Archpastoral Letter for Pascha 2001
is risen from the dead; He has become the first.fruits of them
(I Corinthians 15:20)
To the Very Reverend Protopresbyters, the Very
Reverend Fathers, Monastics, and the Pious Faithful of our Diocese:
VOSKRESE! VOISTINNU VOSKRESE!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
INDEED HE IS RISEN!
Dear Fathers and Faithful:
Truly He is risen from the dead, Beloved! He has become the first-fruits
of them that slept. He has burst apart the gates of Hades -the cruel gates of
Hell -and from the moment of His glorious Resurrection, they can no longer
prevail against us, Who are the Church and the New Israel of God.
He is risen from the dead, and He has granted life -eternal life, to those who
sleep in the graves. And not only to our beloved family and friends who sleep
in the grave under the gentle blanket of earth, He gives life to us who slumber
in self-made mausoleums, of misery, vaults of vanity, pits of self-pity,
charnel houses of strife, jealousy and hatred.
The angels cry out to us as we survey the empty shell of the grave: "He is
not here! He is Risen! See the place where they laid Him!" And they
cry out to us: Your life is not here! If you have been buried with Him, you are
risen with Him! Behold the place where you used to dwell -a twilight world of
self-love and self- obsession."
They call to us with the hymn of the Apostle: " Arise, O Sleeper, and rise
up from the dead, and Christ shall shine on you!" The night is more than
far spent. The night is over. The darkness has passed. And the unending and
infinite Eighth Day of the Resurrection has dawned upon the world. The light
has shone forth, just as God commanded when He created the universe: " Let
there be light!" This Light of Christ burns most brightly -not in the
taper we hold, nor the candles we light, nor even on the Holy Altar -but in the
human heart, on the Altar of the Holy Spirit Who infuses our bodies and souls
with the healing light of God. Let this altar of our hearts be surrounded, be
enveloped with the incense of prayer, the sweet savor of thanksgiving,
gratitude and praise.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, this Pascha, this Holy and Great Feast of the
Resurrection, let us leap up from the lethargy that sin instills in us, and put
off the unprofitable works of the dream [or nightmare]] worlds that we may have
created for ourselves, when we turned from the Light of life to the darkness of
It is enough for us to know that one day, we shall all sleep under the earth.
But what of all that we have accomplished, all that has been wrought, all that
has been achieved? Shall it be subject to rust and moth and thieves, even as
the Lord said? Not if we have stored our true treasure in Heaven. If that sleep
is to be a blessed repose worthy of eternal memory, let us awaken now to the
life that God has called us to. Let us begin again to store up for ourselves
treasures in the Heavenly places - through mercy, love, forgiveness, patience,
forbearance, charity, benevolence, kindness and goodness.
For Christ has seated us in the Heavenly places. He has become the First-fruits
of them that slept. He has already made it possible for us to live our lives
-even though we are persons of the flesh and dwellers of this world -in ways
beyond the expectations of the world. Where the world hates -by Christ - we can
love. Where the world condemns, we can forgive. Where the world deprives, we
can bestow. Where the world envies, we can be generous. Where the world
injures, we can heal.
For Christ is the First -and I emphasize the First-fruits of them that
slept. We have also slumbered, but we have done so like the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, out of our own bodily and
spiritual weakness. Our eyelids became heavy, because we thought that the
burdens we carried were the most grievous. But as the Apostle Paul says,
"While we were yet weak, Christ died for us.',
Christ went to sleep on the Bed of the Cross, not from weakness, but from
strength, from the power of love! He gave Himself up willingly and from no
necessity whatsoever unto death. For, being sinless in every way, He was not
subject to death. And He died for us not only to forgive us what was wrong in
our lives -our sins, but so that we might be buried with Him through the
Baptism into death. Then, as He arose from the dead through the glory of the
Father, we also might walk in newness of life.
Newness of life! The New and Eternal Life! This is the promise that has been
even fulfilled for us by His Glorious Resurrection. The Lord of Glory has
become the First-fruits of us, the sleepers. What fruits shall we offer in this
life, that we may be presented to God the Father in the next life with Him Who
is the First-fruits of the dead?
Such is the paradox of the Resurrection, Beloved. We, who think we are awake
and are alive, are in reality asleep. Unless the light of Christ's love has
dawned in our hearts, then the night rules our minds and we wander through the
world as in a dream.
Let us run from the sleep of darkness in our souls and embrace the rising Sun
of Righteousness. Let us run forth from the tomb -even our own sepulcher of
selfishness -and proclaim to our brothers and sisters the wonders and the
glories of the Living God. Let us offer the fruits of righteousness, fruits of
love, of peace, of mercy, of grace, of forgiveness, and of every Christian good
that we can imagine and employ in our lives.
Thus, we shall become ourselves part of the harvest of the Resurrection, sweet
and precious fruits in the eyes of God, to be garnered into His Heavenly
Kingdom on the Day of Judgment.
With the spiritual gladness of the AII-Holy and Life-giving Resurrection of our
Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, I bestow my Archpastoral and paternal
blessing on you and your families, praying that the light of the Resurrection
may illumine your hearts, your minds, your souls and your bodies.
Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!
Most sincerely yours in Christ,