Paschal epistle to the faithful sons and daughters of the North American Diocese
CHRIST IS RISEN!
“Christ is risen, by His death hath He destroyed death and raised up the dead; rejoice o ye people!” triumphantly hymns the Church. Once again the Holy Church calls upon everyone to be joyous on this luminous day of the Resurrection of Christ.
During the last days of this week the Church piously commemorated the great sacrifice of our Redeemer, Who endured suffering and death “for the sake of the life of the world and of salvation”. But this redemptive and mystical feat as well as His descent into hades was not understood by the Disciples of Christ who were not yet enlightened by the Holy Spirit. During the previous three years they had been witnesses to so many miracles that, as the Evangelist John the Theologian writes: “If they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 2l:25).
For them, Jesus Christ was everything; He was both their life and joy! And suddenly He is not there! It is impossible for us to imagine that state of despondency and dejection in which the Disciples of Christ found themselves upon seeing their beloved Teacher-Messiah, Life-giver and Lord dead, lying in the tomb. They were in a state of shock. How could this be? According to their understanding this was not supposed to have occurred. Because of human frailty, they could not contain the words of the Lord which He had spoken one day earlier: “And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you.” (John 16:22).
And indeed their sorrow turned into eternal joy: Christ arose on the third day according to what had been foretold! By the grace of God we did not experience that despairing grief which Cleopas expressed: “But we trusted that it had been He Which should have redeemed Israel.” (Luke 24:21), and yet we are experiencing the fullness of the joy which was experienced by the Myrrh-bearing women hearing the Angelic tidings: “Ye seek Jesus, Which was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen as He said.” (Matt: 28:5,6).
It is very possible that we, like the Disciples, are now experiencing a certain sorrow when we see the apostasy which surrounds us. Who among us does not ache in the soul upon seeing such a pervasive unrepentant state and apostasy from the Truth of Christ. But neither this nor any other sorrow or sadness is capable of ruining our Paschal joy over the Vanquisher of death and hell. Just as for the Disciples of Christ, so it is for us that our Lord Jesus Christ is everything – our life and our joy! And since Christ suffered for us, opened for us the gates of Paradise and even now sojourns with us, then who can be against us? “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good courage, for I have conquered the world” (John 16:33) says the Lord.
May this Paschal joy be with all of you and may the victorious words “Christ is Risen!” be with you always!
† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America
Pascha – 2012