Christ is Risen! Our Church is replete with occasions for expectation and fulfillment. We just completed the greatest experience of this with the Great Fast and Pascha. And so we quickly turn toward our newest expectation which is Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, and very tidily, there are forty days before Pascha in which we fast and prepare for the Resurrection, and there are forty days after Pascha until the Ascension of our Lord (the Antiochian Archdiocese has no fasting during this period, incidentally). And then ten days after Ascension we have of course, Pentecost, meaning “the fiftieth day” essentially.
We have entered into a new time of expectation, waiting for fulfillment. One component of this you might have noticed is that we do not say the prayer “O Heavenly King” during this time. Because we are anticipating the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and we are celebrating Christ’s Resurrection, we say instead the prayer, “Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
As you say your daily prayers, this is a good opportunity to be reminded of this. It prolongs the celebration of Pascha for the fifty days and prepares us to receive the Holy Spirit. And we also have the opportunity to read through the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles. Expectation and fulfillment: the Orthodox life.
Christ is Risen!
~ St Nektarios Orthodox Church, Waxahachie, Tx.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
“For this holy house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence, and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.” — From the Great Litany in the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom
A church is supposed to be a place of peace, love and prayer. During the most solemn week for Christians throughout the world, violence has once again claimed the lives of innocent people as they were gathered in worship to mark the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Two churches in Egypt were attacked, with 49 people dead and dozens more critically injured. While these devoted Coptic Christians were offering prayers to the Lord, in an instant, they were called to be with Him in paradise. The tragedy that struck these innocent people is all too familiar a headline nearly every day when we watch the news. We must never become immune to this barbaric behavior but rather, continue to pray for peace in our world. The heartless cowards who bombed these churches did not just attack people, they attacked our Lord.
As we continue our journey through Holy Week, we will remember another attack, that of Jesus Christ – a man of peace, of prayer and of love – who gave up His life so that we might have eternal salvation in Him. Let us lift up in prayer all those who are suffering from this tragedy that God may renew their health, grant them comfort, and restore their churches so they may continue to preach His Gospel of love. We also offer prayers for those who lost their lives, beseeching the Lord’s eternal rest for their souls.
These acts of violence are not just on the other side of the world. They are also in our own backyard. The city of San Bernardino, California once again suffered from another act of gun violence, claiming three lives, one of them an innocent, special needs boy whose parents sent him off to school for the day, and who now will never come through the doors of their home again.
During the funeral procession of Our Lord on Holy Friday, let us also call to mind those who are also being buried with Christ and gave the ultimate sacrifice for Him. And on Great and Holy Pascha as we joyfully proclaim Christ is Risen, let us also find comfort knowing that those in the tombs have been granted eternal life through His Glorious Resurrection!
With Love in Christ,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco
Mochas for Missions 2017:
Curb your coffee purchases during Lent and give that extra cash to support Mission & Evangelism efforts in our Metropolis. We are challenging all families to give a minimum of $50 towards this wonderful program. If coffee is not your thing, then choose something else to give up out of love for God. Save money you would normally use on coffee purchases or another treat.
Place checks and cash in the separate Mochas for Mission box every service! Make checks payable to Holy Cross and designate Mochas for Missions on the memo line.
Watch as our parish advances each week towards our $1,000 goal.
Together we can easily reach our goal from:
Beginning of Great Lent Monday February 27th, 2017
to Pentecost Sunday, June 4th, 2017!
C.O.M.E. = Commission for Orthodox Missions & Evangelism
“Instantly, grief was turned to joy.”
— Kontakion for the Resurrection by Saint Romanos the Melodist
Beloved in the Lord,
The witness of the Holy Scriptures is clear. The women disciples went to the tomb expecting to anoint the body of their Teacher. Their despair was obvious. They had followed their beloved Master for three years, accepted His message of God’s love, and witnessed His miracles and compassion for all. After His arrest and trial they saw Him carry His cross to Golgotha to His execution. They grieved at His burial. And now, three days later, they find an empty tomb. They learn that their Teacher has risen from the dead and instantly their grief turns to joy.
This was not a spiritual resurrection or some kind of imaginary event. It was real; it was physical. Christ’s body was gone. “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, He is not here; see the place where they laid Him” (Mark 16:6), the angel proclaimed to the women. Soon all His disciples would see Him, talk with Him, and eat with Him. Thomas would touch Him. But even in this physical reality, the resurrected Christ was transformed. He showed the marks of His Passion, but He was no longer subject to the ordinary laws of nature, to the human limitations of time and space. His identity as the Son of God was now evident to all with the eyes of their belief. And when we consider this reality, we will repeat the words of Thomas to the Risen Christ, “My Lord and my God.”
Even though we know the story, we gather in our parishes the night of Pascha with anticipation. We are tired at the lateness of the hour. Attending the many services of Holy Week has added to our fatigue. We have heightened our observance of the fast these last few days, also contributing to our weariness. Yet, even as we sit in the darkness, hearing the hymns of lament, there is excitement in the air. Then, all the lights are extinguished. Suddenly a lit candle comes forth and the priest proclaims “Come receive the light ... (Δεῦτε λάβετε φῶς ...).” Darkness and despair have been overcome by the Resurrection of Christ. In an instant, our fatigue is gone and joy fills the church.
Theological arguments cannot explain this joy. Only the impossible, unprecedented proclamation, “Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs He has granted life.” has the power to convert us and fill our hearts with such happiness. All the social media posts of red eggs, candle-filled churches, or Paschal flowers cannot substitute for the experience of witnessing light triumph over darkness, of the Son of God defeating death. One must be there – rather one must be here – in the community of faith to experience this moment.
While this joy will fill our parishes and our family celebrations, the power of the Resurrection becomes more evident when we allow the light of Christ to overcome any darkness in our lives. As we sung throughout Holy Week, “O Giver of light, make radiant the vesture of my soul and save me (λάμπρυνόν μου τὴν στολὴν τῆς ψυχῆς, Φωτοδότα καὶ σῶσον με). Sharing the light of the Resurrection with our neighbors through our acts of philanthropy, charity, kindness, justice, and service is more convincing than even the beauty of our lit candles. When we tell and retell the story of the experience of the women disciples’ grief turning to joy to our children, our grandchildren, and to all we encounter, we, like them so many centuries ago, can rejoice and worship the Resurrected Christ.
May the Joy of the Resurrection be with you and your beloved families today and always.
Christ Is Risen! Truly He Is Risen!
With Paternal Love in the Resurrected Lord,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco