JORDANVILLE: April 23, 2006
Paschal Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Christ is Risen!
Once again, our merciful Lord has enabled us to cross the expanse of Great Lent and greet this day, which the Lord has made, the day of His glorious Resurrection from the dead!
Pascha is the feast of feasts and the triumph of triumphs, it is the pinnacle of the annual cycle of church services. For this day our Lord Jesus Christ descended to Earth, lived among mankind and was crucified, so as to make us participants of His Resurrection.
Our entire earthly life is reflected in the preparatory weeks to this day—during Lent we bear the cross of abstinence, cleansing our senses, as the Church sings: "Let us cleanse our senses and we shall behold Christ radiant with the unapproachable light of the Resurrection." And in our earthly life we bear the cross of sorrows and suffering, so that by bearing this cross, without grumbling, we may see Christ radiant in the eternal life and be together with Him.
The Paschal midnight office begins with the singing of prayers which for centuries has brought the hearts of Orthodox Christians to trembling: "The Angels in Heaven hymn Thy Resurrection, O Christ the Savior. Do Thou make us, on earth, also worthy to glorify Thee with a pure heart."
"Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God," said the Lord. And the Holy Church tirelessly calls upon us to cleanse our hearts. In the canon before Holy Communion we repeat: " Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. " Cleansing the heart is achieved only through the struggle of prayer and fasting and through Divine grace-filled help, especially granted to us in His holy Mysteries.
After the Lord's Resurrection, He descended into the depths of the earth and led out the righteous souls of the Old Testament. Similarly, in the Mystery of the Eucharist, He descends into the depths of men's souls everyday all over the world, and illuminates them in communion with His Divinity, makes them related to Himself, so that they could "more perfectly partake of Him in the unending day of His Kingdom!" Dear brothers and sisters, let us more often hasten to approach the salvific Chalice of the Lord, for therein is His investment in our salvation and eternal life!
In the bright days after Pascha, we experience as did the first Christians the joyous events: the appearance of the resurrected Lord to His disciples, His bodily Ascension into heaven, and the establishment of the Church through the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.
For us this year there is another celebration: on April 23/May 6, our Russian Church Abroad will send its elected delegates from all corners of the world to the IV All-Diaspora Council, so that, with God's help, one of the main problems concerning the Russian Church for 80 years can be resolved—the question of our relationship with the Russian Church in the homeland.
We must remember that there is always a twofold challenge before all Orthodox Christians: on one hand, to preserve Orthodox teaching in all its purity, and on the other, to preserve unity among Orthodox brethren.
The Church reveals itself in unity, as the Creed states. Not only is external unity important, but so is internal unity. This is unity of spirit, unity in the Living Body of Christ, in which we confess with one mind the faith of the Apostles and the Saints.
Such unity cannot be based on immediate political and human interests, for it is only attainable in the truth of Christ. That is why we must all prayerfully prepare for the IV All-Diaspora Council. In the days before the Council, we must recall the examples of the lives of the Holy Fathers—the participants of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and appeal to them in prayer.
We must also augment our appeals to the Lord that He help us to preserve our loyalty to the legacy of the founding fathers of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and at the same time to safeguard the unity of the flock of our Church.
In the days after Pascha, the Apostles immersed themselves in prayer, awaiting the great promises of our Savior; let us follow their example, and delve into prayer and guard our senses, and let us spend these holy days being spiritually focused, let us avoid condemnations, quarrels and gossip, let us abide in prayer for the Church and her pastors, asking the Lord to grant us His mercy, and manifest in us His holy will.
In a few weeks we will stand before the sacred treasures of the Church Abroad—the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora and the incorrupt relics of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, and with one spirit we will sing: "Today the Grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together." Let these not be idle words for us, but may they serve as a pledge of the triumph of the Divine Spirit and the Orthodox Church!
I greet you all, dear archpastors, pastors, monastics and laymen on the bright holiday of the Resurrection of Christ!