Thou did descend into the nether regions of earth, O Christ, and did shatter the eternal bars which held the prisoners captive; and like Jonah from the sea-monster, after three days Thou did rise from the grave.
Irmos of Canticle Six of the Paschal Canon
Christ is risen!
I address now these triumphant words, full of rejoicing, to each of you, Your Graces my brothers the archpastors, most-honourable pastors and deacons, God-loving monks and nuns, and pious laity of our Holy Orthodox Church.
Christ's Passover has once more come to our churches and homes, to our towns and villages, to our parish communities and monastic houses, to our souls and hearts, and has illumined us with the unfading Light, the Light of the kingdom of God, the Light of exultant Paschal joy.
The redemptive sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Bright Resurrection has brought to humanity incomparable freedom - freedom from sin and destruction. Yet it is only he who entrusts himself to Christ the Saviour, who accepts him as 'the way, the truth, and the life' (Jn 14:6), - only he acquires this freedom, for as the Gospel says, 'If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (Jn 8:31-32). This truth is our risen Lord Jesus Christ who has destroyed the power of Hades and death and who grants us the freedom to choose life eternal. In his Paschal Homily, which is read in every church on this radiant feast, St John Chrysostom says: 'Let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has delivered us from it.' Let us then, together with the Holy Mother Church, sing praises to the Saviour's victory over death, let us be exultant, rejoicing in the redemption wh! ich has been granted to us, let us endeavour to share this feast with those who yet abide in the slavery to sin so that we may bring them to liberty in Christ and to life eternal. Let us keep 'the perfect law of liberty' (Jas 1:25) and teach it to those near and far, recalling that the keeping of this law in our hearts and its fulfilment allow the human person to stand without shame before the face of the Righteous Judge.
There are many people alongside us who believe that freedom is brought by money or power, strength or health, by a cult of 'all is permitted' and immorality. In worshiping these idols of this age, in outdoing each other in pride and egoism, they ever let out of sight the fact that they are becoming ever more mired in slavery - the slavery of self-love, vice and passions. Good comes to those who visit God's church and here realize what true freedom is and how to embark on the way of perfection. Good comes to those who, for the sake of acquiring this freedom, labour diligently for their salvation, keeping fidelity to Christ amidst the turbulence and afflictions of this age.
Our Church goes steadily along the path of regeneration. In a society, where until quite recently people renounced God and then exerted much effort in pursuit of the deceptive goods of this world, the number of people who try to live as Orthodox Christians is growing. Yet so that perfect joy, the joy of the risen Lord may grow from year to year in the hearts of compatriots, we are faced with having to grow in virtue and to call our neighbours to do likewise.
In his great and ineffable mercy the Lord blesses our endeavours in building up parish and monastic communities. In all spheres of life in our society - in the economics, politics, and in the family - the understanding that we need to build our lives according to the foundations of Christian morality is gaining ground. Yet we still have to labour much. We ought to be especially concerned for the strengthening of the family in order to make it strong and harmonious, capable of educating new generations in righteousness and honour, in Spirit and in Truth. If our families truly become 'little Churches,' strong in a single faith, replete with the mutual love of husbands and wives, parents and children, then our people will forget about the moral crisis and the many calamities engendered by this crisis.
In all places - whether in church or at home, or in the work place where we labour - wherever the Lord directs us, we are to be witnesses of Christ crucified and risen, we are to illumine the world with the light of spiritual joy, wisdom, peace and liberty. Herein lies our mission to the world where there is still much suffering, lack of faith, enmity, injustice, vice and unrighteousness. Let us then vanquish them with the Light of Christ and the power of his grace! Let us fulfil the apostle's commandment to 'stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage' (Gal 5:1). And let us always recall the words the Lord said to his disciples as he appeared to them after the Resurrection: 'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: a! nd, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.' (Mt 28:19-20).
From the depths of my heart I congratulate you, beloved archpastors, fathers, brothers and sisters, on the feast of Christ's Bright Resurrection. I send Paschal greetings to all Orthodox Christians who are 'from end to end of the universe.' I hasten to share the joy of Holy Pascha with everyone who confesses the risen Christ, with all people amidst whom God has judged us to live. May joy, peace and his gracious succour in good deeds be granted to all of you, my beloved ones, by the Saviour of the world who has risen from the tomb.
Christ is risen! He is truly risen!