If it is by the sign of the Cross and by faith in Christ that death is trampled underfoot, it is clear that it is Christ himself and none other who is the Arch-Victor over death and has robbed it of its power.
Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the advent of the Saviour and the death and Resurrection of his body, it is despised.
When the sun rises after the night and the whole world is lit up by it, nobody doubts that it is the sun which has thus shed its light everywhere and driven away the dark.
Equally clear is it, since this utter scorning and trampling down of death has ensued upon the Saviour’s manifestation in the body and his death on the Cross, that it is he himself who brought death to nought and daily raises monuments to his victory in his own disciples.
How can you think otherwise, when you see people naturally weak hastening to death, unafraid at the prospect of corruption, fearless of the descent into Hades, even indeed with eager soul provoking it, not shrinking from tortures, but preferring thus to rush on death for Christ’s sake, rather than to remain in this present life?
If, as we have shown, death was destroyed and everybody tramples on it because of Christ, how much more did he himself first trample and destroy it in his own body!
How could the destruction of death have been manifested at all, had not the Lord’s body been raised?
People who are dead cannot take effective action; their power of influence on others lasts only till the grave. Deeds and actions that energise others belong only to the living.
Well, then, look at the facts in this case. The Saviour is working mightily among us every day.
He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world to accept his faith and be obedient to his teaching.
Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that he has risen and lives, or rather that he is himself the Life?
Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ?
If he is no longer active in the world, as would be the case if he were dead, how is it that he makes the living to cease from their activities, the adulterer from his adultery, the murderer from murdering, the unjust man from avarice, while the profane and godless become religious?
This is the work of One who lives, not of one dead; and, more than that, it is the work of God.
Athanasius of Alexandria (c.293-373): On the Incarnation, 29-30; from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Wednesday of the Third Week of Eastertide, Year 2