Syosset, New York
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
To the Venerable Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in the Lord:
If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins! (1 Corinthians 15:14,17)
With these words, Saint Paul reminds us that, while we indeed preach “Christ crucified,” it is the resurrection—Our Lord’s ultimate triumph over death—that we proclaim as the very heart of our faith. And it is in the affirmation of this truth that we gather not just to celebrate, but also to participate in that victory which alone leads us “from death to life, from earth to heaven,” as we sing in the Paschal Canon.
Not only is the resurrection the very foundation of our faith, but it is also the fulfillment of the very mission of Our Lord in this world. Despite Adam and Eve’s sin—a sin which distorted and tarnished God’s creation—mankind was not abandoned. In His limitless love for creation, the Creator promised to send a Savior to restore that which had been lost, to bring about a “new creation” filled with His own glory, and to restore the loving relationship between God and His creation. As we read in the Eucharistic Prayer of Saint Basil the Great, God prepared the world for the coming of the Messiah, giving His People the Law as a help, the Prophets as guides, and with the approach of the fullness of time, His very Son Himself, Jesus Christ. Having taken on our human nature and having experienced all that we experience, Our Lord revealed that life is more than earthly happiness and personal fulfillment, offering His own life as a ransom for creation, sold and held bondage to sin. Our Lord identified so intimately with us that He willingly submitted to brutal sufferings, mockery, and death itself, humbly becoming the “least of all men” in order to become “the first in all things.” Yet, despite the countless times in which we fall short of His glory, He continues to call us “from glory to glory,” transforming in Himself our crowns of thorns into crowns of victory and our tears of sadness into tears of unspeakable joy!
While the physical suffering—combined with the betrayal, mockery, lack of faithfulness, and even apathy—Our Lord endured on our behalf is far beyond anything we can imagine or even experience personally, our attention as Orthodox Christians is focused on Christ the “Victor” rather than the “victim.” As Saint Paul proclaims, it is in His victory that the Passion must be understood, lest our preaching and faith remains “empty.” “Passion” is overshadowed—or, more appropriately “illumined”—by that great and final “Passover” from death to life, from captivity to sin to freedom in faith and love, from enslavement to the life of this world to the freedom experienced in the life of the world to come. By “trampling down death by death,” He revealed the powerlessness of Satan, the pointlessness of sin, and the feeble deception of death as “the end.” “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive,” writes Saint Paul, for “the last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:22,26).
As we proclaim the risen Lord, as we rejoice in His eternal and final victory, and as we taste of the “life of the world to come” here and now, let us recommit ourselves to the One Who, as the eternal Victor, shares His victory with all creation! Let us be renewed and refreshed by the empty tomb, assured that our salvation has already been accomplished through the Resurrection of Christ. And let us, as we sing in the Paschal verses, love one another, forgiving even our enemies for the sake of the Resurrection! How glorious will be our eternal reward if, having thought about these things, we put them into action in our own lives.
May you experience the fullness of joy on this most holy Feast of Feasts, and may the peace and love of the victorious risen Lord illumine and renew you now and in the days to come!
With love in the Risen Lord,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada