Paschal Encyclical from Metropolitan Gerasimos

Beloved in the Lord,
 
“Come all you faithful, let us worship Christ’s Holy Resurrection;
for lo, through the Cross, joy has come to the world.”
We will hear these powerful words in our Resurrection Matins during the Paschal Vigil Saturday night, just as we do in every Sunday Matins. But on Saturday night, the words will resonate more powerfully. Our Lenten journey, the days of fasting, prayer, and retreat, have culminated in this glorious celebration. Saturday night, when we hear the Gospel of the Resurrection, holding our lighted candles and singing “Christ Is Risen”, it will be as if it is the first time. The Tomb is empty. Christ has vanquished death and is risen. Our response to the Good News can only be one of worship and praise of the Almighty God.

Everything we will hear and sing that evening is about the victory of the Cross over death. “For we know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”(Romans 6:9). The pain and tragedy of the Cross has been overcome. As we will hear in the Praises of Matins, “O Christ, Who destroyed Hades and raised up mankind by Your Resurrection, make us worthy with purity of heart to praise and glorify You.”Over and over again, we will be invited to enter into that joy, by “singing the triumphal hymn”, “drinking a new drink” and “offering a hymn to the Master.”

While we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we also celebrate the Resurrection of humanity for we, too, are given the gift of new life. As the opening hymn of the Canon of Pascha states, “For Christ our God has transported us who sing the triumphal hymn, from death to life, and from earth to heaven.” Christ’s victory over death is a victory for all. Saint Paul writes that death came into the world through the act of one (Romans 5:12) and has held us captive. Christ’s death and resurrection have broken the chains of death and instead bound death in chains. In the icon of the Resurrection, Christ pulls Adam and Eve out of their tombs. They are “raised up” and through them, all humanity. As Saint Paul writes, “as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)

In the Liturgy of Saint Basil we hear, “Rising on the third day, He prepared the way for the resurrection of all flesh from the dead, because it was not possible for the Author of life to be held by it. He thus became the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, the first-born of the dead, that He might be Himself the first in all things.”

Dearly beloved, the Resurrection of Christ is the center and heart of our faith. As Saint Paul also wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”(I Corinthians 15:14). Thus, even as we will be celebrating on Saturday night, let us reflect on the significance of the Good News for our life. Let us consider how God’s love overpowered hatred, an emotion that permeates our current culture here and abroad. Let us consider how the event of the Resurrection will bring hope to our world. Share the story of the Resurrection of Christ with your children and family. Tell them that this is why we prepared over the days of Great Lent. As you crack your red eggs at the dinner table and for the weeks ahead, share the story of the Resurrection among all members of your family and beyond. Greet everyone you can with the good news, “Christ Is Risen!”
The message of the Resurrection cannot be contained only among us; it has no boundaries. At the Agape Vespers, you will hear the message of the Gospel in many languages, reminding us that the Resurrection is not just news for us, but for all people and for the entire world. Carry
the message of God’s love for the world with you, and share it whenever you can and wherever you go.
To all that celebrate their Feast Day, I wish devotedly many blessings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
With Love in the Risen Lord,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco
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