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Paschal Letter for the Feast of the Resurrection 2011

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My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church,

Christ is Risen
Truly He is Risen

But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Matt. 26:32)

It is my pleasure to wish you a glorious Feast of the Resurrection, asking our Good Lord to grant us the joy and power of His glorious Resurrection. The Resurrection of Christ gives us power and joy in the midst of the difficulties and sufferings.

On the eve of His Passion, our Lord Jesus Christ faced all the power of evil, and “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6) for God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). He faced the conspiracy of the Jewish leaders, the cowardice of Pilate, and the cruelty of the Romans; and He expressed all this by saying, “this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Lk. 22:53). It was a very sorrowful night and our Lord Jesus Christ expressed His sorrow when He told His disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” (Matt. 26:38) He prayed saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39) Our Good Lord, Who took our human nature, expressed the feelings of the righteous person as he faces the powers of evil. But in the midst of the sorrow that filled His compassionate heart and His disciples’ hearts, He gave both them and us the promise of the Resurrection. He told His disciples, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Matt. 26:31-32) Yes, the disciples will face tribulations and will weaken before them, but the promise of victory and success will not come from their power or courage, but from the power of the glorious Resurrection. In His final speech to His disciples in the eve of His Passion, He told them, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

My Beloved,

This year, as we celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection and follow the events in our beloved homeland, Egypt, we have great feelings that our Good Lord wants us to experience the fellowship of His sufferings and carry the cross of persecution for the sake of His Holy Name. Today our Living God is giving us this message that the power of His Resurrection grants us joy and power in the midst of the tribulations, pain, and persecution, and that the power of the Resurrection gives us true peace in the midst of difficulties. St. Paul the Apostle faced many difficulties and numerous persecutions, but he experienced the power of the Resurrection in his life and said, “that I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Phil. 3:10) He wrote to us in his Epistle to the Philippians, which he wrote while he was imprisoned in Rome and bound in chains, exhorting us to have joy and said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4) In spite of the prison and chains, St. Paul wrote about the spread of the Gospel and said, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”(Eph. 1:12-14) Satan wanted to hinder the spread of Christianity by the imprisonment of the great preacher, St. Paul the Apostle, but the power of the Resurrection changed the prison and chains to evangelization and the spread of the gospel. Furthermore, it gave courage to others to preach the gospel. Therefore, St. Paul considered the fellowship in the sufferings of Christ a gift and said, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Phil. 1:29)

The fellowship of sufferings with Christ gives us joy, “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1Pet. 4:13) To have fellowship in Christ’s sufferings means that we suffer for the sake of Christ, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, and evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matter. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” (1 Pet. 4:15-16) The power of Christ’s Resurrection gives us boldness over the power of darkness, but also warns us not to live in darkness. The light of the Resurrection calls us to conduct ourselves in light, and St. Paul the Apostle tells us, “Only let your conduct by worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Phil. 1:27) Therefore “let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Rom. 13:12)  

My Beloved,

Let us rejoice in the Resurrection of our Good Lord. May our hearts be filled with peace and may we feel the power of the Resurrection in our lives. Whenever we hear the news of the plots of the wicked, let us recall the words of the psalm, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed…He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.” (Ps. 2:2, 4) Whenever we hear of the pain of the innocent resulting from the injustice of the evildoers, let us remember the words of the psalm, “The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him for He sees his day is coming.” (Ps. 37:12-13) Let us pray for the peace of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us pray for our beloved father and faithful shepherd, H.H. Pope Shenouda III. Let us pray for our beloved brothers and sisters everywhere who suffer for the sake of His Holy Name. Let us pray that God may shine with the light of His glorious Resurrection on those living in darkness and the shadow of death. Let us all rejoice in the Resurrection of our Good Savior and may the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, fill our hearts.

Wishing you many joyous returns.

Bishop Serapion

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