“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.” (Mark 16:6)
HOLY PASCHA 2017
To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
These words, so full of joy and hope, ring out as we celebrate once again the Mystery of the Passion and the Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Annually, we face the long and arduous journey of Great Lent, struggling with our sins and passions, fasting to gain control over such things, repenting of those sins and trying to be mindful of the things of God instead of the usual, mundane trifles of our daily lives. Then we “seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.”
As with all the celebrations of the Church, we do not gather to simply remember events. We gather to mystically enter into those events. So before we experience the full joy of the Resurrection, we enter into Jerusalem with Jesus, spreading the garments of our souls before Him as He receives the shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” We then travel back and forth to Bethany with Him as He slowly but surely moves towards the Passion. We hear the condemnations of the Pharisees. We hear the parables of the Kingdom. We close the door to the upper room and witness the First (and Last) Supper, marveling that He chooses to feed us with Himself. We hear the various Gospel narratives of Gethsemane, the arrest, the trial, and finally the execution order. We stand at the foot of the Cross with John and the women. We help Joseph and Nicodemus carefully bury the Body of the Lord. And we descend into Sheol with Him as He shatters the gates of hell itself in that “active repose” of the Blessed Sabbath. Finally, we come to the empty tomb to witness the Resurrection of the Lord. We enter into it all.
Jesus didn’t die so He could be resurrected. He died so that each and every one of us could be resurrected. By accepting that great and most holy of gifts, we promise to live a resurrected life. How do we do that? Paradoxically (or not!), we begin the resurrected life by dying. Just as Pascha cannot happen without Holy Friday and Golgotha, Great Lent has been a small experience of that — dying to ourselves in a personal “Golgotha” so we might live a life that is not of this world even though we are in the world. The fasting, prayer and repentance are all a death and a resurrection: a death to the things of this world and a resurrection to the things of the Kingdom. Only a redeemed, forgiven and resurrected being can share in that.
But something is different. Just as new beings rise from the waters of baptism, we are not the same beings we were at the beginning of this lenten effort. We have experienced the Resurrection of Christ. So we go back into the world armed with a new reality. We don’t have to be — indeed, we can’t be — the persons we were just a few weeks ago, not to mention a few years ago. The emotional joy of the Feast will fade, but the spiritual joy lasts forever. We live in a continual state of growth in the knowledge of God, His Son and Spirit, and the redemption given to us in the Resurrection.
We have been to Golgotha. Let’s all make sure we travel to the Empty Tomb. Daily.
Yours in the risen Christ,
Archbishop of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West