27 April 2008, 00:00
Paschal message of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia to the Archpastors, Pastors, Monastics and All Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church
Come, O people, let us hymn the Saviour's resurrection on the third day, through which we have been released from the indestructible bonds of hades and all received incorruption and life, crying aloud: O thou who wast crucified, buried and rose again, save us through thy resurrection, O thou alone who lovest mankind!
Stanza for Lord, I have cried... for Vespers of Tuesday of Bright Week
Beloved in the risen Christ Your Graces the archpastors, God-loving presbyters, deacons, honourable monks and nuns, pious Orthodox laymen and women - faithful children of the Church!
From the depths of my heart I congratulate all of you, my dear ones, on Christ's bright resurrection - the most joyful feast for Orthodox Christians. Again our churches are replete with Paschal rejoicing. Again and again we relive the great mystery of the Redemption that has liberated those who follow Christ from the dominion of sin and death. As St Peter the Apostle says, our Lord and Saviour who himself 'bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness' (1 Pet 2:24).
How great is God's love for us! He has not abandoned those who have abandoned him. By his suffering and death he has purified those who have deviated from him in choosing life according to their own desires. He has opened up the way of repentance and spiritual rebirth to those worn down by sin - the way to Life eternal. Let us give thanks to the Lord for his mercy and love for humanity. Let us give thanks as loving children who can take refuge from calamity and danger in the Father's House.
Since ancient times Christians have understood Pascha to be a transition, a Passover. 'The Passover, the Passover of the Lord! From death unto life, and from earth unto heaven hath Christ our God brought us over, singing a song of victory!' the Holy Church sings today. According to our faith and our boldness, according to our love towards Christ and each other we are granted a transition from death to eternal being, from slavery to sin to the freedom of fulfillment of God's will.
Whole nations spiritually sustained by our Holy Church accomplish this saving transition too. From the darkness of unbelief they are approaching the light of Christ in being spiritually reborn and renewed. There are in our homeland and beyond its borders in the great Russian diaspora more and more people who have in Christ 'life... in abundance' (Jn 10:10), which means genuinely happy people enjoying the truth of the fullness of life.
Yes, we still have to labour much in Christ's vineyard. Yet your spreading of the Word and good deeds, my beloved ones, have brought forth fruit a hundredfold and many of you have worthily heard the Lord's words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master' (Mt 25:21)
The focal point of our faith, of our witness to the world, of our whole life is the good news of Christ's resurrection. Paschal joy was the sole spiritual condition of our saints. St. Seraphim of Sarov greeted all those who approached him with the words: 'My joy, Christ is risen!' St. John of Kronstadt, the hundred and eightieth anniversary of whose birth and hundredth anniversary of whose blessed repose we celebrate this current year, was known by the people as the 'Paschal Father.' 'I love to gaze upon,' he wrote in his diary, 'the image of the risen Giver of Life holding the cross banner, this symbol of victory over death and the one who has the power of death - the devil. O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory? How glorious is the Victor!'
Let us then tread yet more firmly the way of Christ, fulfilling the apostles' commandment, 'Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Pet 1:10-11). And no matter how difficult we find it along this path, let us not fall into despondency, 'knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise up us also with Jesus and bring with you into his presence' (2 Cor 4:14). This radiant hope will illumine the lives of our families, communities and peoples with a spiritual light, and both peace and happiness will reign in our homes, cities and towns.
Today, as my heart is full with this great joy, I congratulate all of you, my dear ones, on the feast of Holy Pascha, addressing you with the eternal words of the greeting from apostolic times, passed on from generation to generation:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
HE IS RISEN INDEED!
I hasten to share the Paschal rejoicing with all Orthodox peoples of the world, with each person who calls upon the name of Christ in prayer. May our joy touch those who are but seeking saving faith and striving to live with Orthodox Christians in peace and goodneighbourliness.
May the risen Christ our Saviour grant to all of us peace, spiritual joy, health, salvation and furtherance in all good things.
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia