April 2006

Fr. Antony PortraitDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is Risen! It may seem odd to talk about death on the Feast of Pascha, but it isn't really. After all, without death there can be no resurrection.

Orthodox spiritual writers throughout history have counseled that Christians remember death each day. It helps put everything into proper perspective and reminds us of the things that are important in life. One exercise is to wake up each day and meditate on truths such as: it is in our nature to grow old, to get sick and to die. Another way of looking at it without mentioning directly is to remember that everything changes. Think about it. What in life is stable? Eventually in this life we will find ourselves separated from everyone and everything we know and love. Embracing these truths every day soberly helps us face the inevitable with calmness.

In the midst of these realities the light of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus shines brightly. Jesus has transformed the ephemeral nature of life into a journey into a new life where there is "neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting." Growing old, sickness separation and death are all no longer final. The seed of His life resides within, the Kingdom of Heaven, the mustard seed of eternal life.

At the same time, we still experience growing old, getting sick and dying, but in a way that leads not to despair and darkness, but to joy and light. Jesus embraced them for us through his incarnation so that we, by embracing them ourselves with his help, can come to know the overarching reality, that God loves and has provided a way that leads to perfect bliss. The secret is in learning how to accept and embrace our experience of life and death with faith.

I love the verse from St. John's Gospel, "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it." While we meditate on the temporal nature of life we also meditate on the light that "shines in the darkness" of worldly impermanence. It is Chris, the Lord of Life, who is Himself the Light, who is calling us to follow Him through "the valley of the shadow of death". What we discover is that if we follow Him, the valley becomes filled with light.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Antony Hughes