He suffered and was crucified and was buried and rose again on the third day and ascended into heaven with the same body and sat at the right hand of the Father.
The resurrection is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. It is the ultimate affirmation by our Heavenly Father that Jesus is His Son and our Savior. Our church patriarchs, inspired by the Holy Spirit, placed a tremendous emphasis on the resurrection, giving it a prominent position in the prayers of our church. This repeated emphasis on the resurrection is intended to direct us to prayerfully meditate on its meaning in our lives.
Our Divine Liturgy is but one of many services that continually revisit the meaning of the resurrection. There are numerous references to the resurrection of our Lord during our Badarak. In this brief article I will present an overview of the direct references to the resurrection of our Lord during the Divine Liturgy (Badarak). By taking a closer look at how the Badarak refers to the resurrection, we can better appreciate the meaning of our Lord’s resurrection during this Easter season, and throughout the year.
If you meditate on the words in our Badarak that address the resurrection, you will discover that an Orthodox understanding of the resurrection can transform your life and open your heart so that you might receive countless blessings from our Lord.
The first time Badarak makes mention of our Lords’ resurrection is when the celebrant first stands before the altar. At this point the curtain is (usually) closed. Here the celebrant says a prayer which reminds us that as Christians we live at a time between times; and live in the midst of an age that is passing away. This temporary age we live in is acknowledged when the priest prays:
“all your creatures (will) be renewed at the RESURRECTION, in that time which is the last day of this life and the first day in the land of the living”.
Right at the beginning of Badarak we are anticipating the fulfillment of the promise of the resurrection which will occur at the second coming of our Lord. On this day Christ will renew us in every way, granting us our new bodies. We will begin a new life, in the new age of man that our Lord will institute.
Our Lord’s assurance that we will be raised from the dead should serve to reprioritize our lives. Life is not about getting all we can for ourselves during our brief span of time here on earth. As Christians we are directed to reject this hedonistic world view, and instead store up for ourselves “treasures in heaven”. Heaven centered, and God centered living is evangelical. For in living for the “things that are above” we declare to the world, by our priorities, that we value God and His kingdom more than the physical pleasures of this world. We witness to the overwhelming glory of God and the value of His kingdom by joyfully bearing the crosses God calls us to bear so that we might obtain, and help others obtain, the most awesome of all prizes.
Devout Christians are mindful of Christ’s imminent return, and place serving God, and accomplishing His purposes, at the center of their lives. God’s promise to return should also make us mindful of the value of each minute we have. Are we doing all we can to serve Him? Are we doing our best to lead others into His kingdom before it is too late for them?
The second time we read of resurrection in Badarak is later in this same prayer when we read that Jesus is, “the righteous and the spotless one, the finder of all, who was betrayed for our sins and rose for our justification.”
This prayer explains that the reason Jesus rose from the dead was to ‘justify us.’ What does this mean? The Armenian word for justification here is, ‘artaratsootsaneloh.’ This means, ‘for the purpose of justifying or making right.’ In what sense does Jesus’ resurrection make us just or right?
In order to understand these profound words we need to first remember that we are both sinful, and damaged by sin; and that the only way to be right before God is to be freed from sin and repaired of the damage sin has caused to our souls. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and are worthy of death, for the wages (what we deserve) for our sins is death; but ‘free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.’ The church teaches that the death we deserve, Jesus took upon himself on the cross. Just as one person can pay off another person’s debt, so too Jesus paid off the ‘sin debt’ of humanity by dying on the cross. Since He is God, his sacrifice was both perfect and infinite and covered all sins for all time. So in His crucifixion our sin debt has been paid. When we faithfully receive Christ during Holy Communion, we are acknowledging that His death paid the price for our sins, a price we were unable to pay ourselves.
Despite the fact that our debt has been paid we are still not right with God. If someone breaks property and offers money for the repair, the offering of the money does not, in itself, effect the needed repair. Someone still has to actually repair the broken property. Someone has to make what is broken ‘right again.’ The action of performing repairs is the action of ‘righting’ or, in the case of spiritual repairs to humans, ‘justifying’ what was wrong. While the payment for our sin was accomplished by our Lord’s death on the cross, our justification (or spiritual repair) is accomplished by God renewing us through His resurrected Body and Blood. Resurrection, being made new and alive again, is the ultimate spiritual repair. In Jesus’ rising from the dead, and in our sacramental connection to Jesus through Holy Communion, we are risen in Him, and have renewed lives. We are made right (justified) through His resurrected Body and Blood cleansing and renewing us. This is why we pray in the above prayer that, he “rose for our justification.”
The third reference to the resurrection occurs during the singing of the hymn Soorp Asdvadz (Holy God), which is sung when the gospel is being processed around the altar by the deacon. During most Sundays of the year the words sung as the gospel is carried are:
“Holy God, Holy and Strong, holy and immortal, you who rose up from the dead have mercy on us.”
We are therefore asking mercy from the one we confess to be our risen Lord. Because Jesus took flesh for our salvation, died on the cross, and rose from the dead, we believe He is in a unique position to grant us mercy. During Badarak then, we are asking our Risen Lord to give us the very thing that He died to give to us, and that which He is eager to give us. In asking mercy of our resurrected God, we are simultaneously confessing that in his resurrection we see that He has the power to grant us both mercy, and eternal life in his heavenly kingdom. Knowing God’s commitment to forgive penitent sinners should give us joy. While God does not love sin, He loves to forgive you of the sin from which you wish to be separated.
The fourth reference occurs during the singing of Havadamk (The Nicene Creed). During this hymn/Creed we state that we believe:
“In the RESURRECTION of the dead, in the everlasting judgment of souls and bodies, in the kingdom of heaven and in the life eternal.”
Since we are confessing a belief in a judgment of both souls and bodies we are, as a matter of doctrine, confessing a belief in a bodily resurrection. This belief distinguishes us from a number of other religions/faiths which do not believe that, in the life to come, we will have bodies.
It is a central tenet of the Orthodox Christian faith that in the resurrection we will still be humans with bodies. Both our humanity and bodies, however, will be transformed into something far more beautiful than what we know today. As an acorn is to an oak tree, so too will be this body to our resurrected body.
The fifth reference to the resurrection occurs during the Anaphora. The Anaphora is the main prayer of the Badarak, recited by the priest during the Divine Liturgy. A portion of this prayer reads:
“Your only-begotten beneficent Son gave us the commandment that we should always do this (Badarak) in remembrance of him. And descending into the nether regions of death in the body which he took of our kinship, and mightily breaking asunder the bolts of hell, he made you known to us the only true God, the God of the living and of the dead. And now, O Lord, in accordance with this commandment, bringing forth the saving mystery of the body and blood of your Only-begotten, we remember his redemptive sufferings for us, his life-giving crucifixion, his burial for three days, his blessed RESURRECTION, his divine ascension and his enthronement at your right hand, O Father; his awesome and glorious second coming, we confess and praise.”
During the above prayer, we acknowledge that when we celebrate the Badarak we are doing it because Jesus commanded us to do it in remembrance of Him. But this prayer also illustrates that Badarak is more than just a remembrance of the fact that Jesus gave us the sacrament of holy communion. It is also a remembrance of all of Jesus’ life and His salvific actions for us. We understand that part of fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to have Holy Communion in ‘remembrance of him’ includes a weekly remembrance of the resurrection, and how the resurrection is a vital component of our salvation.
The importance of regularly remembering our Lord’s resurrection cannot be overstated; for if Jesus were simply to have died for our sins, without rising from the dead, what power would he have to take us to heaven? A dead savior is of no value to us. We worship a living savior. During each Badarak we remember that the resurrection of our Lord was not only an act that gave him life, but in our mystical connection to Christ, we now share in that new, resurrected life as well.
The sixth reference to the resurrection occurs later in Badarak; during the deacon’s litanies and choir responses. While the words of the following portion of Badarak sometimes change throughout our liturgical year, on most Sundays we hear the following exchange:
The Deacon: We bow down in awe before the blessed, praised, glorified, wondrous and divine RESURRECTION of Christ.
The Choir: Glory to your RESURRECTION, O Lord.
In the above dialogue, we see that we are to remember the fantastic reality of the resurrection in our lives. Rather than becoming jaded in our faith, and thinking of it in matter-of-fact terms, we are to weekly look upon the resurrection and celebrate it as a glorious, life changing event, which is awesome not only in Christ’s life, but in our lives as well. The moment of the resurrection transformed all of human history. Now, because of God’s saving work, all humanity has the promise of the resurrection. Reflecting upon the overwhelming power of the resurrection St. Paul wrote, “Oh Death, where is your sting?”. Remembering the words of Badarak and those of scripture, our liturgical tradition directs us to keep in a constant and ongoing awareness of the continual power of the resurrection, and the resurrected Lord in our lives.
The seventh reference, and next mention of the resurrection occurs right before the curtain closes for the second time. Just before “Der Voghormya” begins, the priest walks out toward the people while holding the chalice, praying words that refer to the consecrated Body and Blood of our Lord, which he is holding up before the faithful. At this point the priest intones:
“This is life, hope, RESURRECTION, expiation and remission of sins”.
Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. John 11:25 Since Jesus refers to himself as, “the resurrection,” and since there is no part of Jesus that is not resurrected, when we receive our Lord during Holy communion, we are receiving the resurrection. As we live in sacramental communion with Christ, we are called to an on-going realization that we share in His resurrection. Cognizant of this spiritual reality, we are to live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, exemplifying in our transformed lives the presence of the Risen Christ.
The eighth reference to the resurrection during Badarak re-emphasizes that Badarak is intended to recall all of Jesus’ salvific acts. The priest prays:
…bringing forth the saving mystery of the body and blood of your Only-begotten, we remember his redemptive sufferings for us, his life-giving crucifixion, his burial for three days, his blessed RESURRECTION, his divine ascension and his enthronement at your right hand, O Father; his awesome and glorious second coming, we confess and praise.
Conviction in the resurrection infuses every aspect of the life of the Orthodox Christian. Confident of eternal life in Christ, we do not see this world as our ultimate destination, but instead understand that we are preparing for a new age that will be established at the second coming of our Lord. Anticipating our Lord’s return, let us faithfully reevaluate our lives: how we spend our money and utilize our resources, what we do with our time, and how we utilize our talents. Are we using our God given gifts to best build up His kingdom and lead others to salvation, or are we living for our own selfish pleasures? Do our lives witness to our faith in the resurrection, or do our lives instead testify to others that we really believe that this life is all there is?
This Easter as we celebrate the great, wondrous and triumphant resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let us commit ourselves to act as the living Body of our Risen Lord, spreading the good news of His victory over death by living lives transformed by the reality of His resurrection. Let us also take time to gather as one family in Christ to praise Him who took flesh, died, and rose for us, celebrating that His actions make it possible for us to be together with Him, and one another, for all eternity.
Each Sunday as we celebrate Badarak together, we are called by God to recommit ourselves to taking an active role in the ministry of His Holy Church, which he established to spread the good news of His resurrection. God has called each of us to make sure that the news of the resurrection is spread throughout the world. Let us carry on this responsibility faithfully, joyfully, and lovingly.
May the transformative power of our Lord’s great and glorious resurrection fill your life throughout this Easter season, and at all times.
Christ is Risen from the Dead!
Blessed is the resurrection of our Lord!
Kreestos Haryav ee Merrelots!
Orhnyal eh Harootyounn Kreestosee!