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Asking the Clergy: What is the message of Easter in a time of global crisis?

From left, Msgr. Charles R. Fink of Seminary

From left, Msgr. Charles R. Fink of Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, the Rev. Marie A. Tatro of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island and the Rev. Louis Nicholas of the Greek Orthodox Church of the..Assumption. Credit: Charles R. Fink; Yeong-Ung Yang; Louis Nicholas

April 4 is Easter Sunday, when Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and other Christians commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his suffering and death on the cross on Good Friday. A month from now, on May 2, Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter Sunday, or Pascha. As services begin to return to Long Island churches, this week’s clergy discuss Easter’s message of hope in troubled times.

Msgr. Charles R. Fink

Rector, Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington

Human experience is so complex and multilayered that it’s impossible for any one person, or aggregate of persons, to take it all in and grasp perfectly how the myriad parts relate to one another and what, if any, is the meaning of it all.

Each of us ultimately comes up with a core belief that helps us to explain and cope with reality. For Christians this is belief in Jesus Christ, God incarnate. He is the lens through which all reality is to be interpreted, and Easter is the great reason for hope and peace of mind, even in our darkest hours. The message of Easter is that when the worst that could ever happen did indeed occur, it was undone in a matter of days. Christ, killed on the cross, rose from the dead.

It was belief in this miracle of miracles that enabled the mystic, Julian of Norwich, living in the plague-ridden 14th century, to proclaim: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." May Julian’s Easter confidence inspire us all, who live in the pandemic-ridden 21st century.

The Rev. Louis Nicholas

Lead pastor, Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, Port Jefferson

In the Greek Orthodox Easter hymn "Apolytikion of Pascha," we sing "Christ is risen from the dead, by death he has trampled down death, and to those in the tombs he has granted life."

Orthodox Christians do not say "Happy Easter." We greet each other with "Christ is Risen," continuing with that greeting for 40 days after Easter Sunday, which this year is celebrated on May 2. Additionally, when someone exclaims, "Christ is Risen," we respond, "Truly he is risen."

Easter’s message is plainly stated in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." God loved us so much that he became one of us, suffered, died on the cross and rose from the dead so we could be saved from this fallen world. He is risen from the dead, and the gates of paradise are opened to us once again, and we are no longer slaves to sin.

We now have the ability to be free from a world that is wrought with pain, violence, poverty, disease and pandemics. The message of Easter has never changed, only the global crisis has changed.

The Rev. Marie A. Tatro

Vicar for Community Justice Ministry, Episcopal Diocese of Long Island

As Easter drew near, many Christians might have felt as if Lent 2020 never ended, but sort of folded into Lent 2021. Last year at this time — especially where I live in Brooklyn, one of the epicenters of the pandemic — resurrection hope was in short supply. We’ve gone through a long season of disease and death, failed (and even dangerous) leadership and painful reckonings with our racial history. But perhaps we might finally be entering a time of hope.

Millions are getting vaccinated, treatments for COVID-19 are improving, national leaders are showing glimpses of empathy and compassion, and we are even witnessing the sparks of honest conversations about race that could potentially lead to healing.

This year, our ascent out of a cold, dark winter carries many more connotations than merely a new season on the calendar with warmer, longer days. On Easter morning, Jesus’ followers around the world will shout, "The Lord is risen indeed! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!" And speaking for myself, this year I’ll feel more viscerally that I, too, am leaving the cold, dark tomb, right by his side.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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