Orthodox Observer - April 20, 1997

Archiepiscopal Easter Encyclical *)

Pascha 1997

To the Reverend Clergy, Parish Council Presidents and Council Members of the Greek Orthodox Communities, all Monks and Nuns, the Philoptochos Societies and Youth Organizations and all the pious Faithful of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Beloved and pious Greek Orthodox People of the Holy Orthodox Archdiocese of America,

It is with deep love that I extend to you all the joyous salutation of this brilliant Day, the Feast of Feasts and Queen of Festivals,

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη - Christ is Risen!

I rejoice with you in our solemn observance of Pascha and I pray with all my heart that the blessing of our Risen Lord may go with you on life’s pilgrimage, inspiring all of your hopes and righteous pursuits.

We call this a brilliant, radiant Day, because it spreads light from within, shedding a light which is unwaning, uncreated and unquenchable: the Light of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator and Redeemer of the world. As today’s Gospel announces to us, Christ is the true Light that enlightens every person coming into the world. He is the Light Who shines in the midst of the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it. He is the Light Who bestows life, true life, immortal life, eternal life. Whosoever receives this light receives the possibility to become a child of God, to see His glory and to taste the power of His grace, indeed, to become God-like.

The Resurrection of Christ is the seal of His entire saving dispensation, which, by His love and mercy, the Only-begotten Son of God accomplished in the midst of our weary world. He began His work by assuming in His own person our created nature. He went on to live a holy life, which by words and deeds reveals the true virtues which are able to bring us again into that Paradise which was lost. He consummated this work by His redemptive sacrifice and His immaculate passion, through which He bestowed upon all men the forgiveness of their sins and the restoration of their original fellowship with God.

All of these Mysteries were revealed to us by our Holy Church in a liturgical and sacramental way during the period of Great Lent which reached its culmination today in the most glorious Resurrection of the Lord. The Church prepared us in a special way during this past Holy Week to encounter and perceive the glory of the Risen Lord. She presented to us in a specific order the manifold and sublime mystery of His Person by a succession of changing images: the Bridegroom, the Master Who washes the feet of His disciples, the Great High Priest Who initiates His followers to become partakers of His Mystical Supper, and finally the spotless Lamb Who opened not His mouth as He was willingly slaughtered for the salvation of His disciples and the life of the whole world.

It is precisely the indissoluble chain of these sacred images of our Lord, which constitutes the principle and message of this Brilliant Day of the Resurrection. The Christ Who is Risen is the same Christ Who was humbled, crucified and sacrificed, because He lived a life of righteousness and truth. As the Apostle Paul says, He who ascended to the Heavens is He who descended into the depths of the earth. Our life and our journey has the same rhythm. Christ is our forerunner and pioneer, our teacher, and the guarantor of our salvation.

The witness of the Holy Apostles and the first Christians, and of all the confessors and martyrs of every age (many of whom shed their blood for Christ) confirms the miracle of salvation and invites us to enroll as decisively as possible in the Royal Priesthood and Holy Nation which was brought to the light of existence by our Lord Jesus Christ. The Pascha of the Lord comprises a true struggle, sacrifice and resurrection. That is why our festivities must be a true participation in all of these, as St. Gregory the Theologian expresses it: “we sorely needed a God enfleshed and entombed that we might live”!

Let us not, therefore, spare any labor, or hardship, any pains, or grief, or infirmity -no matter how burdensome, no matter how difficult, even to the brink of death- because none of these can alter the course of Life nor reverse the absolute abolition of death. The Light of the Resurrection shines on in the darkness and can never be conquered! The divine-human paradox which is offered to us today by Christ, who fashioned the miracle of His own resurrection, will never be unraveled. We must not let any disappointment of other obstacle overtake us. We must go forward to build an unshakable foundation in the Lord. We can and we must always exclaim with the Church of our Fathers:

Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs bestowing life !

With Resurrectional blessings
and boundless love in the Risen Christ

[ signed: † Archbishop Spyridon ]

Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America

[ Orthodox Observer, Vol. 62 - No. 1127 - April 20, 1997 - pp. 1 and 3 ]


*)  Protocol Number 33/97
     Αt the very bottom: "Note: To be read after the Holy Gospel of the Paschal Liturgy"