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Paschal Letter for the Feast of the Resurrection 2001

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“Old things have passed away; Behold, all things have become new”
(2 Cor. 5:17)

My Beloved, Sons and Daughters of the Diocese of Los Angeles,

Christ is Risen Truly He is Risen

Our souls rejoice and our hearts are full of joy, because of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Together, we praise God in the hymn of the Resurrection saying, “Come all of you faithful, let us worship Christ’s Resurrection for through His Cross, joy entered into the whole world.”

Indeed, through Christ’s Resurrection, joy has entered into the whole world since Christ arose for our sake. “And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5:15)

Christ died for us and arose from the dead so that He may put to death our old man and raise us as a new creation. He died for us, and we died with Him; “if One died for all, then all died.” (2 Cor. 5:14) He arose for our sake and we rose with Him, “and raised us up together, and made us sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:6)

My Beloved, today, we rejoice because of Christ’s Resurrection and because we have been raised with Him.

We rejoice because through Christ’s death and our death with Him, our old person has died, and by being raised with Him, we became a new creation. We are joyful and glad that the old things have passed away and all things have become new.

But, what are the old things and how have all things become new?!

The old thing is man’s bitter slavery to the devil. When man disobeyed God, he became a slave to the devil. Satan imprisoned man and clothed him with the forces of darkness. Man, who was originally created in the image and likeness of God, has become, “carnal, sold under sin…in my flesh nothing good dwells…for the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice…it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (Rom. 7:14,18,19,20)

Man’s body, spirit, and soul were corrupted and sin lived within him, directing and leading his actions. Man had become as St. Macarius the Great said, “he hears with evil ears, has feet that hurry to walk in sin, hands that do evil, and a heart that invents evil.” Thus man was no longer the original creature God created him to be. Therefore, he was called “the old man”. The problem was not just that man sinned, but that he sinned, corrupted, and polluted his nature making it corruptible and degenerative.

Christ came to renew man’s nature, to remove from him the old man, and clothe him with the new man by His Holy Spirit. He came to reunite the human nature to His Holy Spirit. He came to give man a new mind, a new will, a new soul, new eyes, new ears, a new tongue, and a new spirit. In other words, to make him a new man. He came to make man a new vessel to pour in him the new wine, which is His Spirit. Only Christ, by His death and resurrection, is able to renew man, for He is “the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
Before Christ’s resurrection, the whole world was like the valley, which Ezekiel the Prophet saw (Ezekiel: 37). It was a valley full of bones that were very dry. Sin ruled over man and cast down many dead, and all those it cast down dead were strong. The question is: will these bones become alive?! This is a recurring question, which the bitter soul wonders about when she is subjected to the power of sin, and when she sees sin destroying the world. Will these bones become alive? Will these souls become alive? Do I have salvation? Is my repentance accepted?

How will these very dry bones become alive? By listening to God’s word.

“Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones: ‘Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.'” (Ezekiel 37:4-6) The very dry bones stood upon their feet and became an exceedingly great army (Ezekiel 37:10). The very dry bones heard the word of the Lord; they became alive and an exceedingly great army. Likewise, we, who have become dry bones because of sin, will become alive when we hear and believe in the Word of God, Who was incarnate, became man, died for us, and rose to give us life. The Word of God made us alive by sending His Holy Spirit to dwell within us and gave us new flesh and sinew. In other words, He changed us into a new man, with new mind, new will, and a new form in which the Holy Spirit dwells.

The old things have passed away; all things have become new. The gloomy valley has become a very delightful sight. Joy has entered into the sad valley, just as it has entered into the whole world.

My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy to these bones and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” (Ezekiel 37:4)

Christ died and rose for our sake. Are we responding to His actions? Do we hear His voice and rise from the death of our sins? Now, is the hour, which our Good Lord said of it, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25) If we respond to Christ’s voice, we move from death to life, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24) The resurrection of Christ does not give life to every one, but only to those who hear His voice, believe in Him, and respond to the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.

The Grace of God works in man depending on man’s response to Grace. St. Macarius the Great said, “Although Grace has the power to purify and perfect man in an hour, yet it comes to him gradually. It comes slowly to test the motive of man and see if he keeps perfectly his love for God.” Then he adds, “When the soul succeeds one time after another and doesn’t grieve Grace in any matter, then man receives increasing help, and Grace finds a pasture for itself in the soul and places its roots deep inside the soul and in all its thoughts, because the soul is found after many trials to be acceptable and in accordance to Grace.”

The new life, which we receive, by the Spirit of the Risen Christ working within us, makes us worthy of the glorious life, for Christ has raised us with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places. Therefore, our resurrection with Christ makes us set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2).

Let us reflect on our concerns and ask ourselves where are our hearts and our minds? Towards which direction are our prayers? During the Holy Fifty Days, as we rejoice in Christ’s resurrection, let us remember St. Paul’s saying, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1)

Let us pray that our Good Lord may grant us the joy of His glorious resurrection and our resurrection with Him, and the new life, which we live, confirmed in Him by the work of His Holy Spirit. Let us pray that our Living Christ keep safe His Holy Church and grant His struggling people power, peace, and victory. We pray for the life of our beloved father, H.H. Pope Shenouda III, and we look forward to his upcoming pastoral visit to consecrate St. Mark Church in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 6th, 200l. We thank our Lord, Who gave this church a new form after it was dry bones as a result of the fire. We pray that the grace of His Holy Spirit may continue to work in this church and in all
the churches in this diocese, in her servants, and people so that we all may become an exceedingly great army doing God’s will and witnessing to His love and His glorious resurrection.

 

Wishing you many happy returns,

Bishop Serapion
Servant of the Diocese of Los Angeles
April, 2001

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