Archpastoral Letter For Pascha 2010
Prot. No. 197
Very Reverend Protopresbyters, Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, and beloved faithful of our God-saved Diocese:
CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED, HE IS RISEN!
"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." (Gospel of Saint John 1: 4-5)
These glorious words of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John , which are read on this Great Day, the Day of the Resurrection, reveal to us one of the most marvelous and awesome aspects of this most festive celebration. Over and over again, we hear and sing of the many references to LIGHT.
While we often associate lights and light with the feasts of the Nativity, the Theophany, and the Transfiguration of our Lord, this Paschal Feast is the greatest Feast of Light! The Golden Canon of St. John of Damascus is replete with the theme of light: "This is the day of Resurrection, BE ILLUMINED, O people..." (Ode 1, verse 1);" Let us purify our senses, and we shall behold Christ with the inaccessible LIGHT of the Resurrection..." (Ode 1, verse 2); "This days all things are filled with LIGHT, heaven and earth and the lower regions..." (Ode 3, verse 1); "The souls bound in the chains of hell, O Christ, pressed onward to the LIGHT..." (Ode 5, verse 2); and "Truly worthy of triumphant celebration is this holy, RADIANT, and saving night... on which the LIGHT ETERNAL SHONE FORTH bodily from the tomb on all mankind..." (Ode 7, verse 4) are just a few of them! St. John's Gospel further enhances this theme of LIGHT! This is an exhilarating message of hope to us Christians who are often subjected to and tempted by the darkness of the world in which we live.
Consider this contemporary parable: There was once a cave which lived under the ground, as caves have the habit of doing. It had spent its life in darkness. It heard a voice calling to it: "Come up into the light; come and see the sunshine." The cave retorted: "I don't know what you mean; there isn't anything but darkness." Finally the cave ventured forth and was surprised to see light everywhere. Looking up to the sun, the cave said: "Come with me and see the darkness." The sun asked: "What is darkness?" The cave replied: "Come and see!" One day the sun accepted the invitation. As it entered the cave, it said: "Now show me your darkness." BUT THERE WAS NO DARKNESS!
Thus it is, where there is LIGHT, darkness cannot exist; it is wiped out; it is obliterated! We all know that without light, we would not be able to see anything; there would be no colors, no shapes, no beauty at all. We would stumble and fall. And we are merely speaking of physical, material light, light that is derived from the sun, the moon, and the stars. They, however, are created lights, made by our omnipotent God.
And yet spiritual light, the divine light of Christ God Himself is far more brilliant. You only need to recall how the three disciples, Peter, James, and John, had to shield their eyes when the Lord was transfigured before them on Mount Tabor. And they viewed only a small glimpse of His glory! When Moses descended from Mount Sinai after his encounter with God, his face was filled with the Divine Light; the Israelites could not bear to look upon him, and so he had to wear a veil over his face. And they, too, viewed only a small reflected glimpse of His glory! The Fathers of our Holy Church teach us of the theological concept of the "Uncreated Light," that is, the light of Divinity, unfathomably brighter than anything that we could ever imagine or witness. It is a totally awesome, majestic, and powerful light; the darkness cannot comprehend it or accept it; on the contrary, it is OVERCOME by it.
Some scholars believe that it was this intense light of divinity that left behind an image on the famed Shroud of Turin.
It is this Light of the Almighty that is miraculously revealed every year on Great Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, when the current patriarch enters the Tomb of Christ without any tangible means of making fire, having first been searched thoroughly by the civil authorities, and is locked inside. Within a short while, the burst of DIVINE LIGHT fills this ancient Church and lights the candles that His Holiness holds in his hands as he exits the Tomb. The LIGHT becomes FIRE, which at first does not burn those who touch it.
This Divine Light is also manifest in the icon of the Resurrection, the Descent of our Lord Jesus Christ into Hades. Just as the light of the Christ Child pierces the darkness of the cave, and just as the God-man, being baptized, radiates upon the dark waters of the Jordan, so even more does the LIGHT of CHRIST burst forth from the dark realm of Death. The Messiah, Who reaches forth to raise up Adam and Eve and all of the other righteous ones from their graves, is bathed in LIGHT, an almond-shaped figure called a "mandorla;" this suggests a strong and powerful light that is beyond our comprehension. Heaven penetrates the bowels of the earth with its light.
It is no wonder that our Church does not depict the actual moment of our Lord's Rising, because no human being could have borne it! The LIGHT OF CHRIST is too intense for a human being to behold.
Still, we need to be illumined by the light of Christ, Who called Himself the LIGHT OF THE WORLD. We must invite Him in and let our hearts and souls, minds and bodies, be flooded with it and transformed by it! Just as we need the light of the sun to see and keep us alive, even more do we need the light of Christ to see ourselves and our God clearly and honestly and give us the fullness of life. No true Christian can live in the darkness!
That is our belief; that is our hope; that is the truth. No matter what type of darkness invades our lives - illness, despair, loneliness, worries, enemies, hatred, even death - nothing can survive the brilliant light of Christ! We cannot live in the cave of darkness because Christ has obliterated it; He has destroyed it by filling it with His own light.
May each and every one of you, especially upon this Feast of Feasts, be filled with the light of the Resurrection of Christ. I pray that you will experience His light in your lives and that you will go forth into the world and shine His Light upon all of God's children, your brothers and sisters in His Name. Imparting upon you my archpastoral blessing, I remain
Most sincerely yours in the risen Master,
+ Metropolitan NICHOLAS
This Sermon is to be read in lieu of the homily at the Paschal Divine Liturgy April 4, 2010