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Paschal Letter for the Feast of the Resurrection 1998

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You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32)

My Beloved and Blessed Children of the Church:
I congratulate all of you on the glorious Feast of the Resurrection, asking our Everliving God, Who rose from the dead, to grant us the joy and power of His glorious resurrection all the days of our lives.

Our celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection is not a celebration of a historical event which took place almost two thousand years ago, but is a celebration of an eternal and powerful event which works daily in our lives. Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection, we are in fact celebrating the power of the Resurrection in our lives.

Today, I wish that together we can remember and enjoy the Resurrection of Christ as a dynamic power, which liberates us from the dominion of sin and death.

In our daily life, especially nowadays in this society, each one of us feels the burden of sin surrounding us from all directions and following us everywhere.  Sin is no longer confined to places of sin, but we find it on the street, in the workplace, in schools, and even within the homes.  Nowadays, sin takes different forms.  Sometimes, it takes the form of new ideas, and other times it comes in the form of new scientific inventions.  Sin has affected all groups of people and all ages.   Now, we hear of children committing the sins, as well as the crimes of adults.  Even places of prayer and holy places are invaded vigorously and severely by sin, so that now the salt is without taste.  Today, we see young children murdering, teenagers committing adultery, girls having babies and the fathers are unknown, youth living a life of sin, fathers and mothers living for their own lusts, and religious leaders justifying sin in order to avoid losing sinners from their church membership.

As we look at the burden of sin that is surrounding us, we must remember  St. Paul the Apostle’s words, “They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there in none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3: 12).

My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
This painful and dark  picture of the fallen humanity, enslaved by the power of sin and death, has found the solution through the Resurrection of Christ.

Christ died and rose so He may raise us with Him and free us from the reign of sin and death.  Christ promised humanity freedom when He said,”And you shall know the truth and truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Christ’s promise was fulfilled when He died on the cross and then rose:
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6)

“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin; He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).

By Christ’s death and resurrection, sin no longer reigned over man; and by His Resurrection Christ broke the sting of death which is sin,

“O Death, where is your sting?  O hades, where is your victory? The sting of Death is sin.” (1 Cor.15:55-56).

The multiplication of sin in the world did not prevent the saving acts of God’s grace, but as St. Paul the Apostle said, “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20-21).

The resurrection of Christ gives hope to humanity to live a genuine life of freedom:  freedom from slavery to death and sin.

Christ, through His resurrection, liberated us from the bondage of sin.
Why, then, do we still live in sin? Because we do not realize the Grace we are living in.

We were baptized, but do we know the meaning of baptism?  Do we know that “as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into  His death. Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Fr., even so we also should walk in the newness of life” (Rom. 6: 3-4).   Do we also know that “our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6).

Our problem, my dear brothers and sisters, is that we do not know.  Therefore, Christ said “and you shall know the Truth.”

If we know the power of the Resurrection, which liberates us from the slavery to sin, then we will refuse to return to the bondage of sin.

If we know the grace of the freedom which was granted to us through Jesus Christ, we will escape from sin.

If we know the beauty of the new life in Christ, we will not return to the life of sin.

If we know how to die to sin, we will say with St. Paul the Apostle, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in sin?” (Rom. 6:2).

Today, as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, together let us listen to two individuals who knew the Truth and the power of the resurrection, which liberates from the bondage of sin.

Together, let us listen to St. Paul the Apostle’s advice to us, “For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed?  For the end of those things is death.  But now having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.   For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of  God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6L 19-23)

Together, let us listen to St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, who lived a life of sin, then the liberating power of the resurrection worked in him, turning him into a great saint.  He said, “The desire to sin is in us, but we don’t allow it to reign over us.  The desire is there, but we must not yield to it, so it won’t control us.  Therefore, we don’t allow lustful desires to dominate our members, but allow Grace to reign over us, as its right.  Then our members will become instruments of righteousness for God and not instruments of iniquity and sin.  Thus sin will not have dominion over us since we are not under the law which commands goodness without granting it, but we are under the Grace which makes us love what the law commands and is able to control the will-power.”

We pray that our Risen God will grant us all the life of freedom from the bondage to sin and death.
We pray for each soul so that everyone can taste the beauty of the new life in Jesus Christ.
We pray for the peace of Our Holy Church, and we pray for our beloved father, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III.
Let us rejoice in the Resurrection of Our Everliving Christ, and let us say together:

Christ is Risen, Truly He is Risen

Wishing you many happy returns,

Bishop Serapion
Servant of the Diocese of Los Angeles
April 19, 1998

 

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