EASTER PASTORAL LETTER OF THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHS IN THE USA

The myrrh-bearing women at the break of dawn

drew near to the tomb of the Lifegiver.

There they found an angel sitting upon the stone,

he greeted them with these words:

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

Why do you mourn the incorrupt amid corruption?

Go: proclaim the glad tidings to His disciples.

 

Paschal Stikherion

Christ is Risen!

Dear Sisters and Brothers!

     Great Lent—marked by the inexpressible pain of invasion, war crimes, murder, and lies about our people and our Church on the part of the aggressor—has passed. Now we see the Resurrection. Our Ukrainian people live, unite all people of goodwill, and give new meaning to Europe and the global community. In a sacramental way, we witness a paschal passage from death to life.

     Today, we repeat the lofty, joyous Easter troparion: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs giving life.” The crux of our faith and our victory is found in this concise chant. The entire Gospel is a preface preparing the reader for the central story of Pascha. For “…if Christ did not rise” – thus radically writes the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians — “then what we preach is vain, and vain is our faith” (I Cor. 15:14). Without the Resurrection, what we preach becomes a set of rules and obligations. Participation in church life sinks to the conservation of traditions and rituals, empty and lacking substance.

     But the Lord is risen indeed, that we might live with Him forever!

     For this reason, in his Easter sermon St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, author of the Divine Liturgy, which we pray each Sunday, affirms that all are to enter into the joy of the Resurrection – the rich and poor, the continent and careless, those who fasted and those who did not. The feast is so great that this is not the time to get lost in details but to focus on the main thing — Christ is Risen!

     In His love for humanity, the immortal and eternal God entered fully into our lives and took on our trials and sufferings – ultimately death. Yet this is not the end of the story.

Drawing near to the tomb with the myrrh-bearing women, we discover that Christ is alive. He has come alive not like a superhero in a film or a computer game, but as the Creator and the Christ – the source of life, who taking on our death, has risen from the dead and given life to all humanity.

Life reigns, and death is vanquished. Defeating death, Christ has made us victors too. Can you believe it? In Christ we are all conquerors of death!

     It is crucial to grasp this truth. Our loved ones, whose passing we mourn, are among those to whom Christ has given new life. Among those who live in Christ are the murdered inhabitants of Bucha, Borodianka, Hostomel, Mariupol, and Kramatorsk. Among the living, over whom death has no power, are the fallen soldiers who gave their lives in testimony to the greatest love. The sufferings of the brutal aggressors’ innocent victims – executed, trampled, suffocated – have ended. Death, and the fear of death, rule over them no more. With the Apostle Paul they mock death: “Where, O death, is thy sting? Where, O Hades, is thy victory?” (I Cor. 15:55). They have seen death, and in Christ, its ultimate defeat.

     Do we believe? Do we realize that the Lord has vanquished death, sin, and the devil, and that our sufferings—however great and painful—are temporary, for death no longer has power over us? Are we ready to announce the good news of God’s triumph?

     We appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to look at the event of the Resurrection not only through the prism of our beautiful and profound rituals and traditions, but to focus on the essence of the Easter message for each of us who face death: Christ is risen from the dead, with His humble death on the cross He has overcome death, and with His sacrifice, He has given life to each of us.

     Let us proclaim Christ’s Resurrection and our own!

+ Borys Gudziak

Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia

of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the USA

+ Paul Chomnycky

Bishop of the Eparchy of Stamford

+ Benedict Aleksiychuk

Bishop of Saint Nicholas Eparchy of Chicago

+ Bohdan Danylo

Bishop of Saint Josaphat Eparchy of Parma

+ Andriy Rabiy

Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia

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