through the mercy of God
Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas
To our beloved clergy and right-believing Christians,peace and holy joy from Christ the Lord,and from us hierarchical blessings.
Christ is risen!
The Lord’s Resurrection is the feast of feasts and the holiday of holidays. We call this feast Holy Pascha, using the name of the Hebrew feast of Passover or Pesach, which means passing over. For the Jews, Passover meant the passage from Egyptian slavery to the freedom promised by God. This change was effected through an actual passing through the Red Sea, under the guidance of the Prophet Moses, after many punishments suffered by the Egyptians because of Pharoah’s hardness of heart. The last of these was the death of the firstborn males of the Egyptian families and the salvation of the firstborn of the Hebrews. This meant that the passage from slavery to freedom took place through suffering and human sacrifice because of a failure to understand the commandment of God.
The Savior’s Resurrection is also a passage; not simply a passage from one state of being to another, but one which shakes the very foundation of human nature, for it is the passage from death to life, as we witness in the songs from Resurrection Matins: Today is the Day of Resurrection! O nations, let us shine forth; for this Pascha is the Pascha of the Lord, in that Christ did make us pass from death to Life and from earth to heaven, who now sing the song of victory and triumph! Christ has taken us also from the bondage of sin to the freedom of being sons of God. Through His sacrifice on the Cross, Christ has gained our liberty, transporting us from earth to heaven. He set us free from the death of sin, which was the result of our alienation from God and our ignorance of His will, and he brought us into the life of communion with God which flows from the intimacy of being sons of God by grace. Christ descended into the deepest abyss of earth, into the darkness of death, in order to bring to the light those who awaited redemption, liberation from the bonds of hell, and eternal life. This is the first passage accomplished through the Resurrection of Christ: man’s passage from the death of ignorance and estrangement from God to the life which flows from communion with God.
The second sense of the Lord’s Resurrection as passage refers to the abolition of death as the failure of human existence, as the seal of sin, of man’s separation from God. Witnessing Christ’s Resurrection from the dead, we affirm that the death of the believer no longer means the end of earthly life, but passage from this life into one of more perfect communion with God. Earthly life is not terminated in the grave; the Christian does not pass into nonexistence as unbelievers say, but passes into another life. It is about this meaning given to death, as a passage, that the Church Fathers speak when they talk about the remembrance of death as a call to mindfulness and to keeping God’s commandments. St. Anthony the Great says, Death, if one keeps it in mind, is immortality; but to not keep it in mind is death.
But there is yet another sense of the Lord’s Resurrection as passage. St. Paul the Apostle speaks about this to the Christians in Corinth: Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Cor. 15:51-53). Our passage from death to life will be completed at the end of the ages, when the dead will rise, and those still alive will be changed. This is a change of our bodies, their passage from corruptibility to incorruptibility, from death to life. St. Paul speaks very clearly about the changing of our bodies and their being clothed in incorruptibility. At the end of the ages, when the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God (1 Thess. 4:16), the soul will be reunited with the body and together they will present themselves at the judgment. And this passage, this transformation of the human being at the end of the ages is a proof of the Savior’s Resurrection. For St. Paul continues the revelation of this mystery: When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”(1 Cor. 15:54-55). The victory of life over death brought by Christ will be fulfilled thus at the end of the ages, when the body and matter will be clothed in immortality.
Through the Resurrection, Christ gives us the opportunity to attain immortality, eternal life. Through baptism, each of us receives this gift. The entirety of Christian living has as its purpose the cultivation of this gift. The gift of the Resurrection works a gradual change, a progressive passage of the Christian from death to life. The passage will be completed, in the words of St. Paul, at the second coming of the Lord, at the resurrection of the entire creation. My challenge to you at this glorious feast is that we may receive the revelation of Holy Scripture regarding the Savior’s Resurrection, and our own resurrection as passage, in several stages, from death to life; that we may receive the gift of the Resurrection and make it operative in our lives; that we may proclaim to everyone that because of the Resurrection of Christ we too will arise to true life.
The year 2009 is an anniversary year, for 80 years have passed since the founding of the Orthodox Episcopate for Romanians in America. Let us ask the Risen Lord to grant us the wisdom and power this year to complete the plan of uniting the two Romanian Orthodox Eparchies on the North American continent. And let us bear our own witness to the fact that the gift of the Resurrection is functioning and fulfills all things that are necessary for our salvation.
May Christ the Lord grant you the light of His Resurrection together with His peace and the joy of proclaiming to the world the triumph of life over death!
With a brotherly embrace in Christ the Risen Lord, I wish you Happy Holidays!
Christ is risen!
Your brother in prayer before God,
Chicago, the Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection, 2009