Paschal Archpastoral Letter 2008
Prot. N. 188-April 27, 2008
This is the Day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
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!
CHRISTOS VOSKRESE! VOISTINNU VOSKRESE!
We rejoice because we have entered into that bright joy of the Resurrection Day. The Lord Jesus Christ was adored by the crowds on Palm Sunday and crucified on Good Friday. This same Lord cleansed the lepers, gave sight to the blind, bestowed hearing to the deaf, and strengthened the lame and weary. This same Lord opened the Scripture and revealed the majestic Wisdom of the Holy Trinity. This same Lord brought life to the dying and hopeless, was the same Lord Who was taken down from the Holy Cross, and was received into the heartbroken arms of His Mother, the Theotokos. This same Lord Who created the stars, the sun, the wind and the sea and the solid earth was sealed into a tomb of heavy, gray and lifeless stone.
Beyond all expectation, this same Lord Jesus is Risen from the Dead in earthshaking victory! This same Lord Jesus, the Author of Life and Faith, completely assumed the deserved condemnation of mankind. And in His divinity, this same Lord completely overturned the doom of death and became the Way of Life and Salvation for all mankind. As St. Basil proclaims in the Anaphora prayer of his Liturgy, "it was not possible that the Author of Life should see death."
Beyond all expectation, this same Lord Jesus Christ, the God and Friend to all His disciples, the apostles, the women who followed Him, His friends and family - was not in the expected place on that famous Sunday morning. Mary, Salome and the Myrrhbearing Women expected Jesus to be in the grave, lifeless, cold, empty of hope and promise, full of disappointment. They expected to wrap His body in clean winding cloths, with a hundred pounds of spices to mask the odor of death and corruption. This is what they expected. But this is not what happened.
"He is not here - He is risen!" said the Angel to the women. They were surprised and overwhelmed by the empty grave, by the appearance of heavenly visitors clad in bright white. "Go quickly," the Angel said, "and tell His disciples that He is Risen, and that He is going ahead of them to Galilee, where He will meet you all face to face" (Matthew 28.6-7).
And so they went. The women ran to the disciples who were hiding in the Upper Room (Mark 16.8: Luke 24.8). The Apostles Peter and John ran to the Empty Tomb, and found the linen cloths folded neatly (John 20.3-8). Luke and Cleopas ran back also, having met the Risen Christ in Emmaus (Luke 24.33).
They were all amazed. They were all filled with wonder. But in the brightness of that day, when everything was made new and the Risen Christ exceeded all their expectations, they all obeyed the command to go forth in their joy, to tell others of the glad tidings, and to meet Christ at the appointed time.
Finding the Tomb empty, and meeting the Angels, and seeing the Risen Lord had filled them all with fear and amazement, shock and wonder. But as they ran from house to house, and proclaimed the news, the amazement turned into bliss, a confident hope, and a peace that passes all understanding. As they obeyed the Risen Lord, and as they journeyed to Galilee so they might see Him face to face, their happiness turned into a constant joy, even warmth in the soul: for the Resurrection of their Lord Jesus confirmed their deepest personal faith. What they had known amongst themselves was now broadcast to the world, to the angels, to the entire created universe: Jesus Christ, the One who walked with them, talked with them for three years, ate with them and suffered for them - that same One Who washed their feet on a Thursday evening - that same Lord "was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1.4).
Every disciple - including the Apostles, the Mother of God and the Holy Myrrhbearers, Luke and Cleopas and the rest of the Seventy Disciples who had gone out two by two, and at least five hundred other followers of Christ - every disciple had been caught up with joy into the brightness of the Resurrection. Beyond all expectation, they realized now, for sure, that the Jesus they had followed is not only the Christ, but is the Son of God.
And that realization made all the difference. That one single truth was the seed of joy and peace that compelled them all to turn their world upside down. All of them were told by the Holy Spirit to go, and tell everyone that Christ is risen, and that He wants to meet them. All of them obeyed and they went to their families, their villages and towns, their synagogues, their yokefellows in the vineyards, the fields, the threshing floors and the marketplaces.
And the world was truly turned upside down. Within a few hundred years, the entire pagan Roman Empire had become Orthodox Christian, and the Name of Christ was taken to the ends of the earth.
The Angels in white raiment still stand at the Empty Tomb, and they say to all who have ears to hear, "Do not be afraid. He is not here. He is risen, just as He said. Quickly now, go tell everyone that He is risen, and that He will meet you face to face."
You, my beloved, have ears to hear, and so do I. Christ is Risen, and we must be surprised. Christ is Risen, and we must be overcome by joy. Christ is Risen, and we must feel the fire of the Spirit, shouting out that Jesus is the Risen Son of God. Christ is Risen, and we must receive the breath of His peace. Christ is Risen, and we must go, run, proceed into the very ends of the earth where the Gospel has not been heard.
Perhaps the ends of the earth are in our workplace, our school, our neighborhood: Go quickly now, tell them that He is Risen. Perhaps the ends of the earth are in our homes, our families, our friendships: Go now, in haste, and tell them that the light shines in the darkness.
Perhaps the ends of the earth are located in our hearts, broken by disappointed hopes. Perhaps they are located in our minds, darkened by doubts and distractions, a mass of confusions. Go quickly now, pray, follow Christ in Church. Read His Gospel and His Saints. Receive His Eucharist. Go quickly now to meet the Risen Lord, face to face. Do not be afraid. Come to His joy and peace, open your eyes to His light and life.
The world expected a Death on the Cross on that Friday we call good. You expected it, and do did I. Death is what happens in the world. It is certainly what happens on a Cross.
An so it did, but Death is not all that happened on that Cross. On the Third Day, while the world was sleeping, you and I were roused from slumber by the earthquake and the brightness, and the dawning of the New Day beyond all expectation. Jesus Christ is Risen, and that has made all the difference! Go ye into all the world now and tell them that the Night is over, the Day of the Lord has begun! Tell them that it is so!
This is the Day that the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Granting you my Archpastoral Blessings on this Greatest of Feasts, this Day of all Days, I remain
Most sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Metropolitan NICHOLAS
This Archpastoral Letter is to be read in all Diocesan Parishes in lieu of the regular Sermon at the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, April 27, 2008