Pastoral Letter for the Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection 2021

† Nicolae

by the mercies of God
Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the United States of America and Metropolitan of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas
To the Beloved Clergy and Orthodox Christians of our Holy Archdiocese,
peace and unwavering hope from Christ the Risen Lord,
and from us hierarchical blessings.

“O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown… Christ is risen, and life reigns!”

(St. John Chrysostom)

Most Reverend Fathers, Beloved Faithful,
Christ is risen!

Resurrection of our Lord, fresco, Chora, 11th century

With great joy I greet you on this holy morning with this salutation as a call to understanding and witnessing, as a proclamation of the miracle of life’s triumph over death, of the victory of faith in the power of God over all anxieties and fear of disease and death. From this greeting we also receive the power to witness that if Christ is risen, we too shall rise. And this is the foundation of Christian teaching.

St. Paul the Apostle reminds the Corinthians of the content of the Gospel, of the joyful proclamation, preached by him and the other Apostles: “I declare to you the Gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15.1–4). The receiving of the Gospel by the inhabitants of the city of Corinth is the foundation on which they stand in the temptations of the world and by which they are saved (verses 1–2). The content of the Gospel preached by St. Paul refers not only to redemption of our sins through Christ’s death on the Cross, according to the Scriptures, but also to the third-day Resurrection, according to the Scriptures.

Desiring to convince the Corinthians of the truth of Christ’s Resurrection , St. Paul first speaks of the fulfillment of the Scriptures with regard to the Savior’s death. The Prophet Isaiah had already spoken, many hundreds of years previously, of the sufferings and death of the Messiah for our sins: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed (Is 53.4–5). Father Stăniloae explains the necessity of Christ’s death: “Christ had to take upon Himself the death of others because He had taken upon Himself their sin. Sin brings death upon itself. And since He had taken the sins of all, He also had to take the death of all.” Through death, through His complete self-offering as a man on behalf of all mankind to God the Father, Christ procured our reconciliation with God. But reconciliation would not have been sufficient had it not been followed by the vanquishing of death—the defeat of human living, which is eternal separation from God and passage into hell. Christ rises from the tomb and brings us all to the life of communion with God, to the eternity of the Kingdom of the Father in the joy of our Lord.

Christ’s rising from the tomb shows that death was defeated. The songs of Resurrection morning proclaim this trampling down of death. St. John Chrysostom says: “Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free… O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.” This is the reality attested by St. Paul to the Christians of Corinth. For if Christ died, confirming the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures, Christ who had died and reposed in the tomb arose on the third day. The proof lies in His many appearances to His disciples: “He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Cor 15.5–8). The Gospel which St. Paul had preached to the Corinthians and which he now confirms through this epistle is the result of man’s meeting with the Risen Christ, it is the witness of this meeting, verified many times over and recorded in the Scriptures.

Only those chosen by Christ to be the witnesses of His Resurrection can also be the preachers of this miracle. Christ appeared to the myrrh-bearers, the apostles, the disciples and lastly to St. Paul. Only this election gives us the right to be preachers: “by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor 15.10). We also follow in the footsteps of those who met the Risen Christ, we who seek salvation in the Church. We have also received the grace of Holy Baptism, and we are chosen through the Mystery of Chrismation to be witnesses and proclaimers of the Resurrection. And we must also labor to work with the grace that is in us, just like St. Paul the Apostle.

This ministry is the purpose of the Christian life. Our faith has as its foundation the Resurrection of Christ and is fulfilled through faith in our own resurrection. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor 15.19), says St. Paul to the Corinthian Christians who didn’t believe in their own resurrection. Christ is called “the first fruits (of the resurrection) of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15.20) and “the firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:18). Through His Resurrection Christ has opened the way to our resurrection: “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15.21). If we believe the Scripture’s words about the Death and Resurrection of Christ, we must believe in our own resurrection, at the end of the ages, but also the present one, our resurrection to a life full of the light of communion with God. Christ first conquered, as man, the fear of death in the Garden of Gethsemane, then sin on the Cross in order to finally conquer death through the Resurrection. Our resurrection in this life refers to victory over all the fears that surround us, including the fear of sickness and death, and to the resurrection with Christ through life in Christ.

In these days of the Resurrection, I call upon you all, priests and faithful, to witness to our Christian belief that fear, sickness, sin, and death were conquered by Christ through His Death on the Cross and Resurrection. My desire is that you all be strengthened in this belief and that you testify it to those who are still frightened and lacking in understanding. I urge you through word and deed to bring light and hope to those around you and to those still suffering these days.

I embrace you in Christ the Risen Lord, and I wish you health and a joyful feast!

Truly He is risen!

Your Brother in Prayer to God,
† Metropolitan NICOLAE

Chicago, the Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection, 2021