EASTER PASTORAL LETTER
Christ is "our Resurrection and Life"
To the Reverend Clergy, Religious and Our God-Loving Faithful: Peace in the Lord and our archiepiscopal blessing!
Christ is Risen!
St. John the Evangelist affirms that when our Lord Jesus Christ came to Bethany, to raise from the dead his dear friend Lazarus, the older sister of Lazarus, Martha, tearfully set out to meet him, lamenting, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus comforted her with the words, "I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" And Martha replied, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who is coming into the world" (John 11:21-27).
We too believe, that Christ, our Divine Savior, is "our Resurrection and Life," for in confirmation of this truth, He "rose from the dead, conquered death by death and granted life to those in the tombs." Christ's Resurrection from the dead, therefore, is a guarantee of our resurrection, and thus we "look for the resurrection from the dead, and the life of the world to come" (Nicean Creed). The holy apostle Paul assures us, "We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:14).
The Resurrection of Christ, therefore, is the basis of our faith in eternal life, for "if Christ has not been raised, our faith is vain, we are still in our sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). The apostle has no doubt whatsoever that Christ "is risen indeed" (1 Cor. 15:20), and as proof cites a long list of trustworthy persons who were eyewitnesses of his glorious Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-9). The holy apostle Peter, consequently, in his first sermon, proclaimed the Resurrection of Christ in these words, "God raised up Jesus - we are all witnesses of that" (Acts 2:32).
This is confirmed by the other apostles as well, also eyewitnesses to the presence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:22), who ate with him, touched him and examined his wounds. Sacred Scripture confirms for us that "they gave testimony to the risen Lord with great power" (Acts 4:33), and afterwards, did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives for Christ.
This great feast of the Resurrection of Christ, beloved in the Lord, provides the occasion, through this Easter pastoral letter, to encourage you to deepen and revitalize your holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, who "having risen from the dead, will never die, for death no longer has power over Him" (Rom. 6:9). We are all aware that as Christians we are to live a life "of faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself up for us" (Gal. 2:20). It is only in this manner, in virtue of our faith, "being rooted in Christ Jesus" (Col. 2:7), that we can expect in due time a resurrection to eternal life. Therefore, we are to "celebrate this Pascha with faith" (Heb. 11:28).
The observance of the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ provides us with the special motivation to deepen and renew our faith, for we are rapidly approaching the second millennium of the Incarnation of the Son of God. We recite these words in the Creed, "For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven ... and became man." To prepare us for this unprecedented celebration, our holy father, John Paul II, has inaugurated a three-year period of spiritual preparation. The holy father has designated this year of 1997 as a time of strengthening our faith and knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more closely, who remains "the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb. 13:8).
The first step, to deepen our faith and come to a better knowledge of Christ, is to achieve a better appreciation of the life and teaching of our Divine Savior, so that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph. 3:17). This can be achieved by reading Sacred Scripture regularly, especially the New Testament. We should study the life of Christ and of His saints, and review the catechism of the Catholic Church, inspired by the Second Vatican Council. There, we shall find in its entirety and fullness the teaching of the Holy Church on the faith and morality. Then, having a fundamental knowledge about Christ and imbued with his teaching, our Lord will become the center of our lives, we will mature into true Christians for then we shall direct our lives according to the teaching of our faith, revealed to us by Christ.
We shall not gain salvation merely through a nominal acknowledgment of our faith. We shall gain salvation by living according to the norms of this faith, fulfilling the will of God in our daily lives. Our Lord reminds us, "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Mt. 7:21). Our faith must inspire us to action, for this faith is thereby "perfected by deeds" and without deeds "our faith is dead" (James 2:26). A living faith also directs us to prayer, through which God's grace comes to us in abundance.
As we meditate on the mystery of the Son of God becoming man, we cannot but remember the Blessed Mother of God, Ever Virgin Mary, in whom "the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us" (John 1:14). She became the Mother of our Divine Savior because she "believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Luke 1:45). In this manner, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as St. Irenaeus (+203) observes, "through her faith she cooperated in the salvation of mankind" (Against heretics, III, 22). Offering herself in service to the Son of God, the Blessed Virgin not only "heard the world of God, but faithfully observed it" (Luke 11:28). Thus she became the ideal exemplar of a living "faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6). The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council did not hesitate to affirm that by knowing the Blessed Virgin Mary and venerating her, "her Son is rightly known, loved and glorified, and all his commands observed" (Dogm. Constitution on the Church, 66).
On this Feast of the glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, beloved in the Lord, may the Risen Savior fill our hearts with happiness and blessings, and guide us in a spiritual renewal and an increase in faith, which will assure our salvation and resurrection into life eternal.
Christ is Risen! - He is risen indeed!
Ý Stephen - Metropolitan
Ý Walter - Auxiliary Bishop
Given in Philadelphia at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on this the third Sunday of the Great Fast, the 2nd day of March in the year of the Lord 1997.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, March 30, 1997, No. 13, Vol. LXV
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