With a sense of Paschal joy and special spiritual closeness, despite the distance separating us, I greet you, Eminent Brother Archpastors, honorable fathers, dear brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world, on this great and light-bearing day of the Pascha of Christ!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Approaching Great Lent, a repentant Christian gazes into his soul and sees his own helpless situation, reminding him of the field of “dry bones” described in the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:1-14). But depending on the degree of one’s zeal in carrying out the podvig of repentance and the approach of the “Feast of feasts,” he begins to taste joy and spiritual peace. A Christian, together with the entire Church, praying together, fasting, repenting and communing, begins to come alive, stands up upon his feet and joins “an exceeding great army” of the faithful (Ezekiel 37:10). All come alive together with him; the entire Christian world, all of nature—all rejoice, brightly celebrating the Three-Day Resurrection of God, the Lover of Mankind.
Our earthly celebration of Pascha means sensing the grace of the Kingdom of God to the degree possible. Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) would say that with attentive spiritual living a person acquires the ability to rejoice not for one day, but beginning with Bright Week and continuing another 40 days of celebration, and then over the course of his entire life, as it was with Saint Seraphim of Sarov, who lived with this joy, declaring it not only with his heart and mouth, but in his very way of life. May the Lord help us preserve this unspeakable joy, foreshadowing for us the blessedness “in the unwaning days of the Kingdom” of Christ, and may we thereby sanctify all the rest of our earthly days!
Pondering the tribulations of our time, we understand that the Son of God became man, preached His Gospel, worked miracles, died and was risen in order to save the world in which the righteous suffer persecutions, but where sinners perish. God, “Who loves the righteous and is merciful to sinners,” seeks the salvation of all. It is in this unity with Christ together with all of mankind that we must fervently pray for the salvation of the righteous and the sinners, for the great mercy of God for the former and for the latter, that it is not our version of the truth that reigns nor anyone else’s, but the truth of God. That, like His victory over evil, sin and death, always leads to love, the triumph of unity and the victory of Goodness and Beauty. Thus prayed Metropolitan Hilarion (+3/16 May, 2022) of blessed memory, who always shone with Paschal joy and served as an example of good Christian living. May we likewise pray as we approach the first anniversary of his repose.
I take this opportunity to ask the archpastors, pastors, monastics and the millions of faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onouphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, Archimandrite of the ancient Kiev-Caves Lavra, to accept from us all the Paschal kiss of peace, empathy and Christian love! May the Lord help them continue upon the path of witness, which Apostle Paul described to all Christians in his Epistle to the Corinthians: “by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 8:10).
“Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), said the Lord to His disciples. And we, dear fathers, brothers and sisters, counting ourselves as among the disciples of Christ, are called to preach His Resurrection both with a good word and by the power of living according to the Gospel. When we invest our faith in our words and deeds, they gradually transfigure into the Light of Christ, illuminating and warming all. In difficult times, this Light, shining forth from the Life-Bearing Sepulcher of the Lord, is especially needed by everyone. And the more this Light exists among people—in good words and deeds—the more they will feel themselves close and dear to one other. Therefore, let us in all ways strive to be in the Light of Christ’s Resurrection, sensing His strength and power! Amen.
INDEED CHRIST IS RISEN!
Asking your holy prayers, I remain with Paschal joy in Christ and with the kindest of wishes,
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
NEW YORK: 14 April 2023