FROM ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY
April 21, A. D. 2019
To the Most Reverend and Right Reverend Hierarchs, Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics,
and Faithful of The Orthodox Archdiocese of America (New York):
Dearly Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Palm Sunday, more correctly called Passion Sunday, inaugurates the most important two weeks in Christian life. Easter, or Pascha as it is more correctly called, is surrounded by Passion Week and Paschal Week. Fourteen days to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. The Church makes each of these fourteen days equal to a Sunday in importance: a collect and proper Eucharistic readings are provided for each day for two whole weeks. The Church expects us to live Liturgically for two whole weeks, so that we can properly celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
Easter–Pascha–is that important. Why?
There are lots of ways to answer that question. Let’s look at just one of them.
We live after the event of the resurrection. We know what happened.
At the time of the first Palm Sunday, no one knew what the future contained; and no one knew what was likely to happen; certainly no one, including Jesus, knew that Jesus would be raised from the dead.
But Jesus, a brilliant theologian, knew what he was doing; he was announcing the Kingdom of God: to the chief priests; to the elders; to the people of Jerusalem. But everyone had a different idea of what the Kingdom of God was and how it would be implemented.
Jesus knew that he was part of the coming of the Kingdom of God. But even Jesus did not know all the details. And as it turned out, in just a few days Jesus was dead, his followers scattered, his idea of the Kingdom of God gone with him.
No one expected that there was any future for the followers of Jesus. No one believed that he would be raised from the dead. On that Sabbath, his followers no doubt debated what they were to do now, with Jesus gone. The women went to give his body the proper attention it needed so it could be properly buried; that was the least they could do for their dead friend. But the discovery of the resurrection changed everything. Suddenly they understood who Jesus really was; they understood his message for the first time; they saw the victory that Jesus in fact had won on the cross; they now knew what the Kingdom of God really was; they understood that the events of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday fundamentally altered the very nature of creation. In fact, the alteration of creation was so complete, that it was best described as a new creation. It was as if the world started all over again. The separation that existed between God and humans was now gone, forever gone. God, in Jesus, had acted to restore humans into the very life of God.
What this meant was that the continuing process of creation was now not just in the hands of God. Every human being who had trust and faith in God like Abraham of old; every human being who would repent from their misuse of the bounty of God like the prodigal son; every human being could suddenly see that they lived within the total bounty of God like the older brother; every human being who put faith and trust in God the creator: every one could share with God in the process of the new creation. Every human being was important in this Kingdom of God. Each had a part to play, a part that depended on the talents that each had.
But such faith cannot come without pain. There must be a decision, a judgement made. Each human being needs to see how he or she will use the talents God has given. When their fruit is jointly offered to God, the Kingdom of God develops. When their fruit is retained for personal purposes, no matter how lofty, judgement–separation from God–happens, and pain follows.
The Church intends for each of us to look at these things very carefully during the first week of Pascha–Passion or Holy Week.
Today we come to welcome the Kingdom of God; but when we see that it does not fit our personal concepts, we join the crowds who kill Jesus. Nevertheless, we take our part at the Passover Supper on Holy Thursday. Even though Jesus shows us that the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of service and care for others as he washes the feet of his friends, we still do not fully recognize what happens. And even though we want to believe, we desert Jesus to protect our own safety. After the arrest and trial, we stand around and watch while Jesus is killed. And we too spend time in reflection on the future.
When told of the resurrection, we begin to see that everything in the past, the present and the future has changed, is different. We see how God has trusted us in spite of all our failures to follow him; even though we have misused our talents, trying to keep the fruits of our talents for ourselves; even though we misunderstand who we really are. In spite of it all, we see that God has trusted us with God’s new Creation. Small though we may be, we, like a little yeast in bread dough, have the ability to make monumental changes in this world, right now–if we believe the resurrection.
And, as the Great Vigil of Easter tells us, in this, the most important Liturgy in the whole year, the Liturgy tells us how God has restored us to his right hand; then we celebrate the Sunday of the Resurrection. Yet, the church continues to challenge us: each day in the week following, Jesus appears in a different manner.
Do we believe?
Do we believe??
Do we believe???
Faithfully in Christ,
Archbishop of New York
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Over the years, some have asked to have a copy of Archbishop Anthony’s Prayer. Here it is: