† 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!
The day of the Resurrection offers us once again the joy to tell each other that our life does not end on this earth, but rather that all of us who believe that Christ is risen will also rise. This joy comes from the joy of the myrrh-bearing women, the first witnesses to the Lord's Resurrection.
The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew describes for us the following encounter: "So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, 'Rejoice!' So they came and held Him be the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.'" (Matt. 28:8-10) The risen Christ exhorts the myrrh-bearing women to rejoice and not to be afraid, to rejoice that their Teacher is again with them, to rejoice that He conquered death, to rejoice that what seemed just a beautiful history of a Jewish teacher became the HISTORY of man's salvation by God through the Resurrection. We recall the miracles and the inspiring words of Christ that were received by the myrrh-bearing women, the most faithful listeners. We can imagine the joy of these women to be near the One who had the power to cast out demons and to restore the sight of the blind and the hearing of the deaf. We can understand the hopes they placed in the Person of an extraordinary Teacher. But we can also realize the confusion and disappointment of all the disciples at the moment of the Savior's crucifixion. All this is due to the fact that their encounter with Christ had changed their lives.
The encounter between two persons is full of mystery. At first they are two strangers, but as they reveal themselves to one toward they are afforded the opportunity for enrichment and communication, an occasion that is filled with joy. Much more so is the encounter between man and God. God reveals to man the mystery of life, and man joyfully receives this revelation. What the Risen Christ reveals to the myrrh-bearing women is a mystery beyond any human hope: that man's life does not end with the terror of death that as we know holds all of creation in its grip, but rather in that moment death had been conquered and there is life beyond death, a life filled with God's love.
We can not simply imagine this joy. We must experience it as a foretaste of the joy of our encounter beyond this life with the Giver of Life. The thought that this moment awaits each one of us who believes, that we will rise like Christ, can help explain why the Savior told the women not to be afraid even as he told them to rejoice. This joy is too intense for us not to be frightened by its reality. But once we take up this joy through faith, it transforms us into witnesses of the Resurrection just like the myrrh-bearing women. This joy also gives a different meaning to our life and reveals new aspects of this world. The faith in our resurrection can no longer leave us indifferent to the events of this world which we now view through the lense of eternity.
As Christians who profess the Resurrection, we cannot understand or accept the insanity of those who threaten the lives of their neighbors appealing to the real problems of this world. No truth can be defended or justified by crime. No one can pretend to draw attention to certain problems of life through the death of innocent people. Death is a mystery in itself that can, in the light of the Resurrection, be grasped as a failure of human existence -- a failure that can be overcome with the faith that if Christ rose, we will also rise. We receive this faith in this life and it is also in this life that we are given a foretaste of the joy of our own resurrection. The one who lifts their hand against their neighbor does not only end an earthly existence, but also puts an end to their desire for eternity, to the chance given them by God Himself to work out their salvation and to prepare for joy in the Heavenly Kingdom. The one who threatens the life of their neighbor rises against God Himself and brings upon themselves eternal punishment. As witness to the Resurrection, we have the duty to know and to confess the value of life as well as our call toward eternity.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Feast of the Lord's Resurrection reveals to us the mysteries of our life as well as the joy of being witnesses and confessors. We are also witnesses to God's work in our Archdiocese that has new priests, new parishes and new churches built through your sacrifice and love, such as those in Worcester, Rochester, Toronto and Vancouver. Together we started a new missionary work and we rejoice to reap the first fruits in our parishes and at our new Eparchial Center in Chicago. We are only at the beginning of this road and we need the help of all in order to fulfill our mission for our children, our youth and our adults. The joy to serve in Christ's Church has this profound justification to be confessors of the Orthodox faith in the Resurrection and to pass it on enriched with our traditions connected with this "Feast of feasts."
I pray God to deem us worthy on this Holy Day of sharing in the joy of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, to be witnesses to the Lord's Resurrection, and to pour upon us His rich blessings that bring health, peace and understanding in our families and parishes.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, 2004