Archpastoral Letter For Pascha 2009
N. 191- April 19, 2009
To the Very
Reverend Protopresbyters, the Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Beloved
Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Diocese:
CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!
VOSKRESE! VOISTINNU VOSKRESE!
I greet you in the bright morning of the
Resurrection of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ!
This is the Morning after the long night and
the long journey. For the past forty days and Holy Week, we have journeyed
after Jesus in fasting, in confession, in the Liturgies of St. Basil and the
Pre-Sanctified Gifts. We have prayed longer prayers and we have sought
forgiveness. We have listened to the sweet Gospel words of our Saviour, and
faithful songs of the Theotokos at the Cross.
Every word and every song pierced our heart
like a sword, because we finally recognized Jesus as both God and Friend, and
we were forced to face the fact that this Loving Saviour freely chose to die on
the Cross for our sins.
The disciples had an even longer night. Their
journey with Jesus lasted for three years, which was much longer than forty days.
They walked with Jesus and talked with Him. They listened to the Sermon on the
Mount face to face. They witnessed, first hand, His miracles of healing and
stilling the storm and walking on water.
They had grown used to walking with Him in the
daytime. His words lifted their hearts from the things of this world. His
teachings about the Kingdom
of God gave them hope and
energy. His promise of Heaven filled their hearts with joy.
But that dream was shattered on Golgotha, on the dark afternoon of the Cross. Everything
that was hoped for, everything that was promised, seemed to be lost forever.
On Sunday, after that dark Friday, there was a
wild report that the Grave of Jesus was empty. But there were so many rumors in
those days, and so much confusion. It was hard to hope again, even to consider
the possibility that Jesus rose from the dead.
There were two disciples walking on Sunday
afternoon, on the seven mile road from Jerusalem
to Emmaus. They were talking about all the things that had happened. While they
walked, they were joined by a third person who asked them what they were
The two disciples, named Luke and Cleopas,
could not recognize that this mysterious Person was Jesus Christ Himself, risen
from the dead. This failure to recognize their Saviour and Friend is
interesting. Jesus did not change His appearance, because even though He had
died on the Cross and was buried for three days, He was still the same.
There was something that prevented Luke and
Cleopas from recognizing the Risen Christ: and that "something" was their own
failure to believe. Their unwillingness to hope in the Resurrection was
magnified by their constant conversation and disappointments, dashed hopes, and
broken dreams. As they talked and walked together, their unbelief grew in
strength. And it grew and grew to the point where they could not recognize the
Saviour Whom they grieved.
But Jesus Christ overcomes all doubt and
unbelief, if we only put our trust in Him, and if we continue to walk with Him
in fellowship - just like Luke and Cleopas. They kept walking and listening to
their mysterious Friend talk. He started with the Old Testament books of Moses,
and explained to the disciples just why everything that happened in the last
three years, and especially in the last three days, just had to be.
Luke and Cleopas and their wise Friend arrived
at Emmaus. The two disciples invited the Stranger to stay for the evening, and
so the three sat down at a table to eat.
Jesus took the bread, and He blessed it, and
broke it, and gave it to Luke and Cleopas to eat. At that very moment their
eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus their Saviour and Friend, the Risen
Christ. He vanished immediately from their midst, and they said to each other,
"Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road?" (Luke
There is a beautiful pattern of Divine
Friendship and human recognition here. Oftentimes, we fail to recognize the
reality of the Risen Christ. Our conversation and our culture is so full of
doubt and skepticism, full of worries and fears: and these doubts and worries
distort our view, and they prevent our recognition of the Resurrection.
But as we listen to the words of Christ, and
walk with Him throughout life and especially in the Fellowship of the Church,
our hearts begin to burn with the fire of His Grace, His Uncreated Light.
Then, of course, we recognize Him "at the
breaking of Bread," which is the Eucharist itself, by which we commune
spiritually and physically with the Risen Christ Jesus, our Saviour from the
darkness, and our Friend Who fulfills all promise and hope. St. Paul tells us that it is in this act of
Communion in Liturgy that we can recognize the Reality of the Resurrection. (1
We have a moral choice to make on this great and glorious day. We have a
choice of how to walk and talk. If we walk in the world with all its
disappointment, then we will think as the world and live as the world. If we
talk throughout the day only about impossibilities and worries, worldly priorities
and the things on the evening news, then we will give up on eternal life and
doubt the Kingdom
of God. Jesus will be
standing there, but we will fail to see Him, simply because we are squeezing
shut our eyes.
Let us open them. Let us see that Jesus Christ
is Risen from the dead. Let us recognize our Saviour and Friend who has crushed
the power of the devil. Let us hear His mighty Voice, calling us from fear and
darkness. Let us run to meet Him in the joy of hope and faith. Let us love our
Risen Saviour with all our hearts and our minds, body, and soul. Let us embrace
one another and call each other "brother," for our Lord, our Redeemer and
Victorious Shepherd has fought the good fight in the grace, He has won the good
race at the Whipping Stone and the Cross, and He has been exalted, glorified to
the ages and vindicated to the angels:
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and
given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every
knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the
earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the
glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2.9-11)
Granting you my Archpastoral Blessing on this
Greatest of Feasts, this Day of all Days, I remain
yours in Christ,
+ Metropolitan NICHOLAS
Archpastoral Letter is to be read in all Diocesan Parishes in lieu of the
regular Sermon at the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, April 19, 2009