Friedrich Nietzsche declared “Faith means not wanting to know what is true.” And Fr. Seraphim Rose responds: “Atheism, true ‘existential’ atheism burning with hatred of a seemingly unjust or unmerciful God, is a spiritual state; it is a real attempt to grapple with the true God.… Nietzsche, in calling himself Antichrist, proved thereby his intense hunger for Christ.”
In our modern world, gripped by what I call the religion of scientism, reduces all of us to mere machines in a Universe that isn’t so much hostile to us as completely uncaring about us. Nature, in the modern world, cares nothing for me at all, whether I live or die. If I live, it is meaningless. If I die, it is also meaningless. The modern man is furious that all his technological achievements that he thought would make him happy, just makes his life meaningless. In our abandonment of wonder and faith, we have unmade ourselves!
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19:
BRETHREN, now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.
St. Paul understood what life would mean for him if Faith and the Resurrection were not true. He knew that between the joy of the Resurrection and despair there were no other options. Either Christ has really risen from the dead; bodily, physically, destroying mortality and filling up all of humanity with hope, or “we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Far from reducing the Resurrection to just another science experiment where “Evidence Demands a Verdict.” Far from accepting the mindset of modern man that everything must be “provable” to be believed; St. Paul insists that the very real Resurrection of Christ was more than mere survival of an itinerate Jewish rabbi in 1st century Palestine under Roman Occupation. He declares this truth of the Resurrection of Jesus is the very linchpin of all of Christianity! It is the center around which all the Faith revolves. No wonder Pascha, for we Orthodox is the center of our Church Year. Everything that happens before Pascha is to bring us to Pascha. And everything that happens after Pascha, happens because of Pascha. The Resurrection is the central theme of all the Feasts of the Church. Period.
So what? Well, the “so what” lies in the implications of the Resurrection of Jesus. If He really did destroy mortality then mortality can no longer be our excuse for selfishness, for short term decisions, and for behaviors that are more about my temporary comfort rather than the developing, healing, and maturing of my soul. All the excuses for my inattentiveness to my spiritual life become foolish and deadly. But what makes this worse is my inattentiveness then reinforces the inattentiveness of others. When I abandon my lack of attention to the disciplines of my Faith, I wound the whole universe by saying even my suffering is without meaning and hope! My Faith and confidence in the Resurrection of Jesus (and I’m not talking about some namby pamby sentimental belief in His “resurrection” in “our hearts” and memories, but a robust, nitty gritty, physical resurrection of a brutally beaten and tortured physical Body walking out of a grave on Pascha morning before sunrise and then that same Physical Body being taken into heaven!) remakes my own life and insists I NEVER insult my existence by reducing it to some shortsighted living that somehow is meaningless and ends at a grave!
Today, I know you say this all the time, that you believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the age to come” but do you really? The everyday practice of the wisdom of the Orthodox Faith is meant to drive deep within your heart a worth and dignity that fills up even your suffering with meaning and worth. Being Orthodox on Purpose destroys the shallow mindlessness of modern hopelessness and offers another path to all around you!
P.S. I pray your Feast of the Transfiguration was blessed and you are still contemplating the amazing Feast we celebrate! After all, this Feast is about Jesus AND YOU! Christ is transfigured!