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Fr. Patrick’s ’12 Pascha Sermon

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Christ is Risen!

Just in case you’ve forgotten the reason I offer a few words at this time is not that I think I have anything important to say, but mostly to give you a rest after standing all this time.  We should be a little tired after the usual Lenten season and Holy Week, though wouldn’t you agree that it’s been a beautiful Lenten season and an inspiring Holy Week?

This is a feast of Life and a feast of Light.  In all our gifts from God nothing that we do can earn these gifts.  It’s because of God’s love for us that He gives them to us.  He wants so much for us to receive them, and to become sons and children of God; sons by adoption those who follow the Son of God.

In the world of darkness sometimes it’s hard to imagine how anybody can really come to know the Lord.  As we struggle with our desires, or sins, our uncertainties and doubts, our fallen nature, it truly is a miracle for any man, any woman or any child to be given the Light and to receive the Light, and to recognize Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of our souls, and all that He did for us.

I recall in college, when before I started coming back to the church more regularly, there was a Pascha at St. Elias Antiochian Church, a small little parish in LaCrosse, with about half the people who are here on a good day.  I hadn’t really done much that lent and when I spoke to the priest he simply encouraged me to come to church.  So I came.  And when I came that night, in spite of all my lack of preparation and relative disinterest up to that point something remarkable happened.  I cannot explain it, I guess ultimately it lead me here to this place where I now stand in these beautiful white vestments (by the way, handed down to me by His Grace, Bishop ANTHONY).

Anyway, something happened that day.  That for some reason as the people who couldn’t hold a candle to what you all sing here, so beautifully and wonderfully coordinated as always, they couldn’t hold a candle to this, somehow in the beauty of their sincere hearts and faith the Light of Christ was shown [to me].  And when they sang “Christ is Risen,” on that day, I started to believe.  I may have [believed] before that, I’m not sure, but sure after that I started to believe.  It was remarkable, the clarity after that, the clarity of everything I was hearing, which having grown up in the Greek church I didn’t really understand very much when I was a kid.  I had to follow a book and I never knew where they were so I was guessing all the time.  After I got older I figured it out.  But it all made sense.  And I knew that somehow in my youth, all those years going to church, my parents dragging me, Mom always reminding me even still today that I wasn’t always happy about going to church, they went and they took me.  We hardly ever missed [church,] maybe three times in eighteen years.  Somehow the Word of God came through all of that.  Because when you proclaim the Truth the soul hears it, when you proclaim the Truth the soul knows, whether it’s in English, Greek, Arabic, Russian, Romanian, Spanish, whatever.  Whether you understand it or not when Truth is being proclaimed it enters the heart and it rests there, it resides there until one day hopefully we respond to it with conviction, commitment and trust.

I was not in a particularly pious state of life at that time and I honestly don’t know why God gave that to me.  It was a little tiny thing but it was greater than the expanse of heaven.  For any of you who have experienced this, and I hope that you all have in one way or another, to even have a drop of this Light, a little beam of it just somehow penetrating the darkness of our lives, and we begin to see clearly of what life is for, what life is about, then things begin to make sense.  Our priorities change, the order of our lives become ordered by the will of God as we desire and pursue a life in His Kingdom not just in some distant future but today, for the Kingdom of God is near in the Resurrected Christ.  And for us to live near Christ, well, it is heaven.  Pray God help us to live near Christ and remember Him always.  We pray God give us a little grace, just a little., maybe on this night for all of us, maybe somehow through this Lenten journey and Holy Week, or maybe in the season of Pascha.  Who knows when it will come?  But as Christians here we stand ready to receive, ready to enjoy this great Feast, and to give glory to God Who loves and Who came to this earth in the flesh, Who taught us, Who healed us, Who suffered for us, Who died for us, Who was buried for us and Who rose from the dead so that He might be the first born of the dead, and that we might follow Him in the Resurrection unto Life Eternal!  May we see this clearly in the face of all that we are going through in this life; to trust in God and continue to seek Him with all our hearts, again, to live with Him now and always.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Christ is Risen!

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