May 2016 Letter
From an article by HG Anba Mousa:
After Christ resurrected from the dead, He appeared to His disciples many times, more than the those recorded in the Bible, for it says that He has shown Himself to His disciples forty days (Acts 1: 3). These apparitions were varied in terms of:
- People: apparition to women, men, to His close disciples, and also for many of the believers.
- Numbers: apparition for one person, two people, a group of His disciples, and for hundreds.
- Places: apparition in Jerusalem, Galilee, Emmaus, and the Mount of Olives.
These apparitions had more than one significance:
- Dogmatic significance: His resurrection proved more than one dogma: the fact of Christ’s resurrection from the dead; that He is risen indeed leaving the tomb empty! And also the nature of the body of resurrection: i.e. a heavenly, spiritual and glorified body.
- Spiritual significance: His apparitions gave us an idea of the Lord’s love for His repentant children, for He appeared to Peter, and returned him back to his apostolic rank. He appeared to Thomas, to heal his doubts, and appeared to Mary Magdalene who is a model of pure love. He appeared to the disciples to remove their fear and establish them as messengers of the resurrection preaching salvation.
- Traditional significance: He spent forty days with His disciples explaining to them “the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1: 3). No doubt these were long and important conversations, in which He arranged for the apostles everything concerning their service, their worship and places of evangelism. We see that they asked the Lord to assign an alternative to Judah “that he might go to his own place” (Acts 1: 25). This confirms the Orthodox belief that finds in the Church Tradition – oral and written – an important source of teaching, besides the Bible.
But most importantly, Jesus Christ who rose from the tomb and ascended into heaven as a forerunner for us, is still with us every day on the altar, incarnate and slain, revealing to us His continuous redemption and compassion, inviting us to eat from His Divine table “salvation and remission for sins, and eternal life for those who eat of Him” (Liturgy of Saint Basil).
Our Christ is not just in heaven, but He is with us every day on the altar, “Emmanuel which is translated, God with us” (Matthew 1: 23), and He is in us “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3: 17), and “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56).
The moments of Holy Communion open our eyes with the two disciples of Emmaus to see the Lord. As well as opportunities to read the Bible will burn our hearts as it burnt their hearts. Walking with the Lord continuously ascends us from Emmaus where there is materialism and dirt to Jerusalem where we find Resurrection, preaching and service.
May the blessings of St. Mary and St. Mercurius, and the blessings of the holy resurrection and the 50 Holy days be with us always Amen.
Fr. Youssef Halim & Fr. Luke Istafanous
Belleville, May 1, 2016