The Feast of Feasts
In Him was Life,
and the Life was the Light of men.
The Light shines in the darkness
and the darkness has not overcome it.
From the Gospel of Easter Sunday John 1:4-5
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Day and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Tonight we hold aloft the bright Paschal candle, and going forth into the midnight darkness, we illumine the world around us with the Joyous Light, triumphantly proclaiming the glory of the Risen One. The candle in our hand is not merely an accessory to our celebration, but rather a most profound symbol of the truth that we uphold. By it we manifest our experience that in the darkness of the human condition, there is but one light; in the shadow of death, there is one reality alone that brings peace and joy. This is the radiance that shines forth from the tomb of Christ, the truth that Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life.
What is this darkness that surrounds us? It is the black shadow of our own sinfulness and our ignorance of God’s will for our lives. It is the confusion of mind, the pain of guilt, the fear of rejection and failure. Into this darkness breaks forth the light of Pascha: He who bore our sins on the Cross is risen, completely defeating death.
In His emerging from the Tomb we see God’s assurance of our
liberation, the promise of a life renewed with divine righteousness. No longer groaning under the heaviness of guilt, we raise high the Paschal candle in the boldness of the Resurrection, and call forth with Saint John Chrysostom: Let no one bewail his sins, for forgiveness has dawned forth from the Tomb!
What is this darkness that surrounds us? It is the blackness of enmity and conflict between human beings. We who should be living as brothers and sisters in harmony are instead separated by violence, hostility, and prejudice. Into this darkness of divisiveness shines the light of Pascha, for the Universal Kingdom has been revealed. He who shattered the bars and bonds of Hades has the power also to break down every dividing wall of hostility between us, the power to make us one in Him (cf. Eph. 2:14). And so with the Paschal light we brighten the faces of our neighbors and chant as with one voice: It is the day of Resurrection, let us shine forth in splendor for the Festival and embrace one another; let us say, brothers, even to those who hate us, ‘Let us forgive all things in the Resurrection!’
What is this darkness that surrounds us? It is the tragedy of our mortality, the fear of death that has kept us in lifelong bondage (cf. Heb. 2:15). It is this darkness that the Paschal light dispels. For as we receive the light, we experience a foretaste of that moment when our own eyes shall be opened from the sleep of death to behold the radiant and indescribable beauty of our new resurrected life with the Resurrected Lord.
Tonight each one of us holds a bright candle and receives the Paschal light. So too must we all, each one of us, receive the reality which the light symbolizes. We must, each one of us, cherish in our hearts the conviction that Christ, having risen from the dead, has become the first-fruits of those who fall asleep. This is the faith that burns like an unquenchable flame in the Christian soul. This is the light that overcomes the darkness of sin and strife and sorrow in the face of death. Let us therefore hear and accept for ourselves the divine invitation of this most holy night: Come, receive the light from the unwaning light, and glorify Christ who has risen from the dead!
Christ is Risen! Truly the Lord is Risen!
With my warmest Paschal wishes
and love in the Risen Christ,
Archbishop of America