The Glorious Resurrection in the Flesh of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ
To the Clergy, Monastics and Beloved Faithful of our diocese:
Christ Is Risen! Indeed He Is Risen!
"In the beginning, God created the heavens an earth. With these dramatic brief first words in his revelation to us in Scripture, we began our own journey through the Great Fast. And now that we have reached the glorious feast of Passover, the Resurrection of our Lord, we hear the opening lines from the Gospel of St. John the Evangelist at the Divine Liturgy "In the beginning was the Word ... all things were made through him, and without him was made nothing that has been made. In him was life and the life was the light of men." This is a bountiful and beautiful insight which our blessed Church shares with us and which leads to these two texts linking the beginning of the Great Fast and the beginning of eternal joy.
The Resurrection of our Lord is not an isolated event, totally unpredicted and unprepared for, simply as some would think set down in the middle of human history, another tick as it were on a long and tedious timeline. Rather, it is the beginning of a new and enduring new and wondrous creation. This "eighth day" of the week, so-called because it is totally distinct and uniquely different, is what St. Basil the Great called "the day which knows no end or evening, that day which does not grow old."
We exuberantly sing at Passover Matins. "We celebrate your victory over death, the destruction of the deep abyss, and the birth of a new eternal life!" This new life, the splendorous recreation of which we participate in, is manifest all around us. Our parish churches are filled with light, bright burning candles and richly woven vestments; our altars are adorned in splendor and our parish churches arouse in us a joy that literally rocks the soul. We have set aside the solemn melodies of the Great Fast and taken up the repeated splendid refrain, full of resplendent joy, "Christ Is Risen!" We never tire of hearing this exuberant truth repeated over and again, that we never allow it be buried, so exceedingly welcome is its truth. All these images which surround us, embodied in the Resurrection icon, reveal to us the truths of the everlasting kingdom, that kingdom which Christ establishes and inaugurates by triumphantly conquering the last enemy of man, daunting Death itself.
Are we capable of being brave and tiresome witnesses of this new creation. Are we strong enough to bear within us the new life which is never overcome by darkness? Have we utilized seriously and sincerely the days of preparation, cleansing ourselves of sin in the sacramental Mystery of Reconciliation so that we can now in fact experience the joy of heaven in our souls? Our Church is small; we are a handful of parishes spread around the nation. Even now we face difficult challenges are sure to encounter many more in the not-too-distant future. Is our Church able to be the image and presence of the Kingdom of Heaven in our land? Are
we up to the challenge of honestly and truly living this new life won for us by the Conqueror from heaven himself? Are we? Am I?
Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene stood weeping outside the cave-tomb and there she met our Lord. "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him." The life Jesus took up again in his Resurrection, the life which He wept to leave, was the life of an ordinary man. Jesus was mistaken by Mary Magdalene to be the gardener. It was only when He spoke her name that Mary recognized him. At least for now, my dear fellow Christians, this new creation, this everlasting life has been hidden in that which appears simple and ordinary. It has been hidden in the likes of you and me, in all of us; it has been hidden in loaf of bread and in chalice of wine. The man Mary Magdalene mistook for the gardener is the One through whom all things were made and saved and redeemed, restored to the favor of our heavenly Father. "In him was life and the life was the light of man."
Undoubtedly, we are capable of being brave witnesses, endowed and enriched as we are with heavenly grace through the sacramental Mysteries and a robust faith response to his first shown loving victory. We can undoubtedly live this new life and bear within us the new creation, for Christ is already at work in us, creating a new life without fire and refashioning without
tearing apart. He is rebuilding us into god-like creatures pleasing in his sight. Our blessed Church may be small and may face serious challenges, but Christ himself is already at work within us, "making all things new" even as we gather around the empty cave-tomb once more. Ultimately it is not ours to make new and strong, but is the work of Christ in us, Christ who founded and makes perfect our faith and will bring it to perfection if we endure to he very end.
Our prayer for this Passover season, is that we all are granted the eyes and heart of faith which overcame Mary Magdalene, to see, even in what seems so ordinary, the great and exalted work of the new creation which Christ has wrought and inaugurates in us in his Resurrection triumph. And may we all, as the Body and Bride of Christ, as the Church of redemption, enter confidently into this chosen and exuberantly holy day, this feast of feasts, this triumph of triumphs, this most singularly solemn day which has no end and never grows old!
With the bestowal of heaven's choicest blessings upon every soul in our God-saved diocese, I remain your beloved Father in Christ, as I kiss you with a holy kiss and embrace you with the prayer,
Christ Is Risen, Indeed He Is Risen!