Paschal Epistles 2010

Of the Most Reverend Metropolitan Agafangel
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

           In these grand days, suffused with the mystery of the victory of life over death, we, like the Myrrh-Bearing women who heralded the news of His Resurrection to the Lord’s disciples, congratulate “with great joy” (Matthew 28:8) all the faithful servants of our sacred Russian Orthodox Church Abroad with the Resurrection of Christ.  Henceforth, “without fear” (Matthew 28:10) and “doubt” (Matthew 28:17), without “trembling and amazement” (Mark16:8), without “mourning and weeping” (Mark16:10), we rejoice and bow down to the Resurrected Christ (Matthew 28:9) and with deep faith and a “burning heart” (Luke 24:32) affirm that truly Christ is Risen!
            Through His Resurrection, the Savior of the world commanded, “I am sending you (John 20:21).  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).”  For almost 100 years, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has testified to the people of many countries of this world of the Crucified and Resurrected Christ and has brought to them the redemptive message of the Gospel.
            In these days, as an answer to contemporary globalism, the Church of Christ of “the end times” is taking shape before our eyes, and in many ways, it differs from the Church of the “Constantine era.”  This development is already apparent to all religious people, and one aspect of it is the establishment of contacts and mutual understanding among Orthodox people on every continent and in every nation.  To those Orthodox people, who are not susceptible to the forces of this world and who see Christ before them and live according to His teachings.
            Christ blessed His disciples with the words, “Peace be unto you!” (John 20:21).  This is not simply a blessing; it is the condition without which the Church is meaningless.  We are called by God to truly and actually create the peace of Christ in our hearts, and then, unite others to this peace, those whose hearts are so inclined.  There is no other possible way for us to gather the Church in our times.
            Dear bishops, rectors, deacons, monastics and laypeople!  In congratulating you with the Bright Resurrection of Christ, I wish that in this difficult time of the impoverishment of the faith in this changing secular world that no one “be scattered, each to his own home” (John 16:32), but remain in the oneness of the Church with our Savior!
Truly Christ is Risen!
+Metropolitan AgafangelOdessa, Pascha, 2010.

 of the Most Reverend Joseph, Vicar Bishop of Washington, D.C.
          The spiritual darkness is so deep throughout the world, that we grow tired from such a dark night.  It is insulting for our souls and it is intolerable to see evil rejoicing all around us.  But it is not hidden evil that saddens us so, it is that manifestation of evil disguised as a lamb, which is actually the forebearer of the Antichrist and is the deceptive creation of Satan himself.  The Lord, though, does not abandon us and we all feel like victors along with our Lord.  Once again, death and all its effects – doubt, lack of faith, sadness and despair, the hardening of hearts and turmoil – are overcome by the Resurrected Lord, our Jesus Christ.  We are once again filled with the indescribable joy of the victory of the Church of Christ over all the evil forces, visible and invisible.
          We are now so content, that our soul rejoices and we actually, not seemingly, hear how all the creatures and nature itself sings and wordlessly praises the Resurrected Christ.
          Let us thank God that Pascha is visited upon us sinners and that He called us sinners to His Church, where we can partake of this feast day of feast days, celebration of celebrations!
                             Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen!

for the All-Glorious Resurrection of Christ our Savior 
The Victory of Suffering Love 
“He loved them unto the end” 

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Light-Wrought children of the Church: 
The “Gospel,” the joyous and Good News of our salvation in Christ, as we all know, commences with joy:  “Fear not,” said the Angel to the blessed shepherds, “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy”; yet it also ends with joy: “And they [the Holy Apostles] worshipped him [our Lord at the Ascension], and returned to Jerusalem 
with great joy.” 

Our Holy Orthodox Church, which is, quite literally, the Church of Joyousness, is not only a herald of this great joy, but has become and is—through the Holy Resurrection—the everlasting fountain and the unique bearer of true and quintessential joy. 

The Orthodox ethos of our Church, noble and compassionate, holy and blessed, is imbued with the presence of the Risen Christ; the Resurrection of our Savior, as an historical event, but also as a “continuous nowness” in the Church, permeates the being of the world, giving meaning to its existence and meaning to man’s life. 

My Christ-loving Brothers and Sisters: 
The joy of the Resurrection dawned forth from the sorrow of the Cross. The Crucifixion of our Lord was, to be sure, not a defeat or a failure, but a voluntary self-oblation, a redemptive sacrifice, offered out of tender love, and as a final token: “having loved,” says the Holy Apostle John prior to the Passion, “...having loved his own, which 
were in the world, he [the Lord] loved them unto the end.”

Only through a love which endures “unto the end,” that is, to the sorrow of the Cross, is it possible for our salvation, our victory over Satan, sin, and death, to be accomplished.  The poignant cry of our Savior upon the Cross, “It is finished,” was essentially a cry of victory. Deliverance is achieved and fulfilled. 

The victory is henceforth a certainty, having been confirmed by the “work” which the Father entrusted to the Son: “Father, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do”; “all things have now been accomplished.” 
The sorrow of our Lord “unto death,” unto extreme weakness, for our sake did not come about so that we might be freed from sorrow and the afflictions of this world, but in order that His sorrow might become our own, and thus our afflictions for the sake of His love and for our brother might be transformed into sorrows of travail, into pangs 
that will give birth to our personal resurrection and the resurrection of the world. 

My Brothers and Sisters who bear the name of Christ: 
A love which—on account of Christ and by His mystical power— undergoes travail is a victory of suffering love;8 this love has overcome and will overcome the world, since it is omnipotent.   Evil and disorder at a personal and collective level cannot be overcome by force, compulsion, or an authoritarian imposition of good and order. 

Dostoevsky’s Staretz Zosima expresses the Orthodox ethos on this matter: 
“Always decide: ‘I will combat it by humble love.’ If you resolve on that once and for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humility is a fearsome force: it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.”

The love that suffers is the love that the Incarnate, Crucified, and Resurrected God-Man has bequeathed to us. The victory of suffering love, a victory won through the Cross and Resurrection, ought to become our unceasing personal way of life, if we wish to be true Christians and worthy of the love of Him Who “laid down his life for the sheep” and Who, through His “self-emptying,” His self-abasement and perfect infirmity, has filled us with great joy. 

May this great joy, which flows from the victory of suffering love, steadfastly typify our character, through the intercessions of the most blessed Theotokos and the inestimable prayers of our  Elder and guide, 

Metropolitan Cyprian, who bears the seal of Christ, 
to the glory of the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Amen. 
Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen! 
Holy Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, 2010 
Your humble supplicant before our Risen Lord, 
† Bishop Cyprian of Oreoi, 
Acting President of the Holy Synod in Resistance

Dear loved ones in God, honorable fathers, brothers and sisters!
 Christ is Risen!
 O divine, O dear, O sweetest Voice! (song 9 of the Paschal Canon)
            The Resurrection from the dead of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ granted mankind the ever-flowering benefits of happiness and peace and encouraged the faithful with the joyous hope of resurrection and life eternal.  Our souls are filled with a deep gratitude and a warm feeling when we hear the words of the Resurrected Savior, “but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (Matthew 28:10, John 20:17)  The arising from the dead to the glory of godhood did not change the relationship between our Lord Savior and the people.  His first words after resurrection referred to His brothers, that is, His disciples, whom He chose and who were devoted to Him.  Then to all those, who, through them, believe in Him; which is all of us, dear brothers and sisters.

            Let us understand with our souls and hearts this new mystery of the divine and human nature of Christ: together with Him we have one Father, together with Him we have one God!  Because of His love of mankind and His mercy, the Son of God descended on Earth, called us brothers, shared the burden of this sorrowful human existence, and suffered and died.  He resurrected thinking of His brothers; He ascended blessing His brothers; He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort His brothers; He established His Church on Earth to protect His brothers; and in blessing His brothers, He calls all of us to Him, to reside in eternal Mansions prepared by Him.

            O loved ones, we are given more than we can ever comprehend!  Let us do at least what we do understand, “let us be radiant for the feast, and let us embrace one another, and let us say: Brethren, even to them that hate us, let us forgive all things on the Resurrection!”  O our Lord Savior, enter the tremulous soul and console it with Your soft and merciful words, “Why do you weep?”  Go unto them, those who despite their profound sinfulness still at some time carried a drop of peace in their souls to Your Tomb and tell them, “Do not fear!  Rejoice!”  Come unto those gathered in Your Name, to those praising You, to those rejoicing in You, to those praying to You.  Stand among them and say, “Peace be unto you!

            O Thou Divine, Gracious, Sweet voice!

            Finally, our souls and hearts are filled with such devotion and warm tenderness when we hear the words of the Resurrected, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."   Not so long ago, people believed and averred that only God can forgive sins, and God now grants this Divine right to His disciples, and through them, to those who serve Him.  The power possessed by the One God, to pacify our consciences and hearts, God grants to mankind.  The Holy Spirit abides in them and acts through them in all the days to the last!

            What can our human speech say about this enormous gift of the grace of God?  Mere words are indeed insufficient, we can only fall to our knees and bow to the Resurrected God, which we should hasten to do with our inadequate hearts, which are yet filled with divine love and gratitude.  May the benefits of the Resurrected Christ be spoken of from one set of lips to another, from one voice to many, for all the generations to come!

            Let us be encouraged by the sweet hope of resurrection and eternal life!!!
I call out to all of you, loved ones, with the Paschal greeting:
Christ is Risen!  Christ is Risen!  Christ is Risen!
 Truly He is Risen!
Bishop of Sao Paulo and South America
 (Inspired by the sermons and talks of Archimandrite Antonin Kapustin – 1817-1894.)

Paschal Epistle
Of the Most Reverend Sofroniy,
Archbishop of St. Petersburg and Northern Russia
“Slake my thirsting soul with the waters of piety…”
The world is permeated with evil, and when we give in to ourselves, we are often too weak in the battle with evil.  If we are attentive to our lives, if we decide upon a path of an examined life, we are often forced to realize that we have gone astray from our path; we go in a circle and return to the beginning.  It is difficult to admit how far you are from that place, where you hoped to arrive long before.  Once again, you gather your strength, set out once again, and again, you are met with inevitable misfortunes.  People often become despondent when they realize that time has flown by and that alas it is impossible to reach that desired place.  That is when the Powerful God, adorned with a thorny crown, comes to us, reaching out with His Almighty hand and helps us to go much farther than we ever thought we could go, even when we were full of strength. Would not such a person experience a joyful impulse towards the Lord?  Would he not exclaim, as did Apostle Nathaniel, “Thou art the Son of God!  Thou art the King of the Jews!”  It is not possible for people not to have tribulations, but those of us who believe, bear them even with a touch of gladness and voluntarily take them on in emulation of the Lord Himself.  One can humbly say, “I am a sinner,” but to truly pray like the publican, “Lord!  Have pity on me a sinner,” is indeed the most difficult prayer in the world.  It is easy to say, I believe in Christ, but to look upon Christ, the personification of grace and truth, and to receive from His trials the grace of being gracious, is far more difficult.  To call upon Christ with our mouths is possible even for an ordinary person, but to confess in one’s heart, as Peter did, that He is the Living Son of God, is a deed we are called to undertake.  “It is finished,” said God Incarnate, hanging on the cross, and gave up His spirit.  Does the heart of mankind hear the voice of love as it dies?  Does it shake your entire being?  This voice causes the sun to hide, the curtain to be torn, the earth to quake.  But what happens with ordinary Christians?  People’s hearts have turned to stone, their ears hear with difficulty, and their eyes have dimmed.  What is our heart? An altar.  Our will? A sacrifice.  Our souls? A priest within us, to bring our will as a gift.  Those thirsting, come unto Me and be slaked!  Hear the words of the Lord, go to Him with all your soul.  Go and trust in Him.  Do not fear the cross, which stands along the path of each one of us.  The cross no longer gives off the scent of death as before, “Lo the Cross has brought joy to the entire world.”  The cross opens to us the light of the Resurrection.  To bypass the cross, is the path to ruin.  They are joyful, that have met the feast day with an open, pure heart, able to partake of this joy. 
To all those pastors, monastics, and all God-loving laypeople that are dear to my heart, I call upon to raise the Paschal anthem with one heart and one voice –
Christ is Risen!
     Archbishop of St .Petersburg and Northern Russia
Pascha, 2010

Paschal Epistle
Of the Most Reverend Georgiy,
Bishop of Bolgrad and Belgorod-Dnestrovsk
Dear loved ones in Christ, dear fathers, brothers and sisters!
Christ is Risen!
This festal greeting, replete with unique mystery and hope, proclaims the one thing paramount in very person’s life – his relation with God, which fills our lives with meaning and light.
            The light of Christ’s Resurrection is a wondrous thing, transforming our lives. The Church often preaches of the Resurrection of Christ, because it has great meaning in the lives of the faithful.  Apostle Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile…” (1 Corinthians 15:17).  Truth and the strength of faith owe their existence to the light-filled event of the Resurrection of Christ.  Without it, a Christian is “to be pitied more than all men(1 Corinthians 15:19).
            When we look upon the traditional icon of the Resurrection of Christ, we see the depiction of the defeat of death.  The soul of Christ, united to its Godliness, descended into Hell and freed all the souls there, who awaited Him as the Savior.  Christ entered the realm of death, agreed to die, and then defeated death through the power of His Divinity.  He made death completely powerless, and through His own strength and power, gave the opportunity to every person to avoid the rule, domination and power of death and Satan.  In other words, our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, who fulfills every truth for our sake and for us, gives us the sacred power to overcome temptation, to throw off the yoke of our passions and become new creations of God, who live to do good for the sake of God.  We sing in church, “We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of Hell.”  Both constitute the deep meaning of the feast day of Christ’s Pascha.  That is why St. John of Damascus praises joyfully, “All is filled with light, the sky and earth and the netherworld, and all creatures celebrate the resurrection of Christ and are affirmed through it.”
            Thus, loved ones, girded by the sacred strength of the Vanquisher over Hell and death, let us try to dig out any roots of evil, even the smallest, as they contain the poison of death, which nearly caused all of mankind to perish.  If we ever do slip somehow, let us not despair or grieve with faint spirit, believing that sin is more powerful than we are. That way, we will be worthy to hear the kind words from our Lord on that final judgment day, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
+ Bishop Georgiy
Pascha 2010

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