2003 Easter Pastoral Letter
Council of Hierarchs of the
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
TO OUR DEAR ALTAR BROTHERS, DEACONS, RELIGIOUS AND BELOVED FAITHFUL OF THE UKRAINIAN AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH SOBORNOPRAVNA: PEACE AND SALVATION IN THE RISEN CHRIST, WITH OUR ARCHPASTORAL BLESSING!
CHRIST IS RISEN! - INDEED HE IS RISEN!
ÕÐÈÑÒÎÑ ÂÎÑÊÐÅÑ! ÂÎ²ÑÒÈÍÓ ÂÎÑÊÐÅÑ!
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them,
"Peace be with you" (Lk 24:36).
"Peace be with you." This Pascha, more than any in recent memory, we long to hear the voice of our Risen Savior assuring us of the gift of His peace. Like the first disciples in the upper room, we may have been focusing during these past weeks on the violence of war, the threat of terrorism, the sputtering economy, and an incurable disease.
With ever increasing anxiety, our minds are locked behind doors of fear. Our weary souls, overcome from the darkness of doubt, search for the Light of Christ. Our sin-scarred hearts yearn for the healing balm of forgiveness, and our daily insecurities scan the horizon for new life and true peace. But, Jesus says to us again, "Peace, be with you."
While this peace we seek and pray for this Easter is clearly a gift, it is also requires work. Something is demanded of those who seek peace. And we know that peace abandons those who do not welcome it in their own hearts. It has been often said, "If you want peace, work for justice." The work required of those who hope to possess the gift of Christ's peace is 'doing justice' and 'living in self-sacrificing love' as Jesus did. This work involves the cross and tomb of Christ that we venerated this recently past Passion Week as the tree of life and the fountain of our resurrection.
Many of you know this work that leads to peace; the loss and the sacrifice of Christ’s selfless cross. Many have suffered for the love of others, sacrificed for the sake of those you love and those who have loved you. And certainly those who obediently serve and defend their country and their families are intensely experiencing this call to Christ-like self-donation at this time. Whether it is doing the right thing for your children, caring responsibly for your aging parents, ministering selflessly in your parish churches, working for a better society, forgiving those who offend you – in all these ways the Spirit of God molds human hearts into dwelling places for Christ’s gift of peace.
In the same way, violence, hatred, and selfishness make hardened hearts that reject the gift of peace. We cannot be at war within ourselves, judgmental and exclusive in our family affairs, unwilling to work for truth, change, acceptance and growth in our parishes, prejudice and suspicious in our neighborhoods and politics, deceitful and manipulative in the workplace and all the while claim to be for peace, to be at peace, or to be peace-loving. We may recognize the absence of peace and long for it, even pray for it, but until and unless we permit the Spirit to conform our lives to God's love and justice - peace will evade us.
Thankfully for us, the Resurrected Jesus, whom we celebrate throughout this radiant season, not only promises the gift of peace, he provides us the grace and the means to achieve it. We are not left alone to struggle for justice or sacrifice for love. Jesus' life, death and resurrection, his Paschal Mystery celebrated in during Passion Week, instruct us and empower us to do the work of peace and to be molded more and more to the way of peace.
That is the wonder of our Christian faith; that Jesus Christ is Risen and now in the Holy Spirit he remains with us always, in all things. Our justice - to do the right before God and others, and our self-sacrifice - to rightly do everything, is the Christian path and it is the way to ensure that Christ's peace dwells in our hearts.
In particular, during this Paschal Season, our prayers for peace and consolation are extended to those who have lost loved ones through the tragedy of war. May our brave and true heroes be rewarded for their self-forgetful service to our country. May the great price they paid inspire all of us to love freedom, to defend those whose rights are denied them, and to be people for others, people of peace.
Through the intercession of Mary the Mother of God, our Perpetual Help and the one who points us to the her Son, the Prince of Peace, may we make a way for peace by bringing an end to violence, war, hatred and conflict in our own hearts, parishes and homes and even to the ends of the earth. May Christ's Easter gift of peace reign in all us. A blessed and peace-filled Pascha to all! Christ is Risen! Indeed He Is Risen.
Faithfully Yours in the Risen Christ,
and the Council of Hierarchs of the UAOC - Sobornopravna
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