My dear brothers and sisters!

        The Evangelists, in their telling of the story of Pascha, begin, not with the joy of the Resurrection, but with the sadness of the empty tomb.  Mary Magdalene and the other women come, lamenting and sorrowful, early in the morning, to the grave of Jesus in order to anoint the body of their beloved teacher.  Instead of Jesus’ body, however, they discover an empty tomb.  Horrified, they think that someone has stolen the body!  Only then, do they hear the angel’s announcement of Christ’s Resurrection: “He is not here for he has risen, as he said he would.  Come and see the place where he lay.” (Mt. 28:6)Only then do they encounter the risen Christ and embrace him: “And suddenly, coming to meet them was Jesus….and the women came up to him and, clasping his feet, did him homage” (Mt. 28:9)Only then, do they receive their commission from Jesus: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; there they will see me.” (Mt. 28:10)

        So we see that first comes emptiness, then comes fulfillment.  First comes sorrow, then comes joy.  First comes death, then comes life.  Pascha begins with nothing and ends with everything!

        When we think about it, we can say that there is a tiny reflection of the Paschal story in each of our lives.  Just as Pascha begins with emptiness so do our lives begin with emptiness.  Before we take our first breath, we are called to leave the comfort of our mother’s womb.  And every day afterward in our life, every time we take a step forward, we are called to empty ourselves and leave something behind.  Before we make a commitment to our spouse in marriage, we are called to let go of our independence.  Before we respond to a vocation call or make a career choice, we are called to let go of other opportunities.  At every step of life, in order to receive new life, we are called to empty ourselves in some way.  And so it is in our spiritual life as well.

        Emptiness is part of the human experience.  Sometimes it can be seen as pain, yet it can also be treated as a gift.  We each need that emptiness in ourselves: that space that makes room for something new, that space that can be opened to God.

        This is why during the time of Great Lent, which has just passed, the Church in her wisdom, has asked us to empty ourselves of the sins, temptations and daily preoccupations that clutter up our lives.  Why?  In order to make room for Christ who rises triumphantly from the tomb today and fills our spiritual emptiness with the promise that his Resurrection brings each of us - the promise of eternal life!

        Our prayerful wish for each of you today on this glorious Feast of Pascha is that the indescribable and incomparable joy of Our Lord’s Resurrection from the tomb, fill our hearts and souls.  May this joy fill every emptiness within us, wipe away all pain and fear, conquer every doubt and temptation, and remain with us forever!

        Be assured of my prayers, for all you who labour in merchant ships scattered over the world’s oceans and also for your families at home in Ukraine, who keenly feel your absence especially at Pascha.  We also pray that God remove the scourge of the Coronavirus from the face of the earth.  We pray for repose of those who have succumbed to this vile disease, we pray for a speedy recovery of those who are ill, and we pray for the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who risk their lives every day in order to serve their ill brothers and sisters.  May our Risen Lord protect them all!

        Let us take our example from the holy women who visited the tomb early on that first Easter morning.  Let us embrace the Risen Christ who comes to fill our emptiness and let us with confidence and in the sureness of our faith, in word and deed, spread the Good News of his Resurrection in our world!

     

Christ is Risen!  Indeed he is Risen!

 

+Paul

Maritime Bishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

 

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