Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

At the beginning of Great Lent, our Church opened the Book of Genesis and read the story of creation. This reading taught us how God created the cosmos out of nothing, reinforcing what we believe, that He is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible. On Holy Saturday morning, at the proti-Anastasi, as we call it, we will hear the story of creation again. But this time, we hear it with a new perspective. After our forty-day journey through Lent, and after our journey through the Passion of Jesus Christ in Holy Week, this time the story is a story of new creation. When we proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also proclaim that God has re-made the world. He has not just fixed a few things or restored some others, He has completely renewed and regenerated the entire cosmos. The power of death and its tyranny over our lives has been destroyed. That is why we will hear in the hymns for Holy Saturday, “Today Hades lets out a groan,” at the beginning of each troparion because Hades has been completely vanquished. The consequence of the resurrection surpasses everything we can imagine, overwhelming our senses, filling us with joy and overflowing into all that we do.

This year, of course, our celebrations are held amid a world that suffers and is in pain. The war in Ukraine has caused human suffering and pain on a scale that few of us have ever seen or experienced. This is only the suffering that we know about. Yet, even amid these horrors, the Good News of the resurrection must be proclaimed because the pain of the Cross is not the end. Pain and death are not the final word. The culmination of Holy Week is Resurrection. And the first gift of the resurrected Christ to His disciples was peace. As we will hear at the Agape Vespers, Jesus appeared to His disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20: 22). Those who suffer must hear the news that Christ overcame death, granting life to those in the tombs, and giving His followers peace, and filling them with the Holy Spirit.

Christians ever since, have become instruments of compassion, workers for justice, offering support and help to anyone, even enemies. “Wherever there is suffering, Christians are called to bring healing as relief and reconciliation” (For the Life of the World §69). Why? Because as we hear in the Orthros of Pascha, “We have seen Christ’s resurrection” in the hearing of the Good News. Our response is joy but also empowerment to re-create the world as God had intended, a world where the power of death did not rule over us, but a world of life, a world of compassion, a world of justice and peace. We work for this, offering the world a mere glimpse of what God intended and we believe is the future that He promised to bring about. “This prophetic vocation demands a refusal to remain silent in the face of injustices, falsehoods, cruelties, and spiritual disorders; and this is not always easy, even in modern free societies” (For the Life of the World, §80). As we will hear in the Orthros of Pascha, “for Christ God has carried us over from death to life, from earth to heaven.”

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, this Pascha, as you hold your candles and sing “Christos Anesti,” pray that the peace which only Christ can give spreads throughout our world, especially to those who suffer. Share the Good News that death has been destroyed and that we have been given the gift of life. Act upon the Good News of resurrection and its promise of new life for all creation to work to bring peace to our world.

May the Risen Christ be with you and yours on this most blessed Feast of Feasts!

Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen!