Pastoral Letter April 22, 2018

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!

Admittedly, It’s been quite some time since I’ve addressed you by means of this weekly message. Sure, you’ve received bulletins, downloaded posters and read announcements. But no real pastoral message to speak of during the increasingly busy Lenten and Holy Week season. Of course, there were numerous and varied other opportunities to hear and read God’s Word; placed into practical settings for our inspiration and guidance in our busy lives. Simply put, that is what I’ve always strived for in these messages; practicality and theology fused into a little essay.

Since you have last read one of these, we have celebrated Christ’s victory over death through His Third Day Rising. What a glorious and amazing Holy Week and Pascha, experienced at St. Anna’s!

While entertaining in their homes, I think the worst thing that could have happened in our grandmothers would be to run out of food. In their generation, it would have indicated that they disrespected their guests, received them casually and ill prepared. I must say, that while I share the sentiment that we should be prepared for “whoever comes over,” it still astonishing to me that we actually ran out of Palm Crosses at the beginning of the week, candles towards the end of the week, and red eggs at the conclusion of the week. That is after significantly increasing our orders of these items from last year. Our community continues to welcome new guests; guests who become family and family who witnesses Christ.

Though we’ve printed our acknowledgment of gratitude for all of your Holy Week and Paschal participation, volunteerism, generosity and prayerful attention, I say it again here; thank you for your ever-increasing appreciation of the divine services for this most sacred time of year. Your sacrificial and enthusiastic response was noticed and appreciated.

So now that we are nearly two weeks past the Resurrection and life in and out of the church is settling into predictable norms, the question can be asked (and will be asked) “What exactly did we learn from the events of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection? What’s the takeaway?

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, if there is one, concise truth to our recent and salvific events, it is that through Him, life has been granted, redemption has been given, death has been defeated, the gates of Paradise have been opened, God has been glorified, and we have been saved. It took over 500 pages in our Holy Week Book to cover what I just mentioned in one (large) sentence.

We should hold these truths to be given, understood, accepted and practiced. Not taken for granted, God forbid! But received and naturally internalized. In Christ’s contemporary setting, the world could not see this. At least most of the world could not see Him as His true Self. The Romans saw a menace. The Jews saw a threat. The followers indeed saw their Christ…but knew little of anything about what that actually meant. Even the Disciples themselves lacked ultimate understanding until the event of Pentecost.

The world saw a poor carpenter with a following and revolutionary message. Sometimes we don’t see what is plainly before us. As Christians, we are called to see Him with absolute clarity, as revealed in the brilliance of His Resurrection.

It’s live a wealthy father who wanted to teach his children the value of blessings and an appreciation for all they had, so he sent them to live with his impoverished brother in the country for a summer. “This experience,” he thought, “will give them an understanding of how lucky they are to be in a home such as ours.”

When the children returned, they thanked him with a zeal that he could not have expected or even hoped for. They appreciated seeing “how poor people live.” They appreciated the lesson because:

“We have one dog and they have four.”

“We have a swimming pool that reaches to the edge of the garden, and they have a creek that runs through their yard.”

“We have iron and gas lanterns in our landscape, and they have bright stars.”

“We have servants to serve us, and they serve each other.”

“Great lesson, Dad. Thank you for showing us how poor we actually are.”

Hardly the lesson he intended, but a lesson never the less.

Hardly the Christ expected, but the Christ, never the less.

Hardly the outcome anticipated, but the outcome never the less.

The world attempted to teach the lesson that when God tries to challenge, stretch, teach, inspire and save us, we crucify Him

What God taught is that while He absolutely, with out questions, one hundred percent knew that this is how we would react to Him and treat Him, He loves us anyway. He loves us in spite of our tendencies and weaknesses.

This Sunday is the Sunday of the Myrrh Bearers. We commemorate those few people, those VERY few people who demonstrated the same sacrificial love to Christ, as He displayed before His accusers and executioners. They had clarity. They had vision. They had unbridled love.

If we’ve learned anything from the events of Great Lent, Holy Week, Pascha and our current, Paschal season; its to obtain their heart and mimic their actions. God keep and bless you in the light of the Resurrection!

With Much Love in our Risen Lord,

Fr. Anthony

P.S. I enjoyed, once again, staying up until 1:30 am to write a Pastoral Message. I need to start these earlier. Getting too old for this.