As we have all seen and witnessed in the glorious Holy Week and Feast of the Resurrection, God loves each and every one of us in a way that we may never be able to comprehend as we live our lives on earth. Sometimes, His love can be extremely difficult for us to understand in our limited human minds and with our limited definition of love. The love that He manifested to us on the Cross was a divine love, not a human love. It was not the love that St. Peter was talking about when he told the Lord, “‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never stumble’” (Matthew 27:33). St. Peter was sure of His love to the Lord, he had no doubt in his heart that he loved Him the most, more than all the other disciples. But when it came time to manifest his love to the Lord, his courage failed him. The Lord Jesus Christ’s love is different. When He assures us of His love saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), He means it to the extent that it was His good pleasure to suffer the humiliation and shame of the Cross. Perhaps, we can contemplate on this event of the Crucifixion: in the gospel of St.Matthew we read, “Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink” (Matthew 27:48). Why did the Roman soldiers give our Lord wine mingled with gall to drink? Was it just another one of their cruel acts or was it an act of mercy? It was a Roman custom that sourwine and gall was to be given to the crucified one, to intoxicate them and diminish their suffering, to lessen the pain. It seems that the Lord Christ tasted it out of courtesy to the soldier who offered the good deed so that he would obtain the reward. But even on the Cross, Christ was more concerned with His love for us than being relieved of His pain, as He refrained from drinking it, rather preferring to thoroughly feel His Passion and sense all the pains of His suffering with clarity of mind. Was it not enough, Lord? All that You suffered already, was that still not enough for You to fully express Your boundless and eternal love for us?
So what does Christ’s suffering mean for us? Was the Crucifixion and Resurrection just an event that we remember and relive for one week, or is there something more to it? Through His Resurrection, we gain a new life and a new hope of our resurrection so that when we leave this world, our corruptible bodies will put on incorruption, and we will be able to enjoy the good things “which eye has not seen nor ear heard” (1 Corinthians 2:9). This hope leads St. Paul to proclaim, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). But what follows is of even greater importance…
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). During the Joyful 50 Days, we can use this period to grow in our communion with the true Savior and Lover of Mankind. Who elevated human nature above and beyond the devil’s power through His sufferings, giving us access to an intimate union with the Holy Spirit. And through the words of St. Anthony the Great, it is very much possible to live the resurrection daily by saying with him: “Everyday I say to myself, today I will begin.” Begin everyday anew with Your Beloved Father without despairing of the past, delighting in His love, mercies, and grace and resting in Him, as He now rests in you.
This period also has a spiritual depth of a different taste, where we can shift our focus from ourselves to others. If indeed Christ is risen, then we too can live; not a life that is cold, not a life that is indifferent to others, but a life that rejoices in our Savior. So in this time, let us put on tender mercies, embracing one another in God’s love. “Whoever it may be who is part of our lives, let us accept him as a human being whom Christ has so loved that He died for him, and rose so that He could share His eternal life” (Metropolitan Anthony Bloom). Then, we can forgive one another, forget all our grievances against each other, and look at each other as the very reason that Christ was incarnate, crucified on the Cross, and resurrected. Then, we can say with St. Paul the Apostle, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).