NEWS FROM THE DIOCESES
 

SOUTH AMERICAN DIOCESE: April 12, 2004

Paschal Epistle of
Alexander, Bishop of Buenos Aires and South America
(Translated into English by Dr. Steven Bushnell)

Christ is Risen!

No other greeting can call forth greater joy in a believing heart than these victorious words. They say to us that death is defeated, that the graves hide from us those near to us only for a time, and that the hour is coming, known only to God, when all the dead, as one person, will rise and will live by a new life, having no end. This greeting says also that although untruth and evil are able to celebrate in the conditions of our temporary life, good, truth, and love triumph in the final reckoning, according to God's Providence. And what can be more joyful than this? "For meet it is that the heavens should rejoice, and that the earth should be glad, and that the whole world, both visible and invisible, should celebrate. For Christ is risen, the joy everlasting!" sings the choir at the Paschal matins.

According to the importance of the benefits received by us through the Resurrection of Christ, Easter is manifest as the Feast of feasts and the Celebration of celebrations, and so the Divine service of this feast is noted for its majesty and unusual solemnity. Something miraculous is brought about in our churches on the night of Easter. Those praying, having gathered here, also look and feel somehow special: They stand in bright clothes, transformed, joyous and peaceful, with burning candles in their hands exactly as angels of God in the cloisters of Paradise. In Orthodox countries, especially in Russia and in Greece a sea of people. Those praying stand packed to the walls for hours, feeling no fatigue. Already from evening have they gathered here. Old and young, men and women, boys and girls all have come to give praise to the Risen Christ. Even the unbelievers come to church, to enjoy the banquet of faith, to partake of the spiritual joy of the believers.

On this holy night a special grace of God is present in the churches, which is as if it carries all of us in warm, heartfelt prayer to Heaven, closer to our Savior. The clouds of incense, like the wings of angels, hover over the heads of those in prayer. To the joyful greetings of the clergy, "Christ is Risen!" the answering exclamations of the faithful resound exactly like peals of thunder: "Indeed He is Risen!" As if it is flaming lightening, the singing of the choir illuminates and fills the temple: "Christ is Risen from the dead . . . Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ radiant, and shall hear Him say in accent clear: Rejoice! . . . Let us embrace one another. Let us say: Brethren! And to those who hate us, let us forgive all things because of the Resurrection . . ."

And what magnificence, what beauty there are in our Orthodox churches! There burn thousands of candles, all pouring forth a wonderful light, the very best ornaments visible everywhere, the clergy arrayed in their brightest vestments. It is as if our blessed temples on the night of Easter reflect within themselves that Divine light by which Christ shone on that radiant night of His Resurrection.

The spiritually sleeping go home early from the Paschal matins, not waiting for its end and not wanting to participate in the Divine Liturgy. Such people do not delight in the banquet of faith, are not enlightened by the blessed rays of the Resurrection of Christ. That which is corporal, transient, and sinful prevails in them over that which is spiritual, clean, and heavenly . . .

"We are saved in hope," says the Apostle Paul. This means that everything promised by God will be realized: And sin will become repugnant to everyone, and the bitterness of separation will change to the joy of meeting, and the Lord will take every tear away from the eyes of the suffering, and sicknesses will disappear, and death itself will be abolished and will become the endless joy of eternal life!

In order to calm our anxieties and ease our sorrows, in order to instill in us new strengths, the Lord sends us Paschal joy every year as a comfort, a pledge and a presentiment of that which will be accomplished.

All of you, my dear ones, I greet with Paschal love: Christ is Risen!
+ Bishop Alexander