Archpastoral Letter for Pascha 2002

Prot. N. 147


To the Pious and Devout Clergy , Monastics and Faithful of our God-saved Diocese:



Dear Fathers and Faithful:

Truly, He is not there! He is risen from the dead, just as He foretold! Such were the words of the angelic herald to the Myrrh-bearing Women, as they came at the first light of dawn to the Tomb of the Sun of Righteousness. But they did not find Him. He was not there! He is risen from the dead, having trampled down death by death! He is not here! He is risen from the dead, granting everlasting life to those in the tombs!

Those righteous women -the same women who accompanied the Lord throughout His earthly ministry, the same women who followed Him on His Way to Golgotha, the same women who stood by His side at the Cross -these women were bereft of hope, but not of love. While the Disciples huddled together behind closed doors, the women ventured out into the Garden Tomb, to the tomb of the rich man. They sought to complete the good deed that Joseph and Nicodemus had begun; for after they witnessed the Supreme Sacrifice of love upon the Cross, they found their faith and courage.

The secret Disciple, Joseph of Arimathaia, and the Disciple of the night, Nicodemus, had begun the Holy Work- as it says in the Gospel of St. John:

Joseph of Arimathaia (Who was a disciple of Jesus -although secretly because he was afraid of the religious authorities) begged Pilate that he might bear away the Body of Jesus. And Pilate gave his permission. Then Joseph went and took down the Body of Jesus. Nicodemus wnt along as well (the one who had first come to Jesus at night), bringing one hundred liters (6.5 gallons) of a mixture of myrrh and aloe. They then took the Body of Jesus and wound it up in linen grave-wrappings with the aromatic spices, as is customary in Jewish burials. (John 19:38-40)

But just as the Sun of Righteousness Who rules all creation set within His All-Holy Tomb, so did the sun that rules the sky sink beneath the horizon, and they were unable to finish their good and holy deed. Unaware that the new Eighth Day of Creation was dawning, they observed the rule of the Seventh Day, and they rested from their labor of love, just as the Lord rested from His saving labor of love. Their horizon was still marked by the shadow of the old. The infinite dawn had yet to arise in their hearts. So it was that the Holy Women proceeded to the Tomb that first Pascha morning. So it was that they fully expected to find the Lord of Glory sleeping in His grave. So it was that their purpose was to complete the rites of burial.

But in bringing their fragrant myrrh to anoint the dead, they found the proof of the Resurrection: the linen grave- wrappings set aside, and the face-shroud not with the grave- wrappings, but folded and set apart in a different place (cf. John 20:6,7). They came ready to bear the pain of their own voices as they prepared to mourn the Incorruptible One, but instead they heard the voice of the angel announcing the glad tidings of the Resurrection! They came with hands full of precious gifts -the Holy Myrrh that they had prepared for the anointing, and instead they received the Good News of the greatest gift of all- Eternal Life -the knowledge of the Father and One Whom He did send: Jesus Christ!

And Mary Magdalene, when she encountered the Risen Lord Himself in the Garden and fell down at His feet, heard the sweet words of the victory: "Go to My brothers and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and toyourFather, indeed to My God and to your God!"' (John 20:17)

For now, my beloved spiritual children, are we children of the Heavenly Father, sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters to Christ and joint heirs with Him? Through the Resurrection, the anointing that was once brought to Him - first at His Nativity by the Magi, then by the woman who anointed Him before His Passion, and at the First Pascha by the Myrrh-bearing women -these offerings of ours have been completed by His.

For the Holy Myrrh, the Holy Chrism that we sanctified in Constantinople this year with our beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew -this Sacred Oil continues the work of our Lord in the world. In return for our gifts to Him, He offers us redemption, cleansing and sanctification through the gift of the Holy Spirit. He was revealed as the Sacred Vessel of the Spirit at His Baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended in the likeness of a dove. He took into Himself all our weakness, fear and mortality in the Garden of the Oil Press -the Garden of Gethsemane where He revealed His divine love for us, even to the sweating of His Holy Blood. On the Cross, where even though "not a bone of Him was broken ," He broke His Body, as He said at the Mystical Supper. And just as the fragrance flowed from the alabaster box of the sinful women, so do His mercy and the gift of the Holy Spirit continue to flow in the world through His free gift to us, most especially in the Holy Chrism.

This Pascha, let us continue to bring our gifts to Him -the sweet fragrance of our righteous deeds, so that we may receive from Him, through the power of the Resurrection, the gift, life and reality of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and in our minds, and in our souls, and in every aspect of our lives!

With love and joy in the Risen Christ, together with my blessing, I remain

Most sincerely yours in Christ Risen,