EASTER PASTORAL OF THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY OFTHE U.S.A. TO OUR CLERGY, HIEROMONKS AND BROTHERS, RELIGIOUS SISTERS, SEMINARIANS AND BELOVED FAITHFUL
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
“Let us rise at early dawn and bring to our Master a hymn instead of myrrh,
and we shall see Christ the Sun of righteousness Who enlightens the life of all”
Ode 5, Paschal Matins
Christ is the fulfillment of Pascha. He performed the ultimate passage from death into life, and He opens and invites us to participate in this journey into new life, life with the Risen Lord. The darkness of Great Friday, the day of Christ’s Passion is ultimately overshadowed by the great light and joy of Christ’s resurrection.
This Lenten season we all experienced darkness. We all have been living in the shadows of deep darkness of the Covid-19 pandemic. We all struggled with extended time of darkness that has impacted each of us – our families, our communities, our church, our nation and the world. This experience gives us a deeper understanding of God’s love in living through the darkness of the death of Christ that reveals to us the saving death for our salvation – the life-giving death. But Christ’s death is the not the final event!
As we joyfully sing on Easter morning: “Christ is risen from the dead. By death He conquered death”. Death is overcome by life; we live with the Risen Christ! From now on Paschal joy illuminates our lives. The Risen Christ enlightens the life of all. This meaning of Christ’s Resurrection, this great joy, always was, and today is the central theme of Christianity. On Easter morning what we celebrate is that Christ has overcome sin and evil and death. There is forgiveness and hope and new life even from the very rock bottom of suffering and despair.
With the darkness of the pandemic upon us it is easy for us to understand why we are terrified, afraid and uncertain. We are afraid of getting hurt. We are afraid of losing control. We are afraid of what we do not understand. The women and disciples on this early morning of Pascha were afraid as well!
This joy of Resurrection starts from a personal encounter with the Risen Christ. What does it take for Mary Magdalene’s tears to give way to Easter joy? Nothing less than meeting the risen Christ. Meeting the risen Savior Himself! Even this is not so straightforward. Jesus appears to her, but Mary does not recognize Him. And then, Jesus calls her name – Mary. She turns, and now when she looks, her world is transformed. Before her there is no gardener, but the resurrected Christ, alive and free from death. Around her there is no tomb of lifeless rock, but the living Savior who calls her out of darkness into a marvelous light. After encountering the risen Jesus, Mary Magdalene obeys the Lord’s command to tell the “Good News” of the resurrection to the disciples.
The risen Christ wants us to experience the joy of encountering Him and living for Christ and not for self—the joy of being liberated from the sins which trap us in self-centeredness and discover the blessing of Christ’s self-giving love. No matter what may be happening in our lives, we can still experience spiritual joy through the love of God and living the way God made us to live, which is for self-giving love.
The Easter gospel is not just about new life, but new life that comes to us. Not just Christ raised from the dead, but the risen Christ meeting us and calling our names. Easter is an encounter, a call and a summons – Go and tell what you have seen and heard. Christ is alive, and more than that He has sought us out and called us by name. Whatever our doubts and our fears, whatever our failures and betrayals, whatever the wounds we try to protect – today is the new day. We are all to become witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus. We are called to bring that ray of the light of the Resurrection into the various human situations: into those happy ones, rendering them more beautiful, and into those sorrowful situations, bringing serenity and hope. Let us experience this Easter morning joy and let us radiate this joy in our lives. Let the Mercy of Christ shine in our lives and deeds!
Our fervent prayer is that our Resurrected and Living Lord may bestow His peace and grace upon you and your loved ones, upon all our brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world!
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States