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Pastoral Letter on the Feast of the Lord's Resurrection, 2008

PASTORAL LETTER ON THE FEAST OF THE LORD’S RESURRECTION 2008

 

† N I C O L A E

 

by the Grace of God

 

Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas

 

To our Beloved Clergy and Right-Believing Christians,

Peace and Holy Joy from our Lord Jesus Christ,

And from us Hierarchal Blessings.

 

Most Reverend Fathers,

Beloved Faithful,

 

Christ is Risen!

 

Every year we proclaim to one another that through the Resurrection of Christ death has been conquered, repeating the words of the Myrhhbearers, who were the first to tell the Apostles that they had found the Lord’s tomb empty, and that the One they had laid in the tomb two days earlier had risen. And we also rejoice at this time to receive the greeting of the Risen Christ: Peace be with you all!

 

St. John the Evangelist presents the first revelation of the Risen Lord to His disciples: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20). After the Savior’s crucifixion, death, and burial, the disciples had hidden themselves for fear of the Jews, lest they should somehow suffer the same fate as the Master. Having little understanding and faith, disillusioned by what had happened, the Apostles now meet their Master again and they rejoice. They receive the message through the greeting, “Peace be with you all!” and they see with their own eyes that their Lord is risen. They rejoice in seeing Him again. This is the beginning of their transformation from the Master’s disciples into Apostles, proclaimers of the Lord’s Resurrection.

 

The peace which the Lord brings them refers in the first place to man’s reconciliation with God. Adam, who had refused God’s love and communion with Him, was troubled in his soul because he had lost the reason for his existence. Created in the image of God and being destined to bear the likeness of his Creator, the first man could not find the meaning of life apart from his relationship with God. Therefore, he could not be at peace. Adam lost at the same time the love of God and the peace of his own soul. And from Adam on, the tragedy of separation from God is experienced by every human being first of all as a lack of inner reconciliation in his own soul. The Blessed Augustine expresses this condition of mankind very well through the words, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  

 

Christ came to restore man’s communion with God and to bring back peace to man’s soul. Speaking to the Christians in Rome, St. Paul said that “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). And to the Ephesians he says, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility”. (Eph. 2:14-16). St. John Chrysostom interprets these verses by saying that what had been a guide and a handbook for the Hebrew people, the Law of Moses, had become a dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles, but also between man and God. The Prophet Isaiah, speaking for God, asked what to do with the vineyard he had planted, which had not born fruit. “I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled” (Is. 5:5).

 

The prophet’s words are fulfilled in Christ. Christ brought peace among men and with God through His sacrifice on the Cross. That which had been enmity, because it had created a separation between man and God, was done away with on the Cross through Christ’s sacrificial self-offering. The result of Adam’s pride and disobedience was separation from God; the result of the humility of the God-Man, and His obedience unto death “—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8), was reconciliation with God. All that had been separated from God, the entire creation which had suffered because of the sin of Adam, was brought back, through the sacrifice of Christ, to God the Father, reconciled and redeemed from death. St. Cyril of Alexandria explains the mystery of the Cross through the fact that we cannot draw near to God the Father without a sacrifice, but the true sacrifice in the name of mankind could not be offered except by One who was sinless, and One who was united with mankind. And St. Paul speaks very clearly to the Colossians about the fruit of Christ’s sacrifice: “and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20).

 

The peace which Christ brings is thus the peace of man’s reconciliation with God, the peace of victory over sin through the sacrifice on the Cross. This victory, and the power which comes from it, is given to the Apostles: “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.’ And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’” (John 20:21-23). Through this, Christ shows us that the peace in our souls is also the sign of our reconciliation with God through the forgiveness of sins by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Beloved faithful,

 

To us as well Christ gives His joy-bringing peace. Like the Apostles then, when we receive the peace of Christ we find reconciliation in our own souls, and we show ourselves ready to receive the Risen Christ in the Mystery of Holy Communion. Then we witness that we have found “the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the truth faith”, the witnessing faith of the Lord’s Resurrection. Like the Apostles, our meeting with the Risen Christ transforms us from disciples with little faith and understanding into witnesses of the Risen Lord, Who tore down the dividing wall and brought us peace.

 

My challenge at this glorious feast is that we ask the Risen Christ to grant us His joy-giving peace, peace in our souls and the peace of reconciliation with our neighbor; that He grant us our heart’s desire, reconciliation with our brothers from the other Romanian Diocese in North America, that together we might witness to the Orthodox Faith which is based on the Lord’s Resurrection. This year, 2008, is an anniversary year, for it is 125 years since the birth, and 50 years since the passing into eternity of the first Romanian bishop in America, His Grace, Bishop Policarp Moruşca. Let us ask the Good Lord that 2008 may also be the year of historic reconciliation between the two Romanian dioceses, and the rebuilding of Romanian Orthodox unity on the American continent.

 

            May Christ the Lord grant you His peace and the joy the Apostles had when they met the Risen Christ! May this peace and joy dwell among us all, in our families and in our parishes!

 

I give you a brotherly embrace in Christ the Risen Lord, and I wish you all Joyous Holidays!

 

Christ is risen!

 

Your Brother in Prayer Toward God,

 

† NICOLAE

 

Chicago, the Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection, 2008

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May 7, 2017 - Divine Liturgy at St. George parish, St. Hubert, QC

April 30, 2017 - Divine Liturgy at Ss. Constantine and Helen Cathedral, Chicago, IL

April 23, 2017 - St. George - Divine Liturgy at St. George parish, St. Hubert, QC

April 21, 2017 - Life Giving Fountain - Divine Liturgy at St. Dimitrios the New Mission, Montreal, QC

April 18, 2017 - Holy Pascha - Divine Liturgy at St. Mary’s parish, Timmins, ON