A flock of birds - what an amazing sight! A single bird never leaves an impression of such intoxicating beauty as does a flock of birds. Nor is a flock of birds which has landed on the ground as beautiful as a flock in flight, flying hither and thither.

Imagine a million birds of one species. Imagine them all red. And they are flying in and landing on the ground and remain on the ground. Another million fly in, and land, and remain. And again another, and another, and so on across centuries and centuries, for ages and ages. Countless flocks, countless billions of birds. Remaining on the ground they change color under various influences. Some turn dark red, some black, some speckled, others white.

And imagine if all those countless flocks, those countless billions of birds, by some almighty command took off from the ground and began to fly. What a majestic sight! The white birds are in the majority, and their dense flocks soar to the fore. Behind them are the speckled birds, and then the red, and then the black. The white flocks fly swiftly and cheerfully, while the rest in turn more and more sluggishly and cheerlessly. The sun would be completely blocked, and the earth would be covered with the darkness of night.

Oh my brothers and sisters, this is not just a dream and an illustration. Reality will surpass every dream and illustration of man.

One starry night God led the righteous and faithful Abraham outside and said to him: "Look toward heaven and number the stars, if you can number them." Abraham stood in fear and looked in amazement. Then God said to him: "So shall your descendants be" (Gen. 15:5). And at that time Abraham was old and childless. Would God fulfill His promise?

Already up to the present day countless billions of human souls have flown in and landed on the earth, all clothed in flesh and blood as in a crimson garment. This is a sign of their Creator's good pleasure. Count­less billions up to the present day - and yet at that moment when God gave His promise, Abraham did not have a single child! Countless billions just up to the present day are there more stars in heaven?

But Sarah laughed to herself when she heard of God's promise that she would soon bear a son. And Sarah, the wife of Abraham said: "Now that I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have the pleasure of bearing a child?" Then the Lord said to Abraham: "Why did Sarah laugh?... Is anything too difficult for the Lord?" (Gen. 18:12-14). And truly, God does not go back on what He promises. God fulfilled His promise. Abraham's righteous descendants ex­tended in a spiritual line in the Christian people, and have perhaps already multiplied and reached the number of the stars in heaven.

This was God's promise concerning the descent of souls onto the earth. A great and wondrous promise, which is equalled by another promise of God - con­cerning the raising of souls from the earth, concerning the resurrection of the dead. God in Christ the Lord, the Resurrected One who resurrects, made a truthful promise that the dead will be resurrected and will appear at the Judgment. "When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. And before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate them..." (Matt. 25:31f).

The Lord speaks about all the nations, about all the flocks of men which have landed on the earth from the beginning to the end of time. Christ's apostle con­sidered the resurrection a precious mystery, and thus he revealed it to the faithful slowly and carefully when he said: "We would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope... For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise" (I Thess. 4:13-16). And again he says: "Lo! I tell you a mystery... in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable" (I Cor. 15:51-52). Then what is perishable shall be clothed in what is imperishable, and what is mortal shall be clothed in immortality. And then the saying that is written shall come to pass: "O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15:55).

Then countless billions of souls shall be clothed in light, imperishable clothing, in heavenly bodies similar to Christ's. And those flocks, Oh those countless flocks, will take off from the ground. Some flocks will be as white as many snowfalls, others will be dark red, others speckled, and others black. The white flocks will be white from the purity and virtue in them, the red flocks will be red from the preponderance of blood over spirit in them, the speckled will be speckled from the intermingling of good and evil in them, and the black will be black from their sin.

Do not let it disturb you, should someone laugh at God's promise concerning the resurrection of the dead. Sarah also laughed at God's promise long before, and later she was ashamed. Believe, Oh believe and do not doubt, that anyone who laughs at this second promise of God will likewise be ashamed. Ask him and say to him: "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?"

"I await the resurrection of the dead." We await the spiritual resurrection of sinners day by day and minute by minute. We wait for souls speckled and blackened by sin as with scabs to whiten and come back to life through repentance. And we rejoice together with the angels in heaven when even one sinner repents and returns to Christ (cf. Luke 15:10). We rejoice with the father who, when he found his lost prodigal son, said:

"This my son was dead, and has come back to life" (Luke 15:24). We often await this sort of resurrection of the dead, and we frequently receive it.

But we also await a general resurrection. We await a single, final resurrection of all the dead, who from the beginning of creation lived on earth and succumbed to the power of death. We base our waiting on reason and conscience, and especially on God's promise.

Unconfused and clear reason tells us that this whirlpool of life does not end with death. From time immemorial nations have sensed that death is not a period, but a comma. All the tribes on earth, even in their idolatrous darkness, felt a presentiment of some sort of life after death. The poets and philosophers of ancient Greece spoke about the life of human souls in Hades, in semidarkness and semilife. The Egyptians used to embalm dead bodies with resins and aromatic spices, so that they might be preserved for some other life. The continuance of life by death and of judgment by justice, which not everyone on earth had attained - this has always seemed like something natural and necessary to a clear human conscience.

However, we Christians do not base our faith in the resurrection and life beyond the grave on the theories of poets and philosophers, nor on the inklings and presentiments of nations and tribes, but on experience and God's promise. Our faith is founded on rock and not on sand. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Revealer of all the truths of life, also revealed to us the truth of the resurrection of the dead. He revealed it to us both by word and by deed - so that your hearts might rejoice, O Christ-bearers.

On one occasion the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, put the Lord Jesus to the test. They asked Him whose wife a certain woman would be in that "world to come." The mockers were themselves rebuked by their own irrationality! The meek Lord answered them: "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven." Moreover, the Lord added: "God is not God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:30, 32). And if all the living on earth were to die and remain in the tombs, how could God be called the "God of the living?"

in Capernaum, in that city of unbelievers which has vanished from the face of the earth because of its lack of belief - in this city the spiritually shallow Jews kept asking the Lord one question after another. Finally the Lord told them: "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever eats My body and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day" (John 6:53-54). And before Solomon's temple, which has vanished from the face of the earth because of being desecrated by lack of belief, the Lord said: "The hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son of God ... and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:25-29). To those who shake their heads and say how difficult this is to believe - tell them: "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?"

Moreover, Jesus made many other statements about the resurrection of the dead. But in order not to leave people in any doubt, He attested to these words of His with deeds. He resurrected the dead daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the Jewish synagogue. The Lord took her cold, dead hand in His own and exclaimed: "Little girl, arise!" And the dead girl came to life and arose (Matt. 9:25, Mark 5:41).

Furthermore, the Lord resurrected the son of the widow of Nain. Arriving at that city with His disciples, He encountered a funeral procession and saw a widow in despair, mourning for her only son. First He approached the mother and comforted her with the words: "Do not weep!" Then He set out to comfort her with a deed as well. He crossed over to the pallbearers and cried out to the dead youth: "Young man, I say to you, arise!" And the lad came to life and arose. "And He gave him to his mother" (Luke 7:12-15).

Furthermore, the Lord also resurrected Lazarus at Bethany. Four days he lay dead in his tomb. His sisters were weeping. All his relatives were weeping. Even the Lord began to weep. And Jesus cried out: "Lazarus, come out!" And "the dead man came out" (John 11). And the Lord released him alive, to go to his sisters.

Whom else did the Lord resurrect? Himself. He resurrected from the tomb on the third day after His death, just as He had prophesied. And His disciples "rejoiced when they saw the Lord" (John 20:20). What human soul, thirsty for life would not rejoice in the Lord, the Resurrected One who also resurrects!

Thus did the almighty Lord Jesus confirm His words and His promise concerning the resurrection with actual deeds.

The holy apostles made the event of the Messiah's resurrection from the dead the foundation of their preaching of the gospel. And all their personal hope and all their unwavering courage in the face of death drew strength and nourishment from that glorious event. One of them, who initially persecuted Christ's Church but later saw the living, risen Lord, wrote:

"Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can any of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?... If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men the most unfortunate" (I Cor. 15:12, 19). But Christ did rise from the dead, and he also confirmed our resurrection; and He made us who believe in Him the most fortunate of all men.

The Lord died and resurrected to prove and demon­strate our own resurrection from the dead. With His resurrection an inextinguishable flame of faith was kindled forever in the hearts of men, that they too would be resurrected. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all return to life" (I Cor. 15:22). And should some present-day Sarah laugh and say: "This is dif­ficult to believe;" answer her and tell her: "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?"

Long ago in ancient times a prophet saw and prophesied how "those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2).

Yet another prophet, before this one, looked and saw in a vision a great valley, filled to overflowing with the dry bones of the dead. And he looked and he saw, how at the voice of God there was a great quake, and the dry bones began to gather and assemble. And staring he saw how the dry bones began to be covered with flesh and interwoven with sinews. And God commanded, and the spirit of life entered into them. And the prophet saw how the bodies of men came to live and stood upon their feet. "It was an exceedingly great host" (Ezek. 37).

These are the visions and prophesies of the right­eous prophets of God. But the reality of these visions and the fulfillment of these prophesies came from Christ and through Christ. As for those who still doubt and say that all this is impossible, answer and tell them:

"For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26). Answer them in the words of the same One who resurrects. You will dispel their doubts, and you will save your brothers and sisters.

This is the faith of the right-believing and the vigilant. Those who have been led astray by the thinking of this world and those who have been lulled to sleep by the aroma of this world find it difficult to accept and keep this faith. Those whom the world decorates with scabs and blackens with the mire of this world do not incline their ear to the promise of God. But the right-believing believe in God's word, and vigilantly await its fulfillment. They are sick of the lies of liars, and they are fed up with the shortcuts of falsehood. Therefore, the long paths of the Most High have become dear to them, and the great ways of the True One have become precious to them. On that long path He refreshes them with more and more confirma­tions of the good destination. Their greatest refresh­ment is the word of the Savior and Guide, who traversed their entire path as a man, and reached the destination, and saw the destination, and proclaimed great joy to them.               

  At the end of the shortcuts of liars there always sits the dragon; always that ancient serpent, who pushed the first ancestor of our race out of Paradise. But at the end of the long path of truth waits the King and Father, the Comforter who resurrects. This gladdens the right ­believing and the vigilant. And they share their glad­ness with their brothers, their fellow wayfarers, the children of the Great King.

This is your faith, O Christ-bearers, the faith of your right-believing and vigilant forefathers. Let it also be the faith of your children, from generation to genera­tion, to the end of the journey, to the blessed end. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. At the Judgment of Christ, on the Great Day, they shall not be saddened, but shall receive life and be called blessed.

                                                  Waiting - Rising - Putting on immortality.