† 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!
Year after year, on the Day of Resurrection, we tell one another the Good News that Christ, Who accepted sufferings and death for us, was not held by death, but arose. This good news is passed on from generation to generation, from the Apostles and the Myrrh-bearing Women, who were privileged to see the Resurrected Lord, to us who believe and confess the same miracle.
St. Luke the Evangelist relates one of the appearances of the Risen Christ: That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. (Luke 24:13-16). The two disciples were among those who had been privileged to hear the words of the Savior, to see His healing deeds, to feel the power that their Teacher transmitted; and yet, on the road to Emmaus they believed that the One who had joined them was a stranger, in fact one who was not up to date on the recent events which had troubled Jerusalem. The Lord journeys with us through this life, the Lord listens to us even when we speak about Him, without revealing Himself all at once, for knowing Him is not an easy thing. From St. Luke's account we should understand that speaking about God is always a difficult thing, for we do not speak about something which can be studied and known, but about Someone who reveals Himself and makes Himself known. We will never capture God in our well-crafted words, we will never exhaust Him in concepts, but that which we help others to discover about God is valid only when it represents a transmission of God's revelation to us. The disciples Luke and Cleopas speak about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and in word, but it seemed that His power had ended in the grave. God Himself must reveal His power in order that man might understand: "O, foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:25-27). Intellectual understanding doesn't come all at once, but it requires a spiritual, supernatural understanding, a receiving with the entire being of the divine revelation: "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So He went in to stay with them. When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:29-32).
Christ reveals Himself in the breaking of the bread, in the repetition of the sacramental gestures of the Mystical Supper, the gestures which are repeated at each and every Divine Liturgy as a fulfillment of the commandment to do this in memory of Him. This means that the knowledge of God which results from the Savior's Resurrection has a sacramental dimension. Christ arose in order to conquer death as a failure of man, as proof of his inability to fulfill the commandment to be perfect, whole, complete. Christ arose in order to bring down the wall separating man from God, according to the words of the Holy Fathers. Christ arose in order to reconcile the entire creation to the Creator through man. But Christ arose also in order to bring us another kind of knowledge of God.
We know God through the order which He imprinted on Creation, through the Word revealed in the Holy Scriptures, through the prophecies of those who foretold the Messiah, through the Light of Mt. Tabor which is imparted to those who become followers of Christ, through every fact which shows us the reality of our communion with Him. On the road to Emmaus, and thence at every Divine Liturgy, Christ brings us the God Who took on a human body, suffered, died, and arose from the dead. This "bringing" lays a claim on us, it calls us to be partakers, calls us to taste and, receiving, to know. After we receive the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ, we sing, "We have seen the true light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity"." We become initiates of the mysteries of God, we receive God in our being and this receiving becomes knowledge through participation, our transformation into children of God. Only after receiving these mysteries can we say that we know God, that we have found the true faith and worship.
The Lord's Resurrection is the moment of the re-opening of communion of man with God, it is the gateway to the true knowledge of God, it is the hope of our immortality, for those of us who believe and confess it. Every Feast of the Resurrection makes us partakers of these realities and shows us their reflection in our lives. Both on a personal and community level, perceiving these meanings permit us to remain in the light and the joy of the Resurrection, to conduct our lives and our parish life conscious of the fact that our every action bears the seal of eternity because Christ is risen.
I pray that God will grant you to celebrate these Holy Holidays in health, peace, joy, and undiminished hope. I embrace you all in the Lord and I urge you as your Father to pray for all those in suffering and need, that the Lord will grant to them comfort, and to us His heavenly blessings.
Christ is Risen!
Your brother and intercessor before God,
Chicago, Feast of the Lord's Resurrection,