, they are the witnesses of the Resurrection, unprepared, hesitant, and then exulting in the joy of the truth which was revealed to them; exulting because the women came in the morning to anoint Christ, and they saw that his body was no longer there. John and Peter came after them, and the tomb was empty. And when they came to the other disciples, asking themselves questions, doubting, hesitating – Christ came to them, and he himself said to them: Fear not! I am not a ghost, I am not a disincarnate vision; a ghost has no flesh and no bones as you can see that I have! And he ate with them, he spoke to them, they touched him! And indeed, St John says in his Epistle that what the Apostles proclaim is what their eyes have seen, their ears heard, their hands touched, and that they are speaking the truth.
Yes, Christ is risen, risen not as a ghost, not as a spiritual presence but as a living God with his body, the body of the Incarnation. And indeed, if we truly believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was God himself become man for the salvation of the world, then, what is beyond our imagination is that he, who is life itself, could die; and the thing which is obvious and simple is that Life Eternal should break the fetters of death, conquer death, and that he should rise, in the body, in the flesh, as a promise to us; because uniting himself to human flesh he has shown us that man is so vast and so deep that he can be at one with God, united with God; that, indeed, a human being is complete only if he is in oneness with God, when he is a partaker of the divine nature, to use the words of St Peter's Epistle.
The Resurrection is a revelation of the mercy of God, of the power of God, of the love of God... but also of the greatness of man. Death has no fear for us; it has become a gate into eternity, and we know that the day will come when the voice of him who has brought into being all things, the voice of him who is our Saviour will resound, and we will all stand before God, clothed with eternity, but in a flesh that has become part of this eternity. Let us believe the word of God, let us conquer our doubts and hesitations by listening to God himself speaking to us, and let us respond to the word of God and to the event of the Resurrection with faith and gratitude!
Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!
Sourozh 1986. N. 24:1–2