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October 3, 2022

Metropolitan Archbishop of Bucharest, Easter 2021 Pastoral Letter: Although the time we are going through is still dominated by insecurity the Resurrection of the Lord reminds us that hope cannot die

In his Urbi et Orbi message delivered on Easter Day 2021, in the midst of a pandemic and with a Resurrection celebrated in churches without believers, Pope Francis said: “Today, the proclamation of the Church resounds throughout the world: “Jesus Christ is risen! – Truly He is risen!,” writes Roman Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop of Bucharest Aurel Perca in his Easter Pastoral Letter.

Like a new flame, this good tiding was kindled at night: in the night of a world already struggling with epoch-making challenges and still oppressed by the pandemic that puts our great human family to the test. In this night, the voice of the Church resounded: “Christ, my hope, is risen!” (Easter Sequence), the letter goes on.

This is another “contamination,” which is passed from heart to heart – because every human heart awaits this good news. It is the contamination of hope: “Christ, my hope, is risen!” This is not a magic formula that makes problems disappear. No, the Resurrection of Christ is not this. Instead, it is the victory of love over the root of evil, a victory that does not bypass suffering and death, but goes through them, opening a path into the abyss, transforming evil into good: the exclusive mark of God’s power.

The Risen One is the Crucified One, not someone else. In His glorious body He bears the indelible wounds: wounds that have become places of hope. We turn our eyes to Him to heal the wounds of the tormented mankind.

For many this is an Easter of loneliness, experienced in the midst of mourning and of the many hardships caused by the pandemic, ranging from physical suffering to economic problems, the high Roman Catholic clergyman notes.

A year later, we celebrate again the Resurrection of the Lord and if this is not under the total sign of fear which gripped mankind last year, we will still have an Easter riddled with restrictions imposed by the state of alert, which will make us nostalgic for the solemn celebrations of yesteryear. Because we won’t be able to entirely break into outward manifestations of joy.

However, for us Christians, the central and essential message of the Easter remains unchanged and, no matter what restrictions we may have, it will resound the same: “Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!”

This is the news that changed the direction of human history, this is the news that to this day makes the difference between what was before and what was after the Resurrection of Jesus. This is the news that can feed the hope of every human being. Ours too.

This is the tiding I want to renew to everyone on behalf of the Church and to make it resonate in your hearts, as well as in all the communities of our Archdiocese.

These words give us reassurance today. The only words that, if accepted, illuminate the uncertain and dark path we have been traveling along for a year now because of the coronavirus pandemic, Monsignor Perca points out.

Although the time we are going through is still dominated by insecurity, weariness and fear, although the concern for our health does not seem to give us respite, the Resurrection of the Lord – the Lord’s Passover – reminds us that death is not the last word, that hope cannot die; Life cannot be defeated by death! This is exactly the power and beauty of the Easter message! Because “death and life have clashed in a wonderful way. The Master of Life has died, but now He is alive and reigning” (Easter Sequence).

Christ is Risen! This is the central, decisive and fundamental message the Church is called to bring to her brothers: because “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). This is the only news that deserves to be heard in order to live life to the fullest, to hope for sure, to truly love. This is the only “Good Tiding” that generates so much “good news”: the tiding that “He is not here, He is risen, and goeth before you into Galilee” and that can bring joy and hope to all!

Easter is the greatest day, because it sees the strongest explosion of life that can exist! If creation was the transition from “not being” to “being,” the Resurrection marks the transition from death to life, from “no longer being” to “being forever.”

Easter is the happiest day, because it was not made by man: it is the day made by the Lord to celebrate His Son and to offer a feast for all His sons!

Easter is the happiest day, because this is when our journey has made the great reversal of direction: from now on, any other day that will be added to our identity card is not another day of life in minus, but a day that brings us closer to the goal of “the Shabbat with no sunset.”

St. Augustine wrote that Easter is not celebrated as an anniversary, but as a mystery: the mystery is the “day of the new life,” of the victorious life over death, the day that inaugurates life without end! Our days would be meaningless without the Easter message, they would only be an appearance of the day and an illusion, notes the Archbishop.

The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation on which the greatness of man, of every person, is based. St. Gregory of Nazianzus has wonderful words in this regard: “Let us light a light on this feast day. Let us embrace one another (…) Yesterday I was crucified with Christ, today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him, today we are both alive, yesterday we were buried with Christ, today I rise again with Him.”

Explaining these words, St. Gregory writes: “Let us give back to man’s divine image what is made according to that image, let us acknowledge the dignity of our own creation, let us honor the archetype (the Model), let us strive to understand the power of the mystery and to understand it in the name of that Christ who died and rose again” (An Easter Oration, 1: 4-5).

And also, we cannot forget the Blessed Virgin: She stood by the Cross of the Crucified Son, but She certainly rejoiced seeing the Risen Son again: “Rejoice, Queen of heaven! Hallelujah!,” the letter goes on.

The beautiful and ancient antiphon that we will recite during Easter Time, entirely interspersed with a “Hallelujah” of joy, transposes very well the joy of the Mother of God for the Resurrection of Her divine Son and, together with Her and in Her, the joy of the Church and of us all.

The Gospels do not tell us about a special appearance of the Risen Jesus to His Mother: this ineffable mystery of joy remains under the veil of mystical silence. However, it is certain that She, the first redeemed, as She was in a special way near the Cross of Her Son (John 19:25), also had a privileged joy of the Risen One, such as to cause a very intense joy, unique among all the other creatures redeemed by the Blood of Christ. Mary is our guide in getting to know the mysteries of the Lord: and just as in Her and with Her we understand the meaning of the Cross, so in Her and with Her we come to understand the meaning of the Resurrection, tasting the joy that emanates from it.

In fact, Mary, of all creatures, believed from the beginning in all that the Word, who incarnated in Her, has done in the world for its salvation. In an ascension of faith-based exaltation, Her joy passed from that of the “Magnificat”, a joy full of hope, to a very pure beatitude, without any shadow of decline, for Her Son’s victory over sin and death, the joy of the Resurrection.

The Blessed Virgin Mary “cooperated in a very singular way in the work of the Savior, through obedience, faith, hope and burning charity, in order to restore supernatural life to the souls” (Lumen Gentium, 61). And now, “in Her maternal charity, She cares for Her Son’s brethren who are still on the way and threatened with danger and distress until they are led into their blessed homeland” (Ibid., 62).

The Church teaches us to invoke Mary as “the cause of our joy” (causa nostrae laetitiae). Let us pray in Easter Time, rhythmizing the days with “Laetare”, “Rejoice, Queen of Heaven”, interspersed with the repeated “Hallelujah”. With Mary and in Mary we want to discover more and taste the joy of the Resurrection.

Until the feast of Pentecost, Mary was with the apostles in the Upper Room, awaiting the descent of the Holy Spirit. She, who participated in the Passover of Her Son, in the joy of His Resurrection, and as the New Woman who lived the Paschal Mystery like no other beside the New Man Christ, She is the image and model of the Church in common prayer, awaiting Pentecost. Thus the Easter Time also becomes a special time of Mary.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Risen Jesus, example of the Church and model of hope, teach us the way of faithfulness, for us to share like Her the glory of the Resurrection, writes Monsignor Perca.

On the Feast of Easter, God renews the Covenant of Love with us in the Resurrection of His Son, asking us to walk the way shown by Him, a path that leads to that life which is stronger than death. We all want to meet at this Easter Feast with renewed souls, to be able to become joyful witnesses of the new life, which is the gift of Crucified and Risen Christ!, concludes the Archbishop, wishing everybody a happy and peaceful Easter celebration.

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