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Fr. John Meyendorff: The Ethics of Resurrection

Is it not true that our mortality serves to justify our concern for ourselves, instead of our neighbors? My neighbor can be cold and hungry next door, but I feel quite justified in preserving my own standard of living and the security of my own future, because I consider my money as having been earned by me (or given to me) with no other purpose than to prolong my own life and to make it as comfortable as I can.

Moreover, even the laws of this mortal world of ours are made in such a way that their main purpose is to preserve my rights and my property. They justify violence as a form of self-defense. And the history of human society is one of conflicts and wars in which individuals and nations struggle and kill others in the name of temporal benefits which will be destroyed by death anyway. But this is still considered as "justice."

Such is, indeed, the inevitable logic of a world, which St. Paul describes as "the reign of death.”

On Easter Day (Pascha) however, we celebrate the end of this reign. Christ came to destroy it. "Death is swallowed up in victory, O death, where is your sting?" "Christ is Risen, and no one remains in a tomb" Therefore, as the Church sings, "let us embrace," "let us forgive."

This victory which our Church celebrates so brilliantly, so loudly, so triumphantly, is not simply a guarantee of "after life." Rather, it changes the entire set of our ethical priorities, even now. There is no need for self-preservation anymore because "our life is hidden with Christ in God.” To love one's neighbors and to give them the "last penny" is better insurance than to "store treasures upon earth." "To lose one's soul" is "to save it."

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