24 April 2011

2011 Paschal Messages from America and Russia

CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful
of The Orthodox Church in America

Dearly Beloved in the Lord: Christ is Risen!

“This is the day that the Lord has made.” Today, our Lord is risen from the dead, releasing each of us from our sins and, ultimately, death itself. It marks the beginning of a new life filled with the radiance of Christ’s resurrection. “Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

This newness of life has the power to transform us. The efforts and struggles we faced on our journey through Great Lent have prepared us for Christ’s victory over death. Our prayers, fasting, and almsgiving were not ends unto themselves; rather, they were the tools that allowed us to empty ourselves of our passions and receive Christ into our hearts. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" [Galatians 2:20].

As our Paschal Lamb, Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself so that each of us may live a new life filled with joy, faith, and love. By His resurrection from the dead -- and our resurrection in Him -- we have become partakers of His divine nature. He has become our daily bread, nourishing us and giving us the strength to live as Christians in today’s world. Let us cast off the shackles of our former lives, and be clothed in the robe of light, illumined by the light of Christ’s resurrection. Let us open our minds and hearts to the light that beams forth from the empty tomb.

Our Lord has given us an example of love so beautiful, so wonderful, and so powerful that it must be the foundation of everything we do in our lives. The love of God has destroyed the power of death and overcome the devil. What a magnificent blessing! The love of God the Father, revealed in Christ’s obedience unto death, has wiped the slate clean, and we are given a new beginning. What an amazing treasure! The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross has conquered death. We are set free. What a divine gift!

The Paschal joy that we feel today cannot and must not end with the dismissal of today’s Liturgy or our agape meal -- and certainly not with the return to our "daily routines." When we allow Christ's joy and love to permeate every facet of our lives, the light of Christ’s resurrection will continue in our hearts long after our Paschal candles have been extinguished.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Let us give glory to the One Who rose from the dead! And let us, as members of the Body of Christ, partake in His love, and share it with everyone around us!

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

With love in the risen Christ,

+ JONAH
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Beloved in the Lord archpastors, all-honourable presbyters and deacons, God-loving monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters!

From my heart filled with gratitude towards God, I proclaim to all of you the great and saving news:

CHRIST IS RISEN!

With each year the Church testifies through this Paschal exclamation to the event of universal significance which happened almost two thousand years ago. It was then that early in the morning the myrrh-bearing women came to the burial site of their Teacher and saw that the tomb was empty. The divine power of Christ had triumphed over the law of death. He had risen, testifying to all of humanity that death was not the end of life, that death was overcome by the power of God.

Christ’s resurrection, in being a unique event in world history, became by God’s intention the beginning too of our own personal resurrection. It was precisely for this that the Saviour came into the world, suffered, was crucified and rose from the tomb in order that each person had the chance to go through the experience of resurrection from the dead, and not in the figurative but direct meaning of this world. St. Paul speaks clearly of this: ‘God… will also raise us up by his own power’ (1 Cor 6: 14).

That is why the feast of Pascha is the feast of the victory of life over death, for through the resurrection of Christ the Saviour resurrection from the dead has been granted to us all. And whatever difficult circumstances we may endure in our earthly life, whatever tribulations may be our lot, whatever fears people may try to instill in us – for they possess no spiritual power to foresee the future – our perception of the world ought to be calm and joyous, for Christ has risen.

The feast of Pascha in Holy Russia has always been great and radiant. And now in recent decades it has again returned to many homes and families. It is now also celebrated in those places where previously there had been no Paschal greeting: in hospitals, prisons, in the army and navy, and even in space. May God grant that beyond the external transformations taking part now in the countries of the Russian world there may be accomplished the genuine rebirth of human souls, that the joy of Christ’s resurrection may fill the hearts of each one of us, that the light of divine love may warm not only our families and friends but also people deprived of the chance of being in church, the elderly, sick and lonely.

Through Christ’s resurrection the believer acquires the chance of communicating with the power of grace sent down from above so that he may live in truth and according to God’s commandments: to be good and merciful, honest and a well-wisher in his relations with people, to be capable of sharing with them both joy and grief.

This Christian attitude towards our neighbours includes both concern for one’s country, for one’s people, and for one’s family and home. In preaching the priority of eternal spiritual values, the Church calls upon her children to adopt a tactful attitude towards the temporal yet real values of the world created by God: towards the environment and towards our rich cultural inheritance which has been made over centuries by our predecessors. To be guardians of the spiritual treasures and traditions of Orthodoxy means to transform oneself and one’s inner world actively, as well as to maintain the beauty and harmony of the world which surrounds us and to build them up in those places where they have been destroyed by the ill will of people. This is the vocation and responsibility of the Christian.

The Lord does not demand of us endeavours that our beyond our strength. He appeals to the soul of each individual and again and again calls upon us: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ (Mt 11: 28-30). In order to feel and understand how good and light is the burden that the Lord lays upon us, we must learn how to do good to our neighbours and those far from us. In this learning process it is only the first steps that are difficult: to stop in time and not to answer rudeness with rudeness, evil with evil, falsehood with falsehood, condemnation with condemnation. And then at least to feel gratification as a result of a correct and honest act which is beneficial to the other person, whether in the family, at work, in the parish or simply when speaking to other people and acquaintances. This sense of gratification can then turn into a joyful and optimistic spiritual condition if good deeds carried out not for the sake of gain but from a pure heart become a part of our lives. It is only then that we will feel the changes for the better in our public life when we become aware of the presence of the indestructible link between the good we have done and the well-being of society.

The evangelical motivation of our acts both in our private and professional and public sphere is capable of changing radically both ourselves and the world we live in.

‘May God arise and his enemies be scattered!’ – we exclaim on that light-bearing night. May God arise in our hearts and may the falsehood, enmity, evil, discord and all divisions in our life be scattered!

From the bottom of my heart I congratulate all of you, my dear ones, on the feast of Holy Pascha. May the aid and blessing of the Lord who has truly risen accompany each of us in our further labours for the glory of the Church, the well-being of the country in which we live, and for the good of our neighbours and those far from us. Amen.

+KIRILL
Patriarch of Moscow 
and all Russia


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