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Orthodox Church in America
927 N. LaSalle St. Chicago, IL 60610

Archpastoral Message
Pascha 2004
No. 177

To the Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics, and All the Faithful of the Diocese:

Christ Is Risen!

Dearly Beloved in the Lord

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and glorified in the Holy Trinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

As we celebrate the bright and glorious day of Pascha, take special notice of the following words, sung just a short while ago for the first time since last year. They are familiar words that we will hear almost every week from now until the Leave-taking of the Feast; words so familiar that perhaps we do not often stop to hear their full significance. At the conclusion of the Paschal Stikhera we sing:

This is the day of resurrection. Let us be illumined by the Feast. Let us embrace each other. Let us call "Brother" even those who hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection.

Pascha is above all the Feast of light; how often we sing about the brightness of the "night brighter than any day," of the "day that has no evening." It is the absolute brilliance of the Risen Lord - who has united our human flesh to His divine person and conquered death - that "causes light to dawn for all." And this brilliance is not only for us to behold, but with which we, too, are to be illumined. Our hearts and minds, and even our faces should glow with the splendor of Pascha!

But the hymn points us also to another result of this illumination: the demonstration of the love of Christ in our midst. Having been filled with light, we are to embrace each other. We are to see in each other real brothers and sisters in the Lord. Even those that hate us we are to behold as our brothers, and forgiveness must flow from our hearts as light pours forth from the empty tomb!

This attitude of forgiveness is imperative, and we must seriously examine our souls. Are we harboring resentment? Are we nursing a grude? Is there some insult or slight to our person that we refuse to put aside? These are questions we must ask ourselves about all those persons we encounter in our daily lives, and especially among our brothers and sisters in the Church. If we are to be the people of the Living God, the disciples of the Lord of Resurrection; if we are to be knit together as members of the Risen Body of Christ, then we must first be formed and grounded in His love, the love that endured the suffering of the Cruxifiction, defeated the powers of darkness and hatred, and calls us all to share in the eternal life of the Kingdom. Any hesitance or refusal to love our neighbor as God has loved us diminishes the light of Pascha in our lives and thus diminishes our witness to the world that needs to see that glorious light.

Significantly, in the liturgical life of the Church, we have come full circle, so to speak. Fourty-some days ago, when we began the Lenten journey to this Great Day, we stood before each other and offered one another forgiveness. We knew we could not undertake the efforts of the Fast and strive toward repentance if first we did not "forgive {our} brother from the heart." On that day, we offered forgiveness in the bright sadness of Great Lent; now, on this day, on the Feast of Feasts, we are called to do the same in the bright joy of the Resurrection.

Beloved, let us indeed be illumined by the Feast; let us embrace each other; let us call "Brother" even those that hate us; let us forgive all by the Resurrection;

....and so let us cry: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Invoking God's Blessing upon all of you, and with sincere and prayful wishes for a bright and most joyous celebration of Holy Pascha, I remain

Faithfully yours in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest