Pascha 2016 Pastoral Message

Christ is Risen!  Indeed, He is Risen!
Christos Voskrese!  Voistinnu Voskrese!

May the Risen Lord bring joy and peace to your hearts!

Easter brings His promise that all darkness and fear will be driven away.  When the women and the Apostles came to the tomb, it was a time filled with sadness and fear.  They were sad at the loss of their dear friend and spiritual leader.  They were fearful that the soldiers could arrest them at any moment.  Despite their fear, they went to the tomb to complete the burial preparations.

The Apostle’s and women’s fear was changed to joy and gladness when they discovered that Jesus was not there, but that He had arisen.  Jesus appeared to them in his glorified body.  He continued to be with them until the Ascension.  His presence with them proved to them and to us that what He proclaimed and taught them during his life was the Truth. Our belief in his teachings reveals the way to live and to treat each other with mercy and kindness.  Giving our lives as servants will allow us to be resurrected to eternal life with the Saints in heaven.

We relive the moment of going to the tomb during the Easter Matins service when we process out of the church and gather in front the closed doors of the church.  It is one of the few moments when the community prays outside the church.  In the brief moment of silence outside the church, we hear the worldly sounds of birds and the city. We are exposed to the weather and the life on the street.  After months of prayer and fasting, the sound of the Easter season is proclaimed so that world can hear the message.  The sound of our voices radiates out like waves created by tossing a stone into a pool of water.

The priest sings the Easter Verse, “Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered, let those who hate Him flee from before his face.”  And the people respond with the Easter Troparion, “Christ is risen from the dead!  By death He conquered death.  And to those in the graves He granted life!”

With each Easter verse and Troparion, evil and the wicked are blown away like smoke at this blessed moment.   Whether evil was in the world, in our church, or in our hearts, the power of Christ rising from the dead makes it possible to endure suffering and overcome death.

The doors are opened in the same way that the stone was rolled away, and we return inside the church with the sights of our holy icons, the smell of incense and flowers, and the words and songs of Easter Sunday.  Our rich Byzantine tradition is filled with layers of symbols which connect us to the Mystery of the Resurrection.   It takes half a lifetime to learn their meaning and to experience the power of the Risen Christ in our lives.  We spend the second half of our lives passing it on to our children and to those who are called to join our church.

Whether your church is as small as the first apostles and women at the tomb or if it is a thousand faithful, the Pascal message of hope and joy goes out to the whole world.  We are called to greet each other with “Christ is Risen!” with our words and our actions.

Our Holy Father Francis sent special greetings to our mother church in Ukraine last Easter. He said:

“By your resurrection, which this year we celebrate together with the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future. On this day, may they be able to proclaim, as brothers and sisters, that Christ is risen, Khrystos voskres!
Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: you who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace!”  (Pope Francis, 2015 Easter Greeting)

The Metropolitan Church extends blessings to you, your family, and your friends for a most blessed Easter Season.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh