† N I C O L A E
by the Grace of God
Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada
To the Beloved Clergy and Right-Believing Christians,
Peace and Holy Joy from our Lord Jesus Christ,
And from us Hierarchal Blessings.
Most Reverend Fathers,
Christ is Risen!
God has granted us -- now nine months from my ordination and installation as Archbishop - to celebrate together the Feast of the Lord's Resurrection. This great day is called the "Feast of feasts and the Festival of festivals." Our words here are meant to further explain why the Church embellishes the description of this day with so many superlatives.
The profound meaning of this great Feast is shown us in the Troparion of the Resurrection. But we should ask ourselves, why we are not permitted to sing this hymn in any manner? The Hymn sung at the end of the Resurrection Matins Praises speaks to this question:
"It is the day of Resurrection, let us be radiant for the Festival.
Let us embrace one another.
Let us say to one another, brethren, even to those who hate us;
'Let us forgive everything in the Resurrection.'
And so, let us cry aloud:
Christ is Risen from the dead,
Trampling down Death by death,
And to those in the tombs, Bestowing life."
What can make us to spontaneously decide "to forgive everything in the Resurrection" and to consider all of our neighbors brethren? Undoubtedly, it is our belief that Christ is risen.
According to the Gospel accounts, there is no witness to the moment of the Resurrection. The Savior's Resurrection remains a mystic moment, God's hidden work. Yet there are witnesses who saw the Risen Savior and who have passed down to us that which they saw: "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord." (John 20:19-20) Above all, our faith in the Savior's Resurrection is based on our faith in the witness of these persons. This is the faith that makes us children of the Church of Christ; this is the gateway through which we enter into the open road leading to Christ. Once we have entered along this path, each of us on the basis of our faith as well as our struggle can express that which we have been given by Christ through His Death and Resurrection, that is our association with the divine. It is for this reason that the Holy Evangelist John entrusts "to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13) Faith in the Savior's Resurrection "that we gained by listening" makes us capable to receive the power to become the children of God. This means that faith is at work in us. It works to move us from the status of slave to sin to that of children of light; it works our rebirth for the Kingdom of God, a foretaste of which we already have in this life; and so, it works for our victory over death -- understood as the separation from God - and our resurrection in a complete life which is life in the love of God.
When we sing the Troparion of the Resurrection we in fact express the joy that we are partakers of the Savior's Resurrection. This joy is fulfilled by the hope that we too will rise: "For in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.: (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). As Christians we live the new life in Christ and we believe that we will rise with Christ. This is the basis on which we can, on the Day of the Resurrection. "be radiant in the festival," and the joy of the Resurrection can transform for us everyone into brethren. Our faith that Christ is risen, as well as our faith that we also will rise, resituates ourselves in this world. This faith transforms this indifference or even hostility with which we viewed our neighbor into brotherly love because Christ has risen for each one of us. This faith gives us the power to change the world if we have the courage to follow through on it. In this world of conflict and war, Christians are able to bring peace through a pure outlook and good works, through a concern for all, because Christ has risen for each of us. Faith in the Resurrection works a change in us and this change enables us to worthily sing the Troparion of the Resurrection.
This these few months that have passed since the Feast of the Lord's Nativity I have continued to visit our parishes and observed the same firm foundation among the more established parishes as well as the same fervor to build new parishes among those newly established. God has allowed me to visit our parishes on the west coast: in Vancouver and in California, as well as a few of the parishes on the east coast that I had been unable to visit previously. I have been impressed with the seriousness of the priests, the strong resolve of the faithful that I found in the churches, to contribute to their maintenance, to the concern for the children and youth who tomorrow will be the hoped for faithful of the parishes. All of this has given me joy as well as reminding me of the responsibility - not at all light - which we share with all of you, those of you who serve the altar and you faithful, for the future of the parishes and our Archdiocese.
That which before Christmas was but a desire, the relocation of the Eparhial Center to Chicago, has been accomplished in these past few months. We have begun to found a new parish and to centralize the activity of our Archdiocese in the provisional residence in Chicago. We want to acknowledge the broad understanding and generous assistance offered by our priests and faithful toward this project and we pray our Good Lord that He repay you in kind. We need to continue working on this project and to maintain our hope that God will bless our mission and that we will have, at an fitting time, a new Eparhial Center in Chicago.
I pray to God that this Holy Day will bring you health, peace, joy, and furtherance in every good thing in the service of God and our fellow man. May the Lift of the Resurrection that dawned from the empty tomb enlighten your spirits and your way in this life.
I embrace you with a brotherly embrace in Christ our Risen Lord and wish you a Blessed Holiday.
Christ is Risen!
Your brother and intercessor before God,
Feast of the Lord's Resurrection, 2003