Pascha 2013

Dear beloved Clergy and Laity,

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

These simple words of greeting which we use for the next forty days speak a celebration of life and an explosion of joy. When we first proclaim them at the Divine Liturgy and the liturgical offices of Pascha we are filled with a new joy, refreshed and renewed even though our bodies may be tired from the long week of the Lord’s passion. All you faithful come: let us adore the holy Resurrection of Christ; for behold, through the Cross, joy has come to the world.

Our simple Pascha greeting also has a tremendous meaning for us, for not only is Christ risen, but we are too! We die with Him in Baptism and live with Him in a new life. We die to our selfishness and sins in order to become more and more actual images of Christ as He raises us up from our fallen nature to make us beacons of His life and love. Let us glory in this feast and embrace one another. O brothers and sisters, let us all say: ‘Because of the Resurrection, we forgive all things to those who hate us.’

As new people we no longer fear death for as St. John Chrysostom says in his famous Resurrection homily: the death of our Savior has set us free…Christ is risen and life is freed.

No sooner do we hear these amazing words, take joy in them, and believe them, when we suddenly realize that this Paschal message has not reached millions of people throughout the world. I think of our fellow Christians in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Palestine where war and terror rage on. Surrounded by so much war and opposition, these people may be celebrating Pascha but not so radiantly as we would hope. The message of Christ–love unfailing–has not reached so many people. I can understand how these simple words: “He is truly risen” can seem to announce nothing or proclaim nothing.

Let us in a special way pray for our brothers and sisters under oppression, that God will strengthen their faith in this Paschal event. And let us pray also for the oppressors, “those who hate us,” that God will shine in their hearts a triumphal understanding that love and not hatred conquers all.

We have recently witnessed a great act of love for the Church as Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from his office because of age and frailty–he is truly a man who knows and loves Christ and recognizes his own humanity. And now we welcome His Holiness, Pope Francis, a continued sign of the vitality of the Church, and we rejoice at his enormous acceptance by the world. We offer our prayers for the Pope Emeritus and for our new Holy Father.

I offer to all of you my greetings and love on this glorious feast, and I remind you that you, too, are the witnesses of the Resurrection. As Jesus appeared after His resurrection to Mary Magdalene, to Peter and the other Apostles, to Thomas, and to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, He continues to appear today in the hearts of each and every one of you, and He calls you to be the image of “Christ alive” in your surroundings.

He continues to show us the way. In our despair, He continues to be our hope; in our sinfulness, He continues to be our forgiveness; and in our death, He continues to be our life.

And you too, in His joyful image, be the same!

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

Sincerely yours in the living Christ,

Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Eparchial Bishop of Newton