My Dear Melkites,
Christ is risen! He is truly risen!
These vibrant words we proclaim to announce the resurrection of Christ form the background music of our life. In every parish I visit, especially during the Paschal season, everyone – young and old – chants with gusto “Christ is risen from the dead…” again and again whether in English, Arabic or Greek. The melody is catchy and known by all. But more than just a melody, it is an act of faith announcing that we live eternally, and even though we die, we still live! In baptism, we died with Christ to sin and death, and we were resurrected with Him to the newness of life. We are called by God to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
I remember well as a child, each year before the end of Great Lent, my mother would take me, my sister, and brothers to downtown Paterson to buy a full set of new clothes, the clothes we would wear on Pascha. Everything had to be new, from underwear, socks, shoes, to trousers, shirt and tie, and even a jacket for the boys and a beautiful dress for my sister. Our new clothes were reminiscent of our baptismal garments in infancy since Resurrection Sunday was our renewal of being Christian through baptism. All the clothes had to be new to celebrate this great event, our renewal in Christ.
“We celebrate the very death of Death, the overthrow of Hell, and the beginning of another life which is eternal.”
At every Sunday Orthros (Morning Prayer) and every day during the 40-day Paschal season we chant “Now that we have seen the resurrection of Christ, let us adore that all-holy Lord Jesus … for You are our God and we have no other … for behold through the cross joy has come to the world. Let us always bless the Lord, let us sing his resurrection, for by enduring for us the pain of the cross, He has crushed death by his death.”
Having been saved by the resurrection of Christ, He continues to appear to us daily in his Word – the holy Bible. We receive his body and blood in the Eucharist. He appears in his teachings of love and mercy; He appears to us to comfort us when grieving. He comes to us in our periods of doubt to instill new hope. When we fear, He upholds us. Jesus is not dead; He lives! He is not just a great teacher and beautiful example for us to follow. He is Son of God, the risen Lord of glory. He appears in our confusion to show us the way, in our despair to be our hope, in our sin to be our forgiveness, in our death to be our life.
During this joyful season, we add our prayers for the suffering Christians particularly in the Middle East who are still being bombarded with hatred, persecuted for their faith, and dying daily deaths in despair. We ask God to uphold them in his loving arms and to heal their brokenness in the areas of turmoil. May the risen Christ shine his resurrection on the enemies of our faith and instill within them the peace of our loving God.
Christ is risen from the dead … our background music in life is loud and clear. Sing it loud and clear and proclaim that He is risen, and so are we who live in Him. We are Christ to our world, to our families, friends, and yes, even to our enemies: “Today is the day of Resurrection: let us glory in this feast and embrace one another. O brethren let us say ‘Because of the Resurrection, we forgive all things to those who hate us.’ And let us all sing together: Christ is risen from the dead, and by his death He has trampled upon death, and his given life to those who were in the tombs.”
I greet all of you in the risen Lord, and I ask Him to bless you and your families, preserving you in good health as you bring the good news of salvation to everyone you meet. Proclaim it loud and clear: Christ is risen! He is truly risen! But don’t forget to add: and “So am I” – a new person in Jesus Christ.
With my prayers and blessings, I remain
Sincerely yours in the risen Savior,
Eparchial Bishop of Newton
Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy in Mexico