SYDNEY: April 25, 2008
The Paschal Epistle of Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, Deputy of the President of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Most Reverend brother-archpastors, all-honorable fathers, beloved-in-the-Lord brothers, sisters and children,
CHRIST IS RISEN!
ith the overwhelming feeling of Paschal jubilation I greet all of you with the great and salvific feast of the Lord’s Pascha, which instills in us the firm conviction of our immortality and hope of future blessed resurrection!
In exchanging the Paschal kiss with you today, I prayerfully desire that the joy of the Risen Christ strengthen all of us, since we have been orphaned following the untimely repose of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, who in the morning of the Triumph of Orthodoxy pronounced in spirit together with the Apostle Paul: “My desire is to part and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). As written in the Holy Scriptures, death for a person is repose. Though we weep over the parting, our sorrow is now filled with faith, hope and the Paschal reality; we know that death is a temporary slumber, a slumber for the body which will arise on the last day of history, and a time of rejoicing for the liberated righteous soul.
Since we have the firm conviction that after this brief life comes another, eternal life, where God will bless us with heavenly joy and will comfort those who have patiently borne temporal sorrows and sufferings, no manner of death or misfortune which comes our way can be too burdensome. Death itself is not fearful to a person who has complete hope in blessed resurrection: death for him is the path to the longed-for union with Christ. Amidst the fiery temptations which assail an Orthodox Christian, the Christian rejoices in suffering with Christ, being steadfastly assured that in the appearance of Christ in His glory, he will rejoice and be triumphant. Remembrance of the future life and hope of blessed resurrection serve as strong incentives and sure means towards moral perfection and spiritual achievement. If we remember well that our homeland is in heaven, while here we are only temporary guests, we will cease living only for our bodily pleasure. We will cease observing the commandments only outwardly, being honest, truthful, or benevolent solely out of temporal calculations, but will fulfill our duty of serving God and neighbor unselfishly and without seeking recompense.
One of the ancient teachers of monasticism, Abba Evagrius, offers us the following admonition: “The Passover [Pascha] of the Lord is the passing from evil to good. Let us also bring Him some God-pleasing gift.” This gift can take the form of active love, active works of charity and self-sacrifice, when we dedicate our life to Christ, His Church and our neighbor, and gaining inspiration, maintaining constant zeal for the struggle to do good. In perfecting ourselves in virtue, we will be able to preserve in our hearts faithfulness to God, the Church and those around us, as well as dedication to the blessed memory of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, who gave us an example of love, humility and goodness.
Therefore, beloved-in-the-Lord fellow archpastors, reverend fathers, brothers, sisters and children, let us establish ourselves firmly on the radiant path of virtue, remembering the words of the Apostle Peter: “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4). Let us turn our minds and hearts to the heavenly Jerusalem, our heavenly homeland—and the thought of our high calling will enlighten the dark paths of our life, grant us consolation and peace amid the sorrows of this world and bring us joy and delight.
Once again I congratulate all of you with this “Feast of feasts,” and sincerely desire that the flock of the Russian Church Abroad, as well as our brothers and sisters in Russia and in all the world, enjoy these most wondrous days in good health and well-being, guarded by the victorious power of the Life, Righteousness, Holiness, Goodness and Divine Beauty radiating from the Life-giving Tomb of the Lord, the Enlightener of our souls!
With Paschal joy in the Risen Christ and the request for your holy prayers,
Archbishop of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand
Christ’s Pascha 2008