EASTER PASTORAL LETTER
from Patriarch Coadjutor Archbishop David Smith
Greetings in the great Name of the risen Lord Jesus who in overcoming death has opened to us the gate of everlasting life. Peace be to you from God our Father, from God the Son and God the sustaining Spirit who sends you out as his witnesses to a broken world to proclaim the decisive victory of our God and of his Christ.
As I write to all the faithful of the Anglocatholic Church during Holy Week, I write to a suffering world, a world gripped in fear, a world cowering in isolation lest the plague come nigh us. Governments across the world are doing their best with the help of the medical establishment to stem the tide of destruction wrought by COVID-19 and to restore to us a world in which the normal order of social intercourse may be renewed. Of necessity, the normative practice of our faith and the keeping of an holy Lent and joyous Easter season are being severely restricted. Access to the sacramental channels of grace and to the renewal and restoration that they bring have become very limited. For now and in the foreseeable future while we remain ‘ you in your small corner and I in mine,‘ we in the one body of Christ and we as members in the one human family must be united in bonds of heart, mind, soul and strength. We must ‘ lay hold on life and let it be our joy and crown eternally. ‘ In short, we must renew our commitment and turn again to God in the totality of our being. We must choose life and blessings that we may live by loving the Lord our God, obeying Him and holding fast to Him. This is the ancient choice that God through Moses laid upon the people of Israel as they were set to cross over the Jordan and possess the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 30.
This choice makes clear the truth enshrined in the story of the fall from grace in primal Eden, namely that the Tree of Knowledge is vastly different from the Tree of Life. The prophet Ezekiel was gifted with a powerful vision that speaks to this. He saw water flowing out from below the threshold of the great Temple towards the east, water that made the stagnant pools fresh, that gave new life to the trees growing on its banks, water that made them fruitful and prevented their leaves from withering. Ezekiel 47. This is that water that is needed today, water that flows from the Sanctuary. Only the Creator can restore, remove the toxic residue of sin, corruption and self absorption, and cause the new life of the Kingdom to begin to stir again in a people who have ‘ forsaken the fountain of living water, the Lord. ‘ Jeremiah 17 .13 We with the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well need the water that Christ gives, water that ‘ becomes is us a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. ‘ John 4. Dare we reach out to the Lord touching the hem of his garments and draw from Him who is the Source of life, the end of life and Life Itself, our true life?
As we celebrate the Paschal Victory of our Lord, I commend to you the ancient text of the Introit for the Mass of the Day. The text is drawn from selected verses from the Septuagint text of Psalm 139. 18b, 5b, 2
I am arisen, and am still with thee, alleluia : I have placed my hand upon you, alleluia :
this knowledge is wonderful, alleluia.
Lord, you have searched me out and known me :
you know my sitting down and my rising up.
The Easter victory of Christ resonates with the story of the Exodus, with the Passover celebration – the Paschal lamb consumed, its blood marking the doorposts to inhibit the hand of the Angel of death, a pilgrim people ready to travel in haste that they might escape slavery in a foreign land and come to dwell in the land promised them as an inheritance for faith. All this is of course reminds us that we, as the Israelites of old, we are a dependent people, we do not control our destiny, we need the love, mercy and protection of our great God who binds Himself to us in covenant relationship. We are as well a people who suffer the vicissitudes of life as a divine method of trying and proving us, of refining the precious deposit of silver that lies at the heart of each human being. Times of trial are an important part of this refining process. Although we fail our God, He does not fail us. We must sing the Lord’s song even in a strange land, even in a time of plague. We must not hang up our harps upon the trees of the land of our exile. Psalm 137 Why? Because we are the planting of the Lord, a noble vine, a right seed. Jeremiah 2 . 12. Now, more than ever, we are being called to go up with rejoicing to the true temple, to the source of the living, vivifying waters of life. We are called not to seek earthly stones and temples made with hands, but to come to and live through the true Temple, Jesus, the One who is the supreme meeting place between God and his people, the true and all sufficient sacrifice for sin, and the exclusive Way to the Father.
Live the new life in Christ! Take counsel from the great Apostle to the Gentiles, blessed Paul, who writing to the Church in Colossae exhorts 3. 1 – 4
If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,
where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,
for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
We do that which we do in this life, the practice of faith, hope and love, not to avoid problems, but rather to win the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ. Philippians 3 . 14.
May God bless you all and sustain you in times of trouble that you may walk the way of the redeemed up to the heavenly Zion and through grace obtain the crown promised to those who persevere.
+++ David Smith, Patriarch Coadjutor of The Anglocatholic Church