The Presiding Bishop's Easter 2000 Message

April 23, 2000

"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life." (Orthodox Easter Liturgy)

Easter is not simply a recurring feast day in the Christian Calendar: it is the shattering of the known in order to make way for what is real. And the reality it proclaims is that everything that restricts, diminishes, imprisons and limits life as God intends it in all its free-flowing abundance is trampled down by the risen Christ. Christ's victory is therefore a challenge to everything within us and within the church and our world that resists Christ's all-embracing freedom. "For freedom Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1), cries Paul: a freedom that is not without the costly relinquishment of the myriad unfreedoms which constitute our lives and ways of being in relationship with one another.

In the Orthodox icon of the resurrection, the risen Christ, having battered down the doors of hell - the ultimate symbol of bondage - grasps Adam and Eve by the wrists, and with the full force of the resurrection pulls them -- yanks them -- out of their constricting and perversely comfortable places of entombment into the new space and reality of risenness. He does so with us as well, both personally and as a church. At times it is almost more than we can bear because we are stretched to the breaking point;it undermines all notions of safety and drastically alters ourworld and brings us face to face with "the immeasurable riches of [God's] grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7). Only those who are willing to die and rise with Christ can endure the painful joy of the resurrection and discover the truth of Jesus' words, "Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake and the sake of the Gospel will save it" (Mark 8:35).

It is my prayer that each of us, as we celebrate Easter, the great feast of our redemption, may both personally and together as a community of faith, be drawn out of ourselves into the unbounded and ever unfolding mystery of resurrection. May we come to know its full power to transform, reconcile and make whole. May we become, as St. Augustine once said, "an alleluia from head to toe."

The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold
XXV Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA

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