by the mercies of God
Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas
To our beloved clergy and Orthodox Christians,
peace and holy joy from Christ the Risen Lord,
and hierarchical blessings from us.
“I have come into the world as a light,
so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46)
Most Reverend Fathers,
Christ is risen!
At the end of the journey of Lent, God has again granted us to proclaim to one another the great joy of the Savior’s Resurrection and to share in the Light that shines from the empty tomb. We have journeyed guided by the Light of Christ that illumines all (Pre-sanctified Liturgy), we have prayed for those who are called to holy illumination, to the bath of baptism, and we have all prepared to see Christ shining forth in the unapproachable light of the Resurrection (Resurrection Canon, First Ode).
On the night of Holy Pascha we hear the Prologue from John’s Gospel, which reveals to us the light of God the Word: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1, 4-5). Life was in Him, in God the Word, and life was the light of mankind. Paradoxical words, that speak to us about the life of mankind and about their light. Life was in God, and all mankind lives if it shares in that life from God. And becomes light like the source of life, for the Word, the true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world (John 1:9). God was the life and the light of mankind. And the darkness could not overcome the light, nor the life, or rather, the light of life that comes from God. Which means that mankind’s understanding was illumined by communion with God, and no shadow or darkness could alter that light of communion.
But we know that this reality was changed, that mankind was tempted by the evil one and darkness overcame his understanding so that he came to hide himself from the face of God (Genesis 3:8-10). The result was the darkening of the image of God in mankind, as the Holy Fathers say, the loss of paradise and of communion with the Light. Man, fallen into sin, wandered on the earth that God had given him, no longer understanding his meaning because of the loss of the love and the light of God.
This wandering in the darkness of the ignorance of God was healed by Christ, the Son and Word of God. His Resurrection from the dead brings us healing from sin and death, grants us eternal life, and also fills us with the light of the true knowledge of God: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12). This is an illumination of the mind, an enlarging, spiritually speaking, of the hearts of those who receive Christ, being raised up from the constrictiveness of idol worship and from the narrow viewpoint of the Old Testament Law (St. Cyril of Alexandria). Father Dumitru Stăniloae explains these things in relation to our being included in the sacrifice of Christ: If the Son presents to God the fragrant aroma of mankind totally given over to Him… to us the Son communicates the fragrant aroma of the knowledge of God to which mankind has attained in Christ or through Christ’s humanity (Dogmatic Theology). Mankind, redeemed through the sacrifice and Resurrection of Christ, partakes of the fruits of this Resurrection. Human nature, diseased by ignorance of God, is healed; the narrowness of the mind and of the understanding that came from the absence of communion with God are now overcome, and God can inhabit the nature of mankind healed by Christ. Mankind discovers the true knowledge of God and the proper worship due to God. In the person who believes and keeps God’s commandments, Christ’s Resurrection gradually brings about a personal resurrection, a return to the state of Adam in Paradise, that of receiving the light of life.
Most Reverend Fathers, Beloved believers,
The Resurrection of Christ is light and knowledge of God, but it is also judgment. Already in this life we all must stand before the Risen Christ with our deeds. In His conversation with Nicodemus, the Savior Himself reveals to us the meaning of this judgment: This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. Through our deeds we show that we are in light or in darkness, we show ourselves to be on the path of Christ’s Resurrection or far from it. The evil one’s temptation from paradise, that we can arrive at the knowledge of good and evil without God, or even against God, is still at work in the world. Each and every Christian must recognize it and overcome it through faith and hope in the Risen One. More than ever, our world is one of false lights, of confusion and the mixture of truth with lies, of shadows that seek to drive out the light. In his last confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees before His Passion, Christ reveals that He is the Christ, the Messiah awaited by the Jews. And Christ tells all of them to seek to walk in the Light: You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light (John 12:35-36). Many did not listen to Him and did not believe Him, thus fulfilling the words of the prophecy of Isaiah about the blinding of eyes and hardening of hearts (Isaiah 6:9-10). Some, however, believed in Him but did not confess Him, for they loved human praise more than praise from God (John 12:43). Shocking words which speak to us about the courage needed to confess Christ the Light in this world of deceptive appearances.
At this celebration of the Light revealed to mankind through the Resurrection, I urge you all, priests and faithful of our Archdiocese, to seek the Light and to confess it, to allow the Light to shine in your lives and to pass it on to your neighbors, for it is the Light of Christ that brings true knowledge.
I embrace you in Christ the Risen Lord and I wish you Happy Holidays!
Christ is risen!
Your brother in prayer before God,
Chicago, the Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection, 2012