May 4, 2013

Ezekiel's Prophecy of the Resurrection

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

The resurrectional atmosphere of this day invites all of us to joy, because we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, Who is the Head of the Church, and from Whom we get the certainty of our own resurrection. It is a feast dedicated to Christ, but is also our own.

Christ was resurrected and gave us the hope of the resurrection, first from our passions, which is an experience of death, and then from our physical death. Man was not created by God to live with the passions of sensuality, ambition and avarice, nor was he created to die. In Paradise, before the Fall, man lived differently from the way he lives today, having real communion with God and with all creation, and had the ability to remain immortal. However, after the Fall there developed in man pleasure and suffering, and death came into our existence. So, now with the Resurrection of Christ a new life begins, and man experiences his own resurrection from the passions, freed from the tyranny of pleasure and pain, and acquires the certainty of his own resurrection of his body.

We see this in a wondrous manner in a prophecy of the Prophet Ezekiel, which is read in the Sacred Temples on Great Friday night, following our return from the procession with the Epitaphios. On this day we chant the Matins for Great Saturday, when Christ triumphed over Hades and defeated death. In reading this prophecy the Church wants to transfuse the certainty of Christ's victory over death and assure us of our own resurrection.

In this text it appears that the Prophet Ezekiel was brought by the Spirit of God to a valley of dry human bones which had no life, that is, it was a valley of death, desolation and despair. God asked the Prophet to speak to these dead bones and send them the word of the Lord. As soon as the Prophet preached the word of God, which has energy, there was an earthquake, the bones came together and assembled to form the bodies, then nerves and flesh grew over the bones covering it in skin, but they were without a spirit, that is, a soul. Then God gave a command to the Prophet Ezekiel to speak in the name of the Spirit so that He may come and breath into the dead bodies that they may receive life. The Prophet spoke and then "a spirit entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet — a vast army." (Ez. 37:1-10)

This prophetic event of the Old Testament depicts the future resurrection of dead bodies. A time will come, as Christians believe, in which, by the power of God, there will be a resurrection of bodies, souls will enter into them by God's command, and they will be spiritual bodies, so that the entire man, soul and body, will live in the Kingdom of God and have communion with Him. This is what God then said to the Prophet Ezekiel: "My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, My people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put My Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord."

When the human soul leaves the body, then the body dies and becomes dry bones. At the Second Coming of Christ the souls, by the command of God, will return to the bodies and resurrect man, and those who have also the Holy Spirit will enter into the Kingdom of God.

This spiritual resurrection from the dead happens in this life, since we get to experience the spiritual resurrection. Man without the Holy Spirit is spiritually dead and when he hears the word of the Lord he is resurrected spiritually, the Grace of the Risen Christ comes into his existence, and he lives spiritually. He is no longer disappointed by sin, no longer fears death, but lives the life of the resurrection in this life.

So also today, every Clergyman, as another prophet, feels as if they are in a valley of death, in which the pain of humanity and all creation can be heard, since people live in this tragedy. Their bones are dry with hopelessness, disbelief, loneliness and tragedy. They are people without the spirit of life, without a meaningful existence in their life, without the Holy Spirit. And as long as man is in this state, in which he has no spirit of life, this is why society and all of creation suffers and is in need. Society is unsociable, relations between people have dissolved, the environment suffers, the earth is contaminated. Man is spiritually sick and all of creation suffers and is tormented. In this valley of death and pain the Cleric, as another prophet, must address the word of the Lord, which gives life and resurrects all. He must speak of the Resurrection of Christ, which gives life to every dead thing. He must preach the Resurrected Christ, who is the true light that expels the darkness and the fog.

The prophecy of the Prophet Ezekiel is relevant today more than ever, since today human suffering has reached an excess. Our society is a valley with lots of dried bones and everywhere there are divisions, wars, hunger, despair, illnesses and death. So, in imitation of another prophet, Habakkuk, as we chant in the Resurrection Canon, let us stand on the high place, on "divine watch", and show "the brilliant Angel who proclaims: 'Today, salvation comes to the world; for Christ, being Almighty, is risen.'"

Rejoice, brethren, in the Resurrection of Christ, who from dry bones brings together bodies, and in these soulless bodies gives life and spirit. Let us participate in the spiritual resurrection in this life, in anticipation of the future resurrection.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Πασχαλινή Εγκύκλιο: Η Προφητεία της Αναστάσεως", April 2009. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.