23 April 2007

Taking up His Life

The following is an excerpt from the sermon preached last Sunday (Misericordia Domini Sunday) at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church.

We tend to think that “sacrifice” is chiefly about taking or laying down a life in order to save a life. But Our Lord does not merely lay down His life. He does not simply die. He rises from the dead. He takes up His life again. And in taking it up again, He demonstrates that He is more than a substitute. For it is not necessary that the one who substitutes his life for another then rise from the dead. The one who has sacrificed himself by substituting his own life has added nothing by rising from the dead. Yet Christ is risen from the dead. And, if you can believe it, His resurrection gives full meaning to His death; and His resurrection gives greater benefit than His death.

What is the benefit? That we might live even as He lives; that we might live in Him, even as He lives in us; that we might both rise from the dead on the last day, and even also live in the newness of His life on this day. So Our Lord Jesus rises not only to announce or prove that His death was good, but more so to give us the fruit and benefit of His resurrected life.

St Gregory the Great highlights this greater purpose of Our Lord’s death and resurrection and, in doing so, reminds us of the greatest Good that our Shepherd is. St Gregory declares that “The Good Shepherd has laid down His life for His sheep in order to change His body and blood into a sacrament for us, and to satisfy the sheep He had redeemed with His own body as food.”

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