Archpastoral Letter for Pascha 2007
Prot. N. 182-April 8, 2007
and Reverend Fathers and faithful of our God-saved Diocese:
RISEN! CHRISTOS VOSKRES!
"And they said
among themselves, 'Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for
On that Resurrection morning, while it was still dark, this was the question
and the problem that perplexed those myrrh-bearing women disciples of the Lord.
We know that the stone was "very large" and cumbersome according to the Gospel
account. From historical and cultural knowledge of the times, we know that it
was a massive stone disk that was rolled into a groove in the ground before the
entrance of the tomb. Once it was set in place, it was not meant to be moved.
It certainly could not be rolled up and out of that groove easily. It would
take several strong men to accomplish the task. How then could this small group
of fragile, tired, and aging women do it? They were worn out from the tragic
events of the past few days and were still in the throes of grief at the death
of their Master and their Friend. And now they were even more troubled and
plagued by the thought that they might not be able to complete the traditional
burial ritual of their people upon their beloved Lord. The stone barred their
way! You can imagine, then, what joy and excitement filled their hearts and minds
as they approached the tomb, looked up, and found the stone ALREADY rolled
back. And then news rang out in their ears, "He is not here; He is risen as He
said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay!" (Matthew 28:6)
That stone, that boulder, sealed the Tomb most
tightly, sealing within it a crucified corpse and all the characteristics that
accompanied It: darkness, despair, decay, sorrow, loneliness, sin, and death.
These same attributes have haunted mankind since the beginning, since the very
fall of our first father and mother, Adam and Eve. Our Lord shared in,
experienced, and was subjected to every one of these "mysteries" of life. He
endured all of these evils, all of these negative aspects of our earthly
existence because He became one of us! Every enemy that has terrified and
threatened humanity has our Lord also encountered and done battle with! These
enemies of mankind are still at work today, but they no longer have the same
power and effect that they once held over us!
We, also, as did the myrrh-bearers, may ask
when these troubles attack us, "Who will roll away the stone from the tomb for
us? Who will remove the stone of the tomb from my life, from my body, and from
my soul? As Christians, we ought to aware of the answers, but sometimes we need
to be reminded of them. This present GLORIOUS and JOYOUS FEAST OF FEASTS
affords us the opportunity to recall to our minds the answers that we so
desperately need when we are faced with the difficulties of this earthly life.
In this confused, perverted, faithless and fallen world, we struggle to
overcome our common enemies, but WE DO NOT DO IT ALONE!
WHO WILL ROLL AWAY THE STONE OF DARKNESS FROM
CHRIST, of course. CHRIST the LIGHT! He Himself
testified, "I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me, shall NOT WALK IN
DARKNESS, but have the LIGHT OF LIFE!" (John 8:12) The radiant burst of the
light of the Resurrection comes forth from the tomb and fills us and the world.
Even in the extreme darkness of a room totally cut off from any light source,
it takes only a single candle flame to penetrate every corner of it. How much
more, then, can the Light of Christ extinguish the darkness!
WHO WILL ROLL AWAY THE STONE OF DESPAIR FROM MY
CHRIST our HOPE! The Holy Apostle Paul begins his first epistle to Timothy,
"by the commandment of God our Saviour and the Lord Jesus Christ, our HOPE..."
While the world challenges each one of us with fears, anxieties, trials,
tribulations, temptations, doubts, and more,
Jesus Christ told us that this would happen, "In the world you will have
tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." Again we
hear from Paul, this time to the Romans, "Now may the God of HOPE fill you with
all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in HOPE by the power of the
Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)
WHO WILL ROLL AWAY THE STONE OF SADNESS FROM MY
CHRIST our JOY! Christ says, "Ask, and you
shall receive, that your joy may be full." (John 16:24) From the very night
that our Saviour was born, the angels announced tidings of great joy, that the
Messiah was born. Simply being in the presence of the One Who loves us and Whom
we love in return is an occasion for great joy! In His High Priestly Prayer on
the night before He died on the Cross, Jesus informs us, "These things I have
spoken to you, that My JOY may remain in you, and that your JOY may be full."
WHO WILL ROLL AWAY THE STONE OF LONELINESS FROM
CHRIST our FRIEND. In the garden of Gethsemane,
on the night before His Crucifixion, our Lord said to His disciples, "You are
My friends if you do whatever I command You." (John 15: 14) "I have called you
friends, for all things that I heard from My Father, I have made known to you."
(John 15: 15) We, too, are His disciples and He confides the truth in us and
offers to us all that is necessary for salvation, to be with Him for all
WHO WILL ROLL AWAY THE STONE OF SIN FROM MY
CHRIST the SINLESS ONE; our SAVIOUR. He Who
bore our sins on the Cross removes them from us! St. Andrew of Crete in his Great Canon of Repentance eloquently sums it
up: "We have sinned greatly; we have transgressed; we have done evil in Your
sight; we have not kept or followed Your commandments; but reject us not
utterly, O God of our Fathers." (Ode 7) But on Great Friday, we hear once again
the Prophet Isaiah's message of the Suffering Servant, the Christ, in these
words, "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him
smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He
was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us
whole, and with His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5)
He has given us His very Body and Blood; first
upon the Cross, and then for all time to eat and to drink "for the remission of
sins." Our sins were buried with Him in the Tomb, and He rolls away the stone
from the tomb of sin, and it is wiped away!
WHO WILL ROLL AWAY THE STONE FROM THE TOMB OF
CHRIST our LIFE! The final indignity for
mankind is death itself. Yet Christ, in His extreme love, even overcame that
for us! Shortly before the Nativity celebration on the Sunday of the Holy
Forefathers, we hear the words of St.
Paul to the Colossians, "When Christ WHO IS OUR LIFE
appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory." (Colossians 3:4) He
died, but HE LIVES! Jesus announces to each of us, "I am the way, the Truth,
and the LIFE. (John 14:6) And to His followers, to those who have obeyed His
commandments, even when we are in the graves, we "will hear His voice and come
forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of LIFE!" (John 5:28-29)
That is why we sing repeatedly during this season: "CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE
DEAD, TRAMPLING DOWN DEATH BY DEATH, AND TO THOSE IN THE TOMBS, BESTOWING
LIFE!" to which we in our Slavic tradition, when we sing it for the final time
at the end of each service, add the phrase: "And to us He granted life eternal;
let us glorify His third-day Resurrection!" so that, not only those in the
graves, but also we who are still alive, remember that glorious fact!
Christ, then, has become all things for all
people: our LIGHT, our HOPE, our JOY, our FRIEND, our SAVIOUR, and our LIFE!
May you experience every Divine aspect in your renewed life in Him!
On your behalf, I send PASCHAL greetings to His
All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of
Constantinople, His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Exarch of the Ecumenical
Throne, all of our Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Deacons, Monastics,
Seminarians, and the beloved Faithful, one to another, of our God-saved
Episcopal blessing, I remain
yours in our Risen Lord,
Archpastoral Letter is to be read in all Diocesan Parishes in lieu of the
regular Sermon at the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, April 8, 2007