Epistle of His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America
CHRIST IS RISEN!
...and to them that hate us,
let us forgive all by the Resurrection.
A rare, genuine, heavenly joy envelopes the Orthodox soul during the Holy paschal Night. This joy is felt now in each of us, the power and the quality of this joy is not diminished regardless how often we had experienced it, but this mystical joy envelopes us especially on the Paschal night, unlike any other, either that of the Nativity, or any other gladsome day of life's cherished dreams.
The Risen Christ God was the first to feel this Paschal Joy. Having tasted death, and later defeating it being transfigured bodily in the cave of His Tomb surrounded by all the holy, heavenly bodiless powers; Cherubim, Seraphim, Thrones, Dominions, Princedoms, Powers, Virtues, Angels and Archangels. With the light of this joy the righteous souls in hades were illumined when the Victor over death destroyed the gates of hades. Then, according to he words of the hymnody, the Angel exclaimed to Her who is full of grace, "Pure Virgin Rejoice!" It was approx imately at this time also that the Saviour stood before the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene, weeping in the garden... Often the faithful ponder on the compunctionate narrative of this striking moment, when to the broken hearted Myrrh-bearing Women is announced the indescribable Miracle of the Resurrection of Christ, stunning the understanding of the sinful human nature. The courage and devotion of these women rushing to the tomb of the cruelly tortured Teacher are rewarded by God in the most unexpected manner. All of these moments of the spreading of the wonderful news of the Resurrection of Christ are easy for us to understand. But more difficult to describe is the state of the Apostles, When the Myrrh-bearing heralds reported to them those grace filled words, they were transformed unto endless ages into the immovable confession of our Orthodoxy. CHRIST IS RISEN! Let us try to grasp that moment in the feelings of the eleven Apostles who had not yet received the Fiery Grace of the Holy Spirit, which we all receive with Holy Baptism and Chrismation. On that night the eleven Apostles included the denying Peter and the unbelieving Thomas (for whom the Saviour would have to appear separately and personally!) What was in their souls? Amazement, wonder, astonishment, doubt... and of course shame! Is it not the one and only very young John the Theologian who did not flee Golgotha , steadfastly accompanying the Saviour and His most Pure, suffering Mother, even to the Tomb... Let us note further that St John the Theologian was not only the youngest, but was likewise from a noble family, i.e. he risked far more than the simple fishermen like Peter risked and further might fully expect that he be taken next to similar execution - BUT HE DID NOT FEAR.
And in that moment, when every imperfect but honourable soul is enveloped with a feeling of shame for its shortcomings, the Risen Christ appears and says not Only to the Apostles, but to all of us, not only through those close to us, but even through the Holy Angels (as on the night of the Nativity), ALL IS FORGIVEN BY THE RESURRECTION. No form of human weakness may hide, spoil or replace the Majestic joy of the victory of the King of kings and the Creator of the universe against death, against evil, against defilement, against perfidy, against cruelty of violence, against sin in all its forms.
May we, illumined by this joy, forgive all by the Resurrection, wonder struck by the miracle, that even the most serious sins and transgressions committed by humanity, are in truth insignificant before the immeasurable, unending, triumphant and victorious Divine Love, Grace, Divine omnipotence of Christ, the Second Divine Hypostasis, without whom there is not and can be neither life, nor salvation, nor any joy in this world or in eternity. Amen.