PERMANENT CONFERENCE OF UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX BISHOPS BEYOND THE BORDERS OF UKRAINE
PASCHA – THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD – 2008
To the venerable clergy of all ranks and the devout laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church beyond the borders of and within Ukraine. May the Peace of the Risen Lord be with you all!
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
During the past months we have all undertaken two forty day spiritual pilgrimages. The first led us to a shelter for animals – a cave – from which emanated the Love of God in the Newborn Christ Child, a Love, which continues to fill and guide each of our lives. The second pilgrimage brought us to another cave – this time an empty tomb – from which emanates the Light of our Risen Lord. “Unto you a child is born…” carried us to a spiritual Bethlehem. “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death…” opens for us the gates to God’s Heavenly Kingdom.
In the last conversations recorded in Luke's Gospel, our Lord talks to the disciples about His Crucifixion and His Resurrection. He opens up for them a deep understanding of these events. He tells them that as a result of His Crucifixion and Resurrection, they will be clothed with power from on high. They will be empowered to go out into the world and change the world. They will be empowered to be His witnesses in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. In the Gospel of John, as we heard on Holy Thursday evening during the Passion Gospels, our Lord promises us that where He goes now, we will follow later and that we will be one with God and one with each other. “Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in Me and I in you.” (John 14:19-20)
The Resurrection – PASCHA – of the Son of God has made it possible for us to enter into the union with God that our Lord Jesus Christ spent His whole earthly ministry explaining and modeling for us. PASCHA makes it possible for us to know that God loves us and that, in our response to God's Love, we are clothed with power. The same power that carried Him through the Crucifixion and through the Resurrection is available to us now. Most of us already are caught up in the quest for power. We want economic power; the power to possess things; the power to succeed – as success is measured in our human terms; the power to look good in the eyes of others; the power to satisfy our every desire – without regard to the positive or negative morality of those desires; the power to say, “I've got it made.” The quest for this kind of power has emerged as the number one priority in our society and almost every society throughout the world. Deep within us, however, we know that there is something wrong about this; that we are deluding ourselves.
God is calling us to life. God is offering us the power to live as complete persons. But He cannot get through to us and we cannot be one with Him if we clog up the channels of Grace with immoral desires and false deities. All we achieve, all we possess, all the things of this world we seek to attain are lifeless and of no value and of no importance -- if we are unwilling to place them under God's Rule. It is a matter of priorities: “seek first the Kingdom of God”, Who is calling us into the Light of the Resurrection. God is offering us the Power to share the Light, to be His witnesses here at home and to the ends of the earth. May it never be said to us, that which our Lord says to these Pharisees who were so turned in on themselves: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written – ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me’” (Mark. 7:6-7).
There is a real necessity for us on this PASCHA 2008 to return to our Ukrainian Orthodox Christian roots, to living that which we vocalize in prayer, to examine our lives in the Light of the Gospel of Life and to evangelize ourselves first before we can ever hope to evangelize others. To be Ukrainian Orthodox is to be obedient to Christ, to be disciplined and responsible members of the community – not members of a secular religion or obedient to our personal desires. To be Ukrainian Orthodox is to put Christ first in our lives and actions, to live our baptismal reality to the fullest as did millions of our forefathers in the Faith. If we fail to live what we pray, we most certainly do not glorify God, nor honor ourselves or our heritage, which is a profound heritage that literally preserved Holy Orthodoxy at the most critical moments of its history.
May the risen Christ, Who imparts to us His peace, open all our hearts to His Good News and those of our brethren in Ukraine, who partake with us of “one Bread and one Cup” finding unity in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit May our risen Lord be praised and glorified by our words and deeds.
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
In the abiding Love of our Risen Lord,
+ Constantine, Metropolitan – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and in Diaspora
+ John, Metropolitan – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
+ Antony, Archbishop – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
+ Ioan, Archbishop – Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora, Eparchy of Australia/New Zealand
+ Yurij, Archbishop – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
+ Jeremiah, Bishop – Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Eparchy in South America (UOC of USA)
+ Andriy, Bishop – Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora, Eparchy of Western Europe.