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Paschal Letter for the Feast of the Resurrection 2006

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My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church

In the Christ-Loving Diocese of Los Angeles,

Christ is Risen | Truly He is Risen

It is my pleasure to wish all of you a glorious Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today, we rejoice and are glad, because Christ is risen and we have been raised with Him.

This is the feast of feasts, and it is the day which David the Prophet referred to as, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:24) This psalm verse is the hymn we joyfully sing at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy on feast days, on Saturdays and Sundays, except during Great Lent, as well as on non-fasting weekdays.

In one of St. Gregory of Nyssa’s sermons for the Feast of the Resurrection, he said, “Do you know what I am thinking of?.. I am thinking of what the psalmist said, ‘This is the day the Lord has made’ (Ps. 118:24). This day is different than all other days since the beginning of creation. This day marks the beginning of another creation, because God has created a new heaven and a new earth. Which heaven is this you may ask? It is the steadfastness in our faith in Christ. And which earth? It is the good heart. In this new creation, the sun is the pure life; the stars are the virtues; the air is the pure city; the sea is the depth of the wealth in wisdom and knowledge; the plants and vegetation are the divine and righteous teachings where God’s people are shepherded; and the fruit-producing trees are the fulfillment of the commandments. On this day, the real man was created according to God’s image and likeness. Do you see what has become of the creation on this day that the Lord has made?”

My Beloved,

On this joyful day, let us follow in the footsteps of our father St. Gregory of Nyssa and think with a new mind. On this joyful feast, let us listen with pure hearts, prepared to obey St. Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:1-3)

In baptism, we died and were raised with Christ, becoming a new creation with a new heart and a new mind. St. Paul described this new life as, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

The new life is led by a new mind, a mind that seeks what is above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. It is a mind that is not concerned with the earthly, but rather with the heavenly, as we pray daily in the Lord’s Prayer and say, “Our Fr. Who art in heaven.” God is certainly everywhere, but our Lord Jesus Christ wants to lift our thoughts and hearts upwards to heaven. Our constant and vigilant prayers are an expression of a mind that is lifted up to heaven, since the materialistic person is concerned about many things that distract him from prayer, and even during prayer, he is pre-occupied with earthly matters. That is why at the beginning of the Anaphora in the Divine Liturgy, the priest tells the congregation, “Lift up your hearts”, to which they respond, “We have them with the Lord.”

The new mind sees how God’s hand has created everything with wisdom, for “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1) The scientific discoveries and progress in knowledge should lead to faith and not to pride or atheism.

The new mind does not see the human body as a source of evil or a means for temptation and entertainment of others. He sees it neither as a material to be used for advertisement nor as a cause of pride and arrogance. Rather he sees the body as a temple for the Holy Spirit and an instrument to be used for the glory of God, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s.” (1 Cor. 6:20)

The new mind sees that “sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn. 3:4), and therefore flees from temptation, saying with Joseph the righteous, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9)

The new mind sees liberty not as freedom from God’s commandments, but rather freedom from slavery to sin for “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (Jn. 8:34), and “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”(Jn. 8:36)

The new mind sees all of mankind as God’s good creation, because “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.” (Acts 17:26) Also, he sees that evil is a foreign element to the human nature, and therefore doesn’t retaliate and face evil with evil. Rather, he conquers evil with good, as it is written “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21)

The new mind is concerned about accumulating heavenly treasures rather than earthly ones, since he seeks first God’s heavenly kingdom and its righteousness.

The new mind sees with the eyes of faith an answer to every problem, regardless of its difficulty, since he knows that “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Lk. 18:27)

Let us rejoice today, on this day which the Lord has made by His glorious resurrection.

Let us lift our minds and hearts upwards, where Christ is sitting on His throne telling us, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)

Let us live a new life with a new mind, which is the mind of Christ, Who leads us in the march of victory, so we may have an inheritance in the Holy City, the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Let us pray that God may protect the Holy Church in peace and keep for us the life of our beloved father, H.H. Pope Shenouda III.

Wishing you many happy returns.

Bishop Serapion

This is the Day the Lord has Made

 

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