Archpastoral Letter for Pascha 2005

Prot. N. 166 - May 1, 2005

"Do not cling to Me"-John 20:17

To the Very Reverend Protopresbyters, the Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Beloved Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Diocese:

CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!

CHRISTOS VOSKRESE! VOISTINNU VOSKRESE!

Today is the Feast of Feasts, the Great Day of Gladness from which flows the heavenly light and joy in every Christian feast. Today is the Morning of the Eighth Day, the Day that rises above all night, and transcends all time. Today, eternity has broken into yesterday, and has made tomorrow new. This, truly, is the Day the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Today is the Day that is larger than twenty four hours. It cannot be contained by a single square on the calendar. This uncontainable, untamed and unrestrained nature of Pascha is due to the uncontainable nature of Christ, Himself, the Risen Lord.

The Resurrection of Christ was beyond all expectation, even though this very event was prophesied repeatedly by the Prophets and Christ Himself. But more than this, the Risen Christ is beyond all attempts to define Him. In His ministry before the Passion, the people thought they knew Him. But after the Resurrection, the only way to know Him was to accept the simple, but mindbending thought that this Jesus is truly Christ and God.

In her tormented confusion, Mary Magdalene searched the vicinity of the Tomb on the first day of the week, and could not find the body of her Crucified Lord. She, too, mistook Christ - first as dead, when He had been raised.....and now as a gardener, when He was her Risen Christ, standing before her.

"Tell me where you have laid Him", she piteously begged. And with one word, the Crucified and Resurrected Lord cut through the fog of sorrow and disbelief, and shone eternity into her limited vision. "Mary", He said, speaking her name, the sound of which echoed as a Shepherd calls out to a lamb lost in the night, guiding it home by the Voice that knows each sheep by its name.

In poignant relief, Mary turned to Jesus and called out, "Teacher", and clung to Him in an embrace known only to loved ones who have suffered years of separation - an embrace meant to keep the beloved from ever slipping away again.

But Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me". "Do not cling to Me", the Risen Christ said, "as you formerly knew and loved Me....do not cling to Me according to the limited, physical images you have formed of Me".

Things changed at the Resurrection. Before the Cross, the disciples thought they knew Christ. They thought He was familiar to them. They thought He fit within their expectations. Before Good Friday, Christ was mistaken for a Teacher, a Prophet, a Miracle-Worker, a Revolutionary and a Philosopher.

But after that Great Sunday, He could only be accepted as God, or else refused as a charlatan. After that Sunday, there was - and is - no middle way.

This is why we gather every week on a Sunday, for the first day of the week is forever remembered as the Day when we realized that Christ is beyond all understanding. It is the Day that we finally understood that Jesus Christ is God - God beyond all definition and description, God above every name.

In this world of unbelief, man continues to look upon Christ contrary to fact, as though He had never been raised. But in the Church, we know Him as He is, and we know that we cannot comprehend Him. We know Him in His Body, the Church, where He reveals His resurrected Presence in the sweet and holy Light of Orthodoxy.

He comes to us, and we do not know Him until He speaks our name in prayer, and reveals Himself in the Eucharistic Bread of Communion. Then, like Mary Magdalene and the two on the road to Emmaus, our eyes are opened, and we may then, and only then, "discern the Body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:29).

Today, I pray that you will discern Christ, and notice the Risen Lord in your heart. Listen, for He is calling your name. And to you, as to Mary, He also says, "Do not cling to Me in lesser ways".

"I am everything that you expected", He says,

"but much, much more.

"I no longer fit in History,

for I have ascended into Everlasting.

"You cannot hold Me, you cannot grasp Me, you cannot contain Me,

you cannot own Me.

"I am beyond your language, your textbooks and dictionaries,

and your every thought

for I am the Word spoken in the Silence of Eternity.

"I am not just your hero, your teacher, your role-model, or your philosopher

- I am the perfection of all these things,

- But more so and beyond.

"You may not hold Me within your expectations and definitions

for I have comprehended you,

and because of this, you cannot comprehend Me.

"I am nothing less than your Christ, the Son of God, the Word -

Only-begotten and Consubstantial with the Father,

and the Ever-Proceeding Holy Spirit.

"I have visited your life and have lifted it up into My own.

"I have descended into your death

and have given you My eternal, resurrected Name".

Today, in the Feast of Feasts, I pray that you will know this Risen Christ, and the joy of the Resurrection that flows from the Holy Trinity. Know Him as God, and do not cling to lesser things. Let the Spirit that exalts Him today lift up your heart above the world's horizons, and see the triumph of Heaven, and the joy of the saints.....

.....so that you might sing, with all those who have seen the Resurrection, and know that Jesus is God:

CHRISTOS VOSKRESE! VOISTINNU VOSKRESE!

CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!

Keeping you closely in the affection of my heart, and encouraging you with my Archpastoral prayers in this joyous Paschal Season, I remain

Most assuredly yours in the Kind Paschal Light,

 

+METROPOLITAN NICHOLAS

This Archpastoral Letter is to be read in all Diocesan Parishes in lieu of the regular Sermon at the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, May 1, 2005

 


Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 25:1-9

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 9:8-17

Old Testament Reading: Proverbs 12:8-22

The Holy Martyr Eupsychius of Caesarea; Vadim the Righteous of Persia; Raphael, Nicholas, Irene, & Olympias of Mytilene

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