Great and Holy Pascha 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

?And he said to them, ?Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He said to you.??  St. Mark 16:6-7

To the Reverend Priests, the Deacons in Christ, the monastics, and all the pious and Christ-loving Orthodox faithful in our beloved nation,

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is risen!

On this radiant and sublime feast the sorrow of the disciples of our Lord was turned to astonishment and joy. Those whose world had seemingly come to an horrific end, found that their world had, in fact, begun anew and with splendor. The great enemies of the human race: death, sin, the devil and his twisted cohorts, lay collectively defeated, mauled and ruined in the tomb. Hades laments at its loss. No more was sin to tyrannize us. No more was the uncertainty of death to hang around our necks like a mighty millstone bending the human race down to the ground.

Holy Fire of JerusalemSt. Paul writes, ?Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He [Christ] Himself likewise partook of the same, through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.? Hebrews 2:14-15. 

Hades laments, and every man and woman rejoices. The evil one mourns his loss, and we, brothers and sisters in the Resurrected Christ, dance over our gain. For our Savior lives now in Paradise, and His deified eyes are upon us! He is preparing a place for us even now in His eternal Kingdom. Our future has changed, and the world has been renewed. He who came that we might have life, and might have it abundantly (John 10:10) has triumphed!

On this sublime and majestic day of the Resurrection of Christ men and women cry out in every language:  Christ is risen!  On this day of Pascha, we gather to celebrate the continued and real presence of Christ in our midst, Whose Resurrection from the dead is at the very core of our Christian faith. We live in a ?newness of life? ushered in by our Savior?s mighty victory on this holy day. In forty days our Resurrected Lord will gloriously ascend into the heavens. When the Holy Prophet Elias ascended in the chariots of fire he left his spiritual son the Holy Prophet Elisha his mantle. When our Lord Jesus ascended into the heavens to sit down at the right hand of His Father on high, He did not leave us His mantle but His very resurrected and glorified flesh in the Holy Eucharist. Christ?s authentic presence is continually experienced by each and every one of us not just as we gather together in His name for prayer, or when we hear His Holy Gospel. His presence is made manifest in the most superb way when we partake of His very real Body and Blood in the most blessed sacrament of Holy Communion, through the physical elements of bread and wine. By a communion in these holy mysteries we participate in Christ?s Resurrection, and renew ourselves.

The mighty impact of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the lives of His disciples is most illustriously set forth in the account of the Acts of the Apostles. Beginning on Holy Pascha itself Orthodox Christians throughout the world begin to read the Acts. The Acts, written by the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, is the history of the early Church. It is the demonstration of the Resurrection, the very proof of our Savior?s victory over death. That proof is manifested in the changed lives of His disciples. No more do we see the timid and fearful disciples, but we behold roaring lions and invincible witnesses. No more do we see disciples hiding from the Jews and the Roman authorities, but we see the embrace of the whole world by the disciples.

Beloved Christians, WE are to be the proof of the Resurrection in this day, in this hour, and in our own cities and towns in this beloved nation. The Gospel is demonstrated and proved true not by cogent syllogisms or crafty intellectual apologetics but by our Christian lives. Our mutual love and laying down our lives for each other prove the Resurrection. Our joy in the face of trials, and our confident hope in the wake of tragedy shows forth the Resurrection of the Lord and expresses our eager expectation of His coming Kingdom. Our freely given alms and deeds of compassion evidence our profound conviction that the Lord Jesus Christ is alive from the dead even now, blessing, healing, saving, and rewarding. On this Holy Feast of Pascha, as we fill our churches and our hearts with the light and joy of the Resurrection, let us joyfully profess our belief in the Risen Lord, Who is in our midst. 

Glory to His Third-Day Resurrection!  

+ The Members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops