Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Resurrection — April 2009

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

Dear Bishops, Clergy, Monastics and Laity,

Come to the feast, the celebration, the community and announce to the world that Christ is risen! How can we remain silent when we come to the tomb and it is empty? How can we not celebrate when we see the stone rolled back? How can we not tell our brothers and sisters in community about the linen napkin folded neatly? We can’t! We must proclaim to the world – our families, friends, neighbors, parish community and even our enemies – Christ is risen from the dead! By death he trampled death and to those in the tombs he granted life.

There is a place at the feast for everyone. Let no one be denied entrance. Let no one be stopped at the door. Let no one have their portion of the feast given to anyone else. All are welcome – you and me. Those who prayed in a special manner during the preparation for Pascha are invited. Those who attended all the Lenten services and took every moment that the Lord gave to be in a special relationship with him should enter. Those who were not so attentive to prayer and did not attend the various liturgical services in our parishes are welcome. Those who found prayer burdensome and found any excuse not to pray are not excluded. All are invited to the feast.

Those who fasted greatly and those who did not are invited. Those who fasted and didn’t let anyone know they were fasting are welcome. Those who fasted from food and did not fast from judging others can enter. Those who did not fast and ridiculed others for fasting are not excluded. All are invited to the feast.

Those who gave alms during this Lenten season are invited. Those who kept their alms to themselves are welcome. Those who denied others the alms of a kind word, a thank-you, a smile are able to enter. All are invited to the feast.

The resurrection of the Lord is to be celebrated by all. And celebrate we should. The world will recognize the celebration by the way we live our lives. Let us celebrate the Church for whom Christ shed his blood. Let us celebrate our bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians and monastics who have given their lives to serve the People of God in good times and bad, in joy and sorrow, in peace and in conflicts, in youth and old age, in health and even in illness. Let us celebrate our cantors, catechists, employees and volunteers who serve the Church in various capacities. Let us celebrate all the laity in our Church throughout the United States who live a Christian life by which they proclaim to the world that Christ is risen.

The risen Lord is celebrated primarily in community. May this Pascha be one of community. In our families, take the extra effort to be and promote the joy of the risen Lord to each other. Encourage one another, help each other without being asked, support each other especially when difficulties occur. These are signs of a paschal family. In our parishes, build up the community, invite those who have left to return, welcome all who wish to enter and volunteer to assist in the various needs of the parish. A Paschal community is appreciative of the clergy, cantors, and all those in the serving ministries in the parish and takes every opportunity to thank them for all they are and do. It is in community, where we meet the risen Lord.

Today, on the very feast of Pascha, some, even members of our families, prefer to remain in the shadows at the door and not come into the feast. Others decline to celebrate the resurrection even among friends, and still others hesitate to enter and participate fully in the Paschal community of the parish because of hurt, misunderstandings and bad experiences. It is up to us, bishops, clergy, seminarians, monastics and laity to go out to them and genuinely invite them to the feast. We must let them know that the feast, celebration and community are incomplete without them and that there is a place for them at the table not to be taken by anyone else since, a place that has their name on it, having been reserved for them by the risen Lord.

May we all come to the feast, celebrate in community and proclaim to the world – by who we are and what we do that – Christ is risen from the dead! By death he trampled death and to those in the tombs he granted life.

Bestowing my Episcopal blessing on all, I remain:

In the name of the Lord!

Archbishop of Pittsburgh
Metropolitan of the United States