“…by death trampling down death…”
The words of the Paschal hymn reveal a great mystery, that of the restoration of the world from the dominion of death by our Lord’s sacrificial exaltation on the Cross, his burial, and Third-day Rising. Yet as members of the Body of Christ, the Holy Church, there has always been the consciousness that we ourselves take upon ourselves the Cross with Christ. Indeed, the Lord call us to take up our own cross to follow him.
We see in our world today, as we have sadly commented on for several years now, that it is still often necessary for that cross to be something literal. We are both saddened to learn that Christians are still being killed in this world simply due to their faith in Christ, but we rejoice as well: the crowns of glory they receive is the very means by which the Church overcomes the world. We deplore the violence of persecutors; we commend the faithfulness of martyrs. Indeed, we may give thanks to God for their lives and faith, and the example that just might shake off the complacency of nominal Christians everywhere.
We often take for granted the ability to proclaim the Resurrection in our greetings, our hymns, our gathering with friends and family on Pascha. Yet to proclaim these words is, in fact, a dangerous act for many of our sisters and brothers in the Lord. Let us, therefore, resolve the same steadfast courage exhibited by the new martyrs of our own era, and let us boldly preach Christ risen from the dead without fear of embarrassment, without fear of retribution or insult, without fear even of the risk of death. It is our life in the risen Christ that should be moving us, a life of love for one another, and even the “least” of our fellow human beings. Let us therefore express that love that “endures all things,” and fears nothing, because it is through this martyrdom—witness—that we shall prove that the darkness cannot overcome the Light of the world.
Reaching out to embrace all the faithful, with the joy of the Unwaning Light of our Lord, we greet all with the triumphant hymn and the Good News: Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
With Paternal Blessings this Pascha,
Metropolitan IAKOVOS of Chicago