by the mercies of God
Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas
To our beloved clergy and right-believing Christians,
peace and holy joy from Christ the Risen Lord,
and from us, archpastoral blessings.
Before Your Cross we bow down, O Christ,
and we praise and glorify Your Holy Resurrection!
Most Reverend Fathers, Beloved Faithful,
Christ is risen!
We glorify God because He has allowed us again to utter these words which proclaim to everyone the Resurrection of Christ, the miracle which changed the destiny of man and of the world, for it reveals that the love of God is more powerful than sin and death. Having venerated the Cross of our Savior, having wept for our sins which crucified the Son of God-become-man, we praise and glorify His Holy Resurrection. It is fitting that we should pause and reflect on this mystery which reveals to us the way in which deliverance from sin and death came through the Cross, the way in which through the Cross “joy has come into all the world.”
The disobedience of Adam and Eve was the sin which brought mankind and the entire creation to death. Created in the image of God and with the opportunity to become like God, Adam and Eve, being tempted by the evil one, tried to become as God, but without obeying God. Neither did they return from the path of separation from God after He approached them about their misdeed, for they did not admit their sin, did not seek forgiveness, but rather justification: Adam blamed Eve, created by God to be his helpmate, and Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:11-13). The result of sin was the alienation of man from God, the loss of His love, which means spiritual death. And in order that the alienation should not become eternal, bodily death followed spiritual death, for “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Yet God did not turn Himself away forever from His creature whom He had made, neither did He forget the work of His hands; but visited him in diverse manners, sending forth prophets who foretold unto us the salvation which was to come (cf. the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great). And the salvation that was foretold was to be fulfilled through the Cross and the Resurrection. The Mystery of the Cross is foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament. The Prophet Isaiah tells us that “He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). The crucifixion on the Cross of the Son of God-become-man meant the supreme surrender of man to God, the offering of His life as a sign of total obedience to the Creator and Giver of Life. For Christ, “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). The disobedience of Adam brought mankind death; the obedience of Christ unto death brings mankind salvation and eternal life. Father Stăniloae speaks of sacrifice as a spiritual power which is shown to be victorious over the sin which overwhelms human nature. And in order that this power be conveyed to all people there was need of the sacrifice of a person who had a profound connection with all other people, a person who could take on human nature entirely and reconcile it with God through sacrifice. Only the incarnation of the Son of God made possible such an entire taking on of human nature, and only the sacrifice of Christ could bring salvation to all mankind (Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae, Jesus Christ or the Restoration of Man, p. 252-253).
Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross brought Him exaltation, for as St. Paul continues in the Epistle to the Philippians 2:9, “therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem says that at the time of His Passion He was exalted because he bore the crown of patience. “He was not forced to give His life, neither was He killed through constraint, but of His own good will” (Catechesis). In accepting all these things willingly, Christ revealed that the love of God for mankind is more powerful than sin, suffering, or death. His Passion brought Him exaltation. For since He had no sin, death had no power over Him. Death was conquered and Christ was resurrected, granting to every man eternal life, the true life which comes from God. Through the sacrifice on the Cross, Christ brought healing from sin, from separation from God; and through His Resurrection he conquered the ultimate consequence of sin in the world and in human flesh: death. The Mystery of the Cross, that is, the mystery of the sacrifice of Christ, is revealed and fulfilled in the mystery of the Resurrection. Suffering from love brings exaltation, for it finds its fulfillment in the Resurrection.
Most Reverend Fathers, beloved faithful,
Our world understands less and less this mystery of sacrifice which brings resurrection. The world tempts us with many false impressions, with the opinion that we can be Christians even without following Christ in His sacrifice, that we can live just like the world, not listening to the Savior’s words that we “do not belong to the world” (John 15:19). As we proclaim the Lord’s Resurrection it is fitting to remember that there is no Christianity without sacrifice, there is no resurrection without a cross. We cannot be Christians, followers of the Savior, if we do not accept His calling to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. This world is one of confusion, of indifference, and of alienation from God. The Christian must be one who can proclaim to this world, estranged from God, the pathway of reconciliation and healing from the ills of this age, through the sacrifice which brings resurrection. Only the Christian who lives Christ’s Passion and Resurrection with Him will have the ability to proclaim them to the entire world. This must be our Christian witness in the 21st Century.
To all the priests and faithful of our Archdiocese, I urge you to live through these holy feast days of the Lord’s Resurrection with “the mind of Christ”, who offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father and arose from the dead so that we might have life. And may the tidings of the Lord’s Resurrection be for us all an occasion for strengthening in faith and in Orthodox mission on American soil.
I embrace you in Christ, the Risen Lord, and I wish you Happy Holidays!
Christ is risen!
Your brother in prayer to God,
Chicago, The Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection, 2011