To the Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Diocese of the West:
“Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You…” (John 16:32-17:1)
Dearly Beloved: Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
These words of our Lord were spoken to His disciples at the end of a long discourse preparing them for the coming events of His Trial, Death and Resurrection. He then begins the High Priestly Prayer that points to His glorification. We hear His words at the end of a very long first Passion Gospel on Holy Thursday evening. As we gather throughout Holy Week and then Pascha itself, we need to be girded up the way our Lord knew His disciples needed to be girded up. Our world is full of suffering and tribulation. We deal with weakness of faith, laziness, sickness, poverty, passions, disappointments, and temptations. Our Lenten efforts have barely moved the needle of repentance in our lives. And now we grieve as we watch Orthodox brothers and sisters killing each other as pawns in some geopolitical game. Tribulations indeed.
But our Lord strengthens His disciples (and us) in the midst of these tribulations, and prepares all of us for the coming Victory with two truths: first, we are comforted in the reality that our Lord has overcome the world, despite there always being tribulations. How? By the inauguration of His Kingdom, here and now, in the life of the Church. We flee to the consolation and loving embrace of the Church as a refuge from the harsh sufferings outside the doors of our parishes. All these things the Lord spoke so “that in Me you may have peace.” The peace which surpasses all understanding is the gift of Christ’s Resurrection experienced in the life of the Church. No tribulation can overwhelm this gift.
Secondly, Jesus lifted up His eyes to His Father and announced that the hour had come. For what? For His glorification. The Son is glorified by freely giving Himself over to humiliation, spittings, scourging, and finally death hanging broken and bloody on the Cross. The fulfillment and completion of His glorification is in the empty tomb. The Lord promised us that He has overcome the world. But that promise did not say that we did not have to still live in the world, still deal with this world, and still encounter and overcome the tribulations in this world. Our glory must be the same glory as His — faithfully walking through the trials and tribulations of all that the world throws at us, keeping our eyes on Him and not the storms swirling around us.
It seems antithetical to believe that the tribulation is overcome and the glorification is fulfilled in all the sufferings that surround the Lord during His Passion. But it is only antithetical if we look with the eyes of the world instead of the eyes of faith. The eyes of the world see a bloody defeat. The eyes of faith see the ultimate Victory in a faithful endurance and obedience even unto death. Each of us has our own Golgotha to endure in faith and hope. But when we do, we receive the same gift — a passover from death to life.
Brothers and Sisters, be of good cheer, for the Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world. Be of good cheer, for the hour has come for Him to be glorified. We live in Him and walk with Him so that we, too, might be glorified. May the joy, peace, and light of the Resurrection fill each of your hearts and souls!
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Yours in the risen Christ,
†Benjamin; Archbishop of San Francisco