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Orthodox Church in America

DIOCESE OF THE MIDWEST

Office of the Archbishop

Holy and Bright Pascha 2007 April 8th, 2007
Archpastoral Letter No. 55

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

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

CHRIST IS RISEN!

As we celebrate the Feast of Feasts, the Mystery of Pascha, the Resurrection of Our Lord, I greet you, my brothers and sisters, with a holy kiss and join you in hymns of praise to Him who has overcome the devil and loosed the bonds of death, to Him, our crucified and risen Savior, who has opened for us the gates of paradise and the promise of eternal life in Him.

The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the very center of our Christian Faith and the very basis of the life of His Holy Church. The time of pre-lenten preparation and the liturgical cycle of Great Lent have afforded each of us the opportunity - despite the current distractions and difficulties - to focus on the status and reality of his/her life. The Great Canon of St Andrew, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, Bridegroom Matins, the reading of the twelve Passion Gospels, the Lamentations at Christ’s Tomb as well as the glorious, light-filled Matins of Pascha are not merely remembrances or commemorations or "liturgical drama." Rather, for us Orthodox Christians, they are representative of life - true life, authentic life, the life in Christ. Therefore, each liturgical celebration constitutes true, authentic and genuine reality - a reality which is life-giving, and therefore more - real’ and genuine than anything happening around us or reported on television or in the newspapers.

In his epistle to the Romans, the holy Apostle Paul states:

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His Death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4)

Through the Mystery of Baptism and the mystery of our liturgical worship we behold the Holy Passion and Resurrection of Christ and witness to them. And not only do we behold and witness to them but we claim them as our own mystical experience, our own reality. And as Orthodox Christians we give thanks for the precious gift of God’s love. We rejoice in the truth that all creation is renewed and we sing with the angels in heaven: "Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem; The glory of the Lord has shone on you!" It is for us to take up this glory, this radiance and apply it, truly discovering for ourselves the true reality and meaning of Pascha.

In our society, the word "reality" has become a marketing slogan; it is used as an adjective defining the latest media trends. At every turn we are offered something "realistic." Nowadays there is a "reality show" about every conceivable facet of life (I have recently learned of a "reality show" on Russian television centered around the life of a priest and his family.) But this so-called "reality" is not the reality that we may experience as Orthodox Christians. Our "Real World" is Life in Christ, as St Gregory the Theologian writes:

Yesterday I was crucified with Christ; today I will be glorified with him. Yesterday I died with Christ; today I will return to life with Him. Yesterday I was buried with Christ; today I will rise with Him from the tomb.

The Resurrection of Our Lord is given to us as the precious Feast of Feasts. Indeed, it is a time to celebrate, a time of festivity which includes foods, drink and Christian fellowship. But our festivities must remain holy. Our celebration must manifest the light of the resurrection and the holiness of the Feast, that the glory of the Lord may remain precious to us and remain for us our ultimate reality.

Let us put to good use the illumination given to us by the Risen Lord, that we may identify our gifts, our talents, our treasures, that we may offer them back to Him who has ascended the Cross for our salvation, to Him in whom we find our genuine reality, and to Him, who, through the Cross, offers to us the promise of salvation and eternal life in His Kingdom.

May the Risen Lord bless you from Zion; may you see the good things of the New Jerusalem all the days of your life. May you always abide in true reality - the light of Christ, His peace, love and joy.

With love in our Risen Lord,

+JOB
Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest