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Orthodox Church in America

DIOCESE OF THE MIDWEST

Office of the Archbishop

Holy Pascha 2005
Archpastoral Letter
No. 105

To the Reverend Clergy and Monastics, and all the Faithful of the Diocese:

CHRIST IS RISEN!

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

The world in which we live is a fallen and broken place, and the consequences of sin are all around us. We cannot escape or avoid these consequences, and they affect each of us personally at various times to a greater or lesser degree. When things are "going great," as the saying goes, we are apt not to be quite so conscious of the world's fallen state as we aught to be; but when loss, illness, or tragedy enters our life, we are only too keenly aware of the sinful condition of the world. Sometimes, too, this awareness seems to overwhelm us, and our souls indeed yearn for brightness and joy.

Then Holy Pascha comes again with all the assurance and hope that we need in order to be rescued and redeemed from the mire of sin. The texts of the Feast are full of divine and grace-filled words that take us into the presence of the Crucified and Risen Lord, where we find solace and the assurance that sorrow and sadness need be only short-lived. Every sentence, every phrase declares the wonder of this night and the ultimate victory over sin and death. Near the very beginning of our celebration, in the first ode of the Paschal Canon, we find a wonderful example of such words:

Let the whole world, visible and invisible, keep the Feast, for Christ is
risen, our eternal joy!

So much is expressed in these few simple words. First, they are an invitation to the whole world to join in the celebration of Christ's victory over death, since He has won that victory for the whole world. At the same time, this is our affirmation that the Feast is, in fact, being kept throughout the whole world. On this day, Orthodox Christians everywhere are united in this Feast: All are holding candles, the light of Christ. All are shouting, "Christ is risen!" All are singing the ancient hymns of the Resurrection.

Moreover, the invisible world joins with us as well in the celebration. Our most holy Lady Theotokos, apostles, prophets, martyrs, and all the saints, and the ranks of angels- all those who live in the everlasting and heavenly Pascha-are united with us in the joy of the Feast. Likewise, since the grave is shown to be a false and temporary barrier, we have genuine, festal communion with all our loved ones who have gone before us in the Faith.

The cause of this universal celebration of the Feast is, of course, to be found in those three beautiful words: Christ is risen! There are no words more important than these. We will say them countless times tonight and for the next forty days, and we must never tire of saying them. They are the words that give meaning to everything else; they are the words of life.

Finally, we proclaim on this day "our eternal joy." Christ's Resurrection is our joy, and the risen Christ Himself is our joy. So long as we are in Christ, we have joy, even in the midst of sorrow, and since "Christ being raised from the dead will never die again" (Rom.6:9), our joy is eternal.

Dear brothers and sisters, I greet you with this great Feast of Feasts, and pray that you will be blessed with its immeasurable love, limitless joy, and unfading light.

CHRIST IS RISEN!

Invoking God's Blessing upon you, I remain

Faithfully yours in Christ

+JOB
Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest