May 1, 2016
The Feast of Feasts
He is not here; for He is risen as He said!
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Χριστός Ἀνέστη! Christ is Risen!
On this glorious and holy Feast of our Lord's Resurrection, we shine in the brilliant light and exhilarating joy of His presence and grace. We sing hymns of praise to the One who gives us new life. We proclaim the defeat of death and triumph over the tomb, as Christ is risen, resplendent and victorious.
In our worship on this Feast of feasts and highest holy day of the year, we hear in our hymns the story of those who went to the tomb: "The myrrh-bearing women at deep dawn drew nigh to the tomb of the Giver of Life." (Hymn of Matins) In the Gospel of Luke we read how they found the stone rolled away but did not find a body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how He told you...that the Son of man must be crucified and on the third day rise." (Luke 24:4-7)
One focal point in this passage and as it is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark is on remembering the voice of Christ. He is risen as He said (Matthew28:6); there you will see Him, as He told you (Mark 16:7); and remember how He told you (Luke 24:6). The angels called the women and the disciples to remember His voice and His words; to reflect on all that had happened and to recognize that the promises of the Lord had been fulfilled, death and the tomb could not hold the Son of God, and just as He said, He is the resurrection and the life!
For the disciples the voice of Christ was a very real experience. They were present for all of the miraculous events and His teaching. Following His Resurrection and Ascension, they could not but speak of all the things they had seen and heard for those full years being with Him. (Acts 4:20)
In receiving the Gospel by faith, we affirm and proclaim the power and truth of His Passion and Resurrection as well. Through our worship and His power and presence in our midst, we hear His voice, we affirm the fulfillment of His promises, and we proclaim to the world the salvation and abundant life found in Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. We see and hear, and we become the voice of Christ!
Today, in our festival of joy, light and life, we proclaim to the world a sacred Pascha. We sing of a new and holy Pascha, a Pascha that has opened unto us the gates of Paradise. We see a new dawn as the bridegroom comes forth from the tomb, abolishing the power of death, lifting us up from corruption, ransoming us from sorrow, so that we chant joyously the hymns of salvation and life everlasting. We see the glorious Resurrection of our Lord. And as the angels said to the women who marveled at the empty tomb, we hear Him say, "Go quickly and proclaim to the world that the Lord is risen!" Christ is risen indeed!
With paternal love in the Risen Lord,
Archbishop of America