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Paschal Encyclical 2016

“You, O Christ, Who has destroyed Hades and raised up mankind by your Resurrection, make us worthy with pure heart to praise and glorify You.” — From the Praises of Pascha

Dearly Beloved,

We have completed our Lenten journey and very soon we will find ourselves at the tomb of Christ where He has rested for three days. In this upcoming Holy and Great Week we will have journeyed with Him to Jerusalem and we will witness His Passion. We will see Him extend His arms to accept the life giving Cross. We will hear Him pardon those who crucified Him. We will hear Him grant entry to Paradise to the repentant thief crucified next to Him. And then early in the morning we will, like the women who went to anoint Him, experience His triumphant emergence from the tomb. He has destroyed death and granted life to the world.

In the icon of the Resurrection, our Lord and Savior reaches out to Adam and Eve and lifts them out of their tombs. When they saw Him in Hades, they extended their hands towards Him and the Risen Lord gave them new life. In one ancient text He says to them, “Arise!”. In the Exapostilarion of Pascha we hear how Christ raised up Adam, the first man, from corruption. All of this reminds us that we are celebrating two resurrections in this Feast of Feasts, that of the Lord Jesus from His three days in the tomb and our own. We, the descendants of Adam, experience resurrection because we have joined ourselves to Christ. We have reached out to Christ and He has taken us by the hand to give us life. Christ has conquered death so that we may be free from its power. His conquest emboldens us to mock the darkness and chains of the Evil One with the words of St. Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:54-55). The lit candles that we will hold up in middle of night on Pascha are symbols of that victory and we will carry them through the streets into the night to our homes to proclaim the news to all that Christ is Risen!

And the joy we will experience on the day of Pascha and through this season of resurrection must be proclaimed and shared. We will greet one another with a joy-filled “Christ Is Risen!”. We will remember the words of the hymn of Holy Saturday “Arise, O God, and judge the earth; for You shall have an inheritance in all of the nations.” The Resurrection banishes sadness in a tragedy-filled world and offers meaning and purpose in an age that feel adrift. The Resurrection shows us that the love and mercy of God knows no boundaries. The Resurrection gives life to the world, to all humanity, with no barriers. In the sermon of St. John Chrysostom we hear, “Let all enter into the joy of the Lord.”

The words of joy, life, mercy and forgiveness are easy to say, but their meaning and implications for the world are not so easy to put into practice. We see the outstretched hands of the suffering in the Middle East, the refugees fleeing Syria, and all those who yearn for peace, security and freedom from persecution. We see the outstretched hands of the poor and the suffering in our own cities and among our neighborhoods. We, like Christ in the icon, must extend our hands to those who seek to experience the power of the Resurrection and receive the gift of the new life that Christ has granted to the world. The Risen Christ who has granted the world great mercy and new life, calls us to extend that mercy and love and new life to all.

Dearly beloved, may the power of the Resurrection fill your hearts with the power of God’s infinite mercy and love.

Χριστός Ανέστη! Christ is Risen!

With Love in Our Risen Lord,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco