May 2011 Letter
Christ is risen …. Truly He is risen
Congratulating you for the joyful Easter and the 50 holy days, where we feel the joy through the resurrection of our Lord, and reflected within the church hymns and rites and even the decorations. Because the events of Resurrection are many and successive, we need to clarify some important facts to help us study the sequence of these events to clarify them:
A- For the times mentioned in the four Gospels and of the resurrection, we note the following:
1) The timings mentioned whether “dawn” or “early and still dark”, or any other, does not specify a time limit for the resurrection of our Redeemer from the grave, which we do not know, but only indicates when the women visited the tomb.
2) The difference in determining the time of the visit of the tomb is due to two reasons:
First: that there were more than one visit to the tomb, and normally the time of each visit would be different from the other.
Second: that the times mentioned do not specify whether this was the departure from home or reaching to the tomb. It is known that the Holy Tomb at that time was outside the walls of Jerusalem, so the women needed some time to get out of the gate to the outside walls and access to the Holy Sepulcher. This is evident from the gospel that mentions that when the earthquake happened, “some of the guard came into the city” (Matthew 28: 11).
B- The reality of the Resurrection was not clear in the minds of disciples and the Marys as it is in our minds today. Doubting the resurrection and made the disciples and Marys feel that the whole issue is a dream and not reality, made them repeat the visit to the tomb more than once to make sure that the resurrection is real. This point could be made more clear to us through two events in the Bible:
1) The story of two disciples of Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-33) who even after they heard from the women that Jesus had risen from the dead, still did not believe and said that “they did not find His body” (Luke 24: 23), and not that He actually resurrected. Even more, after they heard this from the women they still departed to a “village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem”! (Luke 24: 13). This confirms that they did not even expect any possibility of the sincerity of the story of the resurrection.
2) In chapter 12 of the Book of Acts, we recall the story of the arrest of St. Peter and how the angel freed him out of prison. For him what happened seemed as just a vision, and for the other disciples they thought it was his angel and not Peter himself! If this was hard to believe for someone just imprisoned, how about with a deceased in the grave?
C- Mary Magdalene, a key figure in the events, visited the tomb several times, suspecting she was dreaming or imagining the conversation with Christ and the angel. What also increased her suspicion is the suspicion of the disciples in her story. Given that every Gospel did not mention all the visits, it seemed that there is a kind of contradiction between the accounts of the Gospels.
Asking you to remember the whole church in your prayers, and may the blessings of St. Mary & St. Mercurius, the blessings of the holy resurrection and these 50 Holy days be with us always Amen.
Fr. Youssef Halim & Fr. Luke Istafanous
Belleville, May 1, 2011