“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His….” (Romans 6:3-5, Baptismal Epistle)
HOLY WEEK AND PASCHA 2018
To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
In an “early” Paschal celebration, such as we experience this year, it is easy to be caught off-guard in our preparation for the celebration. Confessions are put off because it doesn’t “feel like time yet,” fasting started very early (indeed, only a few short weeks after the Nativity Fast) and has grown wearisome., and our prayer faces the same temptation it always faces — to be lost in the cares and hustle and bustle of daily life. The Lenten “imps” have been nipping at our heels for weeks now.
Therefore, it is more important than ever that we make a concentrated effort to travel with the Lord on His journey through the resurrection of Lazarus in Bethany, His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, the daily back and forth between Jerusalem and Bethany, preparing all of His disciples (including each of us) for the coming Passion, teaching us about His Kingdom through parables, and finally standing at the Cross and the empty tomb as we share in the wondrous miracle of His Resurrection. The Church’s calendar delicately unwraps the layers of the Messiah’s coming to His Passion. All we need to do is come and see, open our hearts, and ask Him to illumine each of us with the Resurrected Light.
But we also must not lose sight of the original purpose of Great Lent, a purpose that is still seen in the celebrations and reflections given to each of us throughout the whole Lenten journey. That original purpose was to prepare catechumens for baptism. We may wonder, “Why does that matter to me in the world of 2018?” It is so vitally important because each of us has been asked to become like a catechumen again. When we began the Lenten journey, we started at the first verses of Genesis, reminding us we have lost paradise. But the days of Great Lent walk us, step by step, to the saving waters of baptism — a return to the Paradise lost through sin.
When we were baptized, we died with Christ. When we came out of those waters, we arose with Him. Great Lent has been our dying with Him through the mystical waters of prayer, fasting, repentance, almsgiving and worship. Pascha is our rising with Him in the glorious and life-giving Resurrection. The baptismal epistle reminds us that we are united with Him in death. In the risen Christ, the one and only consequence of that union is resurrection.
Our catechism of the Lenten effort is finished. Let us each enter into the baptismal joy of the Feast! Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Yours in the risen Christ,
Archbishop of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West