DIOCESE OF THE MIDWEST
Orthodox Church in America
Archpastoral Message Holy Pascha, 2003
To the Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics, and all the Faithful of the Diocese:
Beloved in the Lord,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is risen from the dead, to whom be glory forever!
As we celebrate this Feast of Feasts, let the Paschal joy fill our hearts, illumine our minds, and lift us up to live in newness of life with our Risen Savior. In the wake of recent world events--conflict, bloodshed, death, and destruction let us run all the more quickly to the empty tomb and embrace with even greater fervor the message of the angel that the Lord has trampled down death by death. Let us prepare eagerly for the Lord to come to us through the closed doors of this world to show Himself to us and greet us with peace, the peace that surpasses human understanding.
In the midst of all that we say and do during these holy and joyous days, we sometimes miss the significance of the following words from the Pascal Canon, where we sing:
How divine, how beloved, how sweet is Your voice, D Christ, for You have faithfully promised to be with us to the end of the world! Having this as our anchor of hope, we the, faithful rejoice!
We hardly need to be reminded that our celebration is one of dogmatic truth. Every hymn declares that He who is Life has swallowed up death; that death has now become the entrance to eternal life; that the very universe is renewed in Christ's Resurrection.
Our celebration is one of triumph. The seemingly endless repetition of the Paschal Troparion is our shout of victory, and we do not tire of hearing the words over and over again in fact, we are happy to sing it in many different languages and with a great variety of melodies.
Our celebration is one of mystery. In the dark of the night we process to greet the Day that knows no evening. A small candle held in our hand becomes for us the Light that darkness cannot overcome. In the hours of quiet and rest comes the earth-shaking shout that our salvation has been accomplished.
More than at any other time in the liturgical year, our celebration "spills over" (as it should) from the divine services into our homes and daily life. We open our homes to receive family and friends; we prepare many special foods, several of which are eaten on no other occasion; we share special meals with each other; and our celebration, both in and out of the temple, continues for days.
Our anchor of hope, however, must be the voice of the risen Lord Himself. If, in our songs and shouts of victory and joyful celebration, we fail to hear Him speak to us in the depths of our souls, our songs will be songs about the Resurrection, but will not be of the Resurrection, or in it, or joined to it. We can acclaim the fact of the Resurrection--and even do it convincingly-but unless we hear the voice of the Lord speak peace to our hearts, we will not comprehend the real and personal meaning of Pascha: that the love of God in Christ Jesus cannot be overcome by sin and death, and that our Lord and Savior, who promises to be with us always and everywhere makes it possible for each of us to partake of that love. If we share in the love of God, then our lives have peace, no matter what circumstances may surround us in this world.
This is why we proclaim the voice of the Lord to be "divine... beloved...[and] sweet." It is the voice that calls each of us, personally, to know the joy, the love, the peace: the meaning of the .resurrection. Let us pray fervently that we may all have the "ears to hear" our Lord as He speaks the promise of Holy Pascha to each of us.
Invoking God's Blessing upon all of you, and with prayer that your Pascha may be bright and glorious, I remain
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest
CHRIST IS RISEN!