St. Alexei Mechev After the forty days of Great Lent we enter into a new forty-day period, but of an absolutely different nature. Then we mourned over our sins and confessed our weaknesses, humbling ourselves with fasting and abstinence. In everything we were as ones guilty, begging for mercy and the remission of sins.
The new forty-day period, beginning with the radiant Resurrection of Jesus Christ, has put us in this new bright state of a Christian freed from condemnation, resurrected for the new holy life, and confident in the everlasting blessedness granted to him in eternity.
There we saw a model for us in our Lord: How, entering into the work of saving the human race, He spent forty days in the strictest fasting, in solitary prayer, and in the struggle against the invisible enemy.
Here we see the same Lord appearing to His disciples for forty days, but we see Him glorified, victorious, and triumphant over all enemies. These repeated appearances of the Lord to His disciples after His Resurrection are so comforting to us. All of them testify to the Lord’s very great love for those who believe in Him.
Here is the first assurance of the Lord’s favor to Christians: Once arisen, He appeared only to His own, only to His closest disciples, only to those who believed in Him. It would seem: Why would the Lord not appear again in Jerusalem before His cunning enemies—the high priests, the scribes and Pharisees? What confusion, shame and defeat He would have brought them before the people, before those whom they had taught to be against the Lord!
This is how we think, brethren, because of our vanity and lust for power. We love to see our enemies put to shame; we boast of our victory over our adversaries. We are the ones who take pleasure in trampling beneath our feet those who meant to do us evil.
But our Lord is full of love. He spares His enemies, allows them to realize their guilt and crime, and come to Him of their own free will.
Would it have been any use if He had appeared in glory to His foes? For a moment they would probably have been astounded; but then what?
If the Lord's disciples did not meet Him with faith right away, but out of joy took Him as a dream, a ghost, an apparition of a spirit, then all the more His adversaries, blinded by passions and malice, would have met Him with doubt, unbelief and a new surge of anger and hatred.
And even if they were converted, would it have been for long?
We see among ourselves that even thinking people do not want to recognize the obvious truth, but stubbornly reject it out of pride and the desire to glorify themselves.
No, the Lord appeared to those who although stricken with sorrow for His death and having apparently lost faith in His Resurrection, in one minute when He was among them, when He was still sitting with them, said His wonderful words familiar to them, even ate and drank with them and showed them His wounds—in one minute this sadness, this doubt was transformed into joy, into surety, and into such affection, that for His sake they were ready to go to the square, endure suffering and accept a painful death. And look how varied the Lord’s appearances were! He first appeared to the myrrh-bearing women to reward them for the courage with which they had been with Him till His last breath; then He appeared to Peter, who had renounced Him three times, to encourage him and return to him the rank of apostle; then He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, so that two witnesses could better reassure the apostles; and finally, when all the apostles were prepared, were in tremulous expectation and already languishing with impatience, He stood among them to bless them for the great work that awaited them after His Ascension. He appeared to all believers to assure them of His Divinity.
The Lord showed a new assurance of love for Christians, demonstrating by His appearances His care for all the needs of His disciples. The Lord appeared both to all the disciples, and to one or two separately. This means that the Lord cares about both the whole Church and every individual believer.
The Lord did not appear once or twice, but many times. This means that in whatever state and circumstances we may be, He is always with us. By His appearances the Lord always brought some joy, help or consolation. Mary Magdalene stands at the Lord’s tomb weeping, and He suddenly appears behind her to console the grieving woman. Two disciples are going to Emmaus, bewildered and pouring out their spiritual sorrows and broken hopes, and the Lord appears to them to dispel their doubts. Now the apostles have locked their doors, while Thomas refuses to believe until he touches Christ’s wounds. And the Lord satisfies them all.
Isn’t this comforting for us Christians too? Christ promised to be with us forever. Why then should we be afraid?