Pastoral Easter Letter from Patriarch Coadjutor Dr. David Smith

Dear Brothers in Christ,
On Quinquagesima Sunday, holy Church, responding to the Gospel
passage from Luke 18, entered upon the upward pilgrimage of Lent, the
journey to the holy city Jerusalem there to witness the fulfillment of all things
written of the Son of man by the prophets. This hero journey (to borrow a
term from Joseph Campbell) is set before us in order to reveal our ultimate
destiny as followers of the Lord Christ. In it Christians find the meaning of
life in the Lord expressed in the accomplishments worked by God the Father
in Jesus the Son, worked for the sake of our salvation. He is delivered up,
treated with disdain, tortured and sent to a cruel death that is the result of
worldly judgment and spiritual blindness. This great journey is designed for
us as a vehicle for the reception of true sight and for the gift of a faith that
saves as it reveals the well-spring of eternal life implanted in us by God,
gifted us that death have not the final word. The triumphant entry into the
Holy City, the climax of this upward movement, finds meaning in John’s
gospel in its immediate prelude, the anointing of the Lord by Mary of
Bethany, an act of preparation for his sacrificial death that will become the
ultimate cause of his glorification. We are privileged in this journey to stand
alongside our Lord in his hour, that decisive time when He as a grain of
wheat falling to the ground in death rises up as abundant fruitfulness in the
family of his Church. Here we find articulated the ultimate challenge of
discipleship – to serve Him is to follow Him seeking to be where He is as a
suffering servant worthy of future honor. He leads the way. We, counting the
cost of discipleship must follow Him. He, free from any sin, leads us, sinners,
along the course of the hero journey that reveals the Father’s solution for the
troublesome state that lies buried at the heart of fallen humanity, that has
caused the aweful curse placed upon the ground, the toil of life and the return
to the primal dust in death. This challenging solution believers proclaim as
they participate daily or weekly in the eucharistic celebration. Often, this
proclamation in its rhythmic regularity, seems to become ordinary, a
statement of fact rather than a divine transformative gift of love. Yet He is
truly blessed that comes to us in the name of the Lord. Perhaps like the
crowds that thronged the streets of Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday we
acclaim Him by simply quoting a verse from Psalm 118, a verse whose deep
inner significance has become forgotten through familiarity. Yet in each
celebration of the Sacred Mysteries, we find ourselves alone before God,
alone and at the same time within the tumultuous crowds whose Hosannas
turn to jeers five days later at the Place called the Skull when they came to be
entertained by the spectacle of a cruel death or perhaps even finding
ourselves standing in union with those who from fear withdrew afar off
watching in horror the tragedy of the death of God at the hands of those
whom He in love had fashioned and given the gift of life. When we first
came to Jesus in the waters of baptism, was this what we came for? Was it for
the triumphal entry, or the aweful desolation of Golgatha, the hurried burial
and the descent into the depths of the infernal world? In our annual lenten
pilgrimage, as in the whole course of our lives, we have been led here, and
continue to be led by grace to the portal of transformation. Here, at the foot
of the Cross of Jesus, here we come to a point of lucid revelation, to a
knowledge of the depths of the love of God, to the fact that the Anointed One
is our Passover, our vehicle of transformation. His sacred Blood is smeared
on the lintel of our death so that the destroying angel will pass us by, that is,
if we enter in heart and mind into the paschal celebration as the meal of life
by partaking of the Lamb of God whose flesh is roasted in death over the
fires of hell burning below the cross of ultimate humiliation, accompanying
this with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth and the bitter herbs. This
strange feast of life we must consume in haste as a people ready to journey
with their Lord, as those moved to remembrance and worship, as those
willing to make their lives anew as a living festal proclamation of Christ
crucified, risen, ascended and glorified, gone from us in order to prepare a
place for us. In his death, Christ cries out through the long procession of
years since that fateful day, calling to us ‘ Will you take up your cross and
follow Me? ‘ Will you accept the risk of faith that you may come to that road
upon which the redeemed walk? ‘ ‘ See, my yoke is easy and my burden is
light! ‘
For many today this turning point in human history seems to have lost
its compelling truth. For many the challenge of transformation is simply too
much to undertake when they are being actively seduced by the tinsel charms
of this old world, seduced into believing that this life is all there is. Suffering,
rejection, pain and sorrow are indeed a hard sell, as is future reward when we
believe that we have it all right now. Yet for us, here lies our hope, a hope
that is counter-cultural, that bids us turn from this world in a setting of the
mind on things divine not on things human. It is significant that the
evangelist Mark’s Jesus first fortells his death and resurrection in chapter 8.
There the saving kingdom event is introduced and contextualized by the story
of the feeding of the four thousand and completed in the opening of chapter 9
with the Transfiguration narrative, the mystery of faith being found in the
progressive movement from divine feeding to divine self revelation. When
we link this to the evangelist John’s story of Jesus and the Woman of Samaria
we find another clue. The woman invites the people of her city to ‘ Come and
see a man who told me everything. ‘ When we come and see the Man we find
that his disciples are more concerned that He eat something!, that is, with his
humanity. His acts of forgiveness and his radical teachings, these did not yet
seem to engage them. Jesus, however, transforms their understanding of food
from bodily nurture to doing of the will of the Father and thus completing his
work. So it must be for us who follow after and undertake the heavy burden
of discipleship. Holy Church begins to live her proclamation of the Easter
victory primarily through the affirmation of faith, that is, in a life that is a
confession of truth in word and in deed that the lives of those who come up to
Jerusalem reveal. So we preach says Paul, so we believe. The triad of
preaching – believing – and living – these form the Church of Jesus around
the living presence of her Lord, these based on the triad at the core of our
proclamation – the truth of the Cross – the Burial, and the Resurrection, this
mystery of the atoning death and saving resurrection encompassing the truth
about the life He came to bring, a passing from one form of existence to
another, a life whose vitality and permanence far transcends the limiting
barriers of that which we call earthly life revealing an expanding newness, a
breakthrough into the eternity of being that is God with whom is the
‘ fountain of life ‘ and in whom ‘ we see light. ‘ Psalm 36
Dear brothers in Christ, Easter teaches us we must turn to the truly
living One, He who has life in Himself through the Father. Life is thus an
indwelling relationship, a knowledge that is ours as gift, that flows out
through the incarnate Logos, that is made by Him as a light that lightens all
people. As those chosen by our Lord for ministry and leadership in the
fellowship of his one Body the Church, we must be willing to follow our
Lord along his freely-willed path of suffering. We must be willing to be
moved well beyond the limits of the intellect and worldly success, moved
into the very life of God, into a trinitarian sense of the resurrection of the Son
by the Father, itself the source of the out-poured power of the Spirit. God has
already sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, already placed the cry of
Abba on our lips as a cause for giving glory to the Father. Like our Lord as
recorded in John 17, our vocations call us to a special act of selfconsecration, to a priestly ministry after the perfect model He sets before us,
to a kind of withdrawal from the world that His mission and ministry may be
revealed to the world in all truth through our lesser efforts. We are thus called
to a humbling of self, to a surrender that is of the essence of our Lord’s
servant ministry, to a dedication of our lives to his command ‘ Follow Me. ‘
As we again celebrate the Easter victory, we are called to re-affirm our
commitment to live through Him, to live from Grace, to allow it to refashion
our individual existences and ministries as proclamations of the victory of
our God who Himself came in our flesh that we might live through Him. We
are in a sense the garden of the Lord in whose center is the wine press of life.
We take the fruitful increase of our catholic planting and offer it up as that
pleasant planting in which He is well pleased. Thus, our hour has come, the
hour when our lives must show forth that eternal life which is the knowledge
of the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, He in whose
glorious resurrection we have been brought out into a spacious place. Thanks
be to God!
+++ David Smith
Patriarch Coadjutor of the Anglocatholic Church
His Eminence the Most Reverend David A. Smith,
Titular Bishop of Antioch in Pisidia and Primate of All North America

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