FROM ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY
April 8, A. D. 2018
Great and Holy Pascha
To the Most Reverend and Right Reverend Hierarchs, Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics,
and Faithful of The Orthodox Archdiocese of America (New York)
Dearly Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is risen!
Indeed, He is risen!
We read in 1 Corinthians 15:20: “But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept.”
This occurred on the day after the Passover, that same day is the start of the Feast of Unleavened Bread Nisan 15.
The Third Appointed Feast (see Leviticus 23:9-11) was delayed until the People of Israel took possession of the Promised Land. They began the Harvest on the Day after Passover as the Passover was a day in which no work of any kind was to be done, as it was a Sabbath of the Lord and an High Day. They gave to the Priests a portion of all their increase as the Tribe of Levi who supplied the Priests were not given any land and were supported by the offerings of the people. The intent behind the ritual: was not mere tithes and offerings (see Deut.25:1-10). It was a remembrance in how God redeemed them out of slavery. They were to confess before witnesses that the fruits of their labor were a grace gift from God.
There is a reason to see a Messianic significance to the Third Appointed Feast. The New Testament refers to the Resurrected Jesus as the first fruits of those who will be resurrected at the Last Trump (see 1 Corinthians 15:20 & 23). In this light it is important to see how the Resurrection of Jesus links Him to the historic Feast of First fruits. This He kept during His lifetime
Jesus rose from the dead not just on any day. The reality as it played out was not coincidentally on the First Day of the week (Matt.28:1); rather the Messiah rose according to God’s intentional design in order to fulfill the Holy Torah. He rose on HaBikkurim - The Feast of First fruits. His Resurrection was a promise of the life and everlasting freedom that would come to all who believed in Him.
Like Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First fruits is ripe with Messianic overtones. Each rich with insight and principles for our faith. The next important Feast is Pentecost (Shavuot) which falls fifty days after the Feast of First fruits. The Biblical History of the Apostles tells us that the period between Pesach and Shavuot, were spent in fellowship with and being taught by the Resurrected Messiah. But He left them with a promise that a unique Comforter and Counselor would come.
Ancient Israel spent the period between Pesach and Shavuot in a time of Self Examination and expectancy of one who would come bearing great news. Many Christians today pay scant attention to this period of waiting between Pascha and Pentecost…if it is spent like Ancient Israel in a time of quiet Soul-searching and renewal, you might experience an unexpected Blessing.
Those who believe in Jesus can gratefully see Him as the Resurrected First-fruit of the eternal harvest that God has promised to those who trust Him.
May you who have experienced the Resurrection of Jesus enjoy the blessings which have been poured out for us as we await the promised Holy Spirit.
Faithfully in Christ,
Archbishop of New York
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Over the years, some have asked to have a copy of Archbishop Anthony’s Prayer. Here it is: