NEW YORK: April 13, 2012
Paschal Epistle of Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Christ is Risen!
The feast of feasts and triumph of triumphs has arrived for us, brother archpastors, right honorable fathers, brethren and sisters beloved in the Lord! Let us all greet the Resurrection of Christ and not hide our feelings: "Let us be divinely glad, for Christ hath risen as One omnipotent.
O wondrous and blessed night! O night so full of joy for every Christian! The risen Christ "changed the lamentation of the myrrh-bearing women into joy" on this night. And He does the same for us! This night of splendor proclaims to us His arising. And now this "prophetic night" renews us to the depths of our soul. And it gives us the certain hope that our departed ones, and we ourselves, will arise on the last day of the world to "celebrate the eternal Pascha in the never-waning day of the kingdom of Christ."
The Resurrection of Christ is the central point of the doctrine of the Orthodox Church. The entire essence of the teaching of Christ is bound to the Resurrection, and without this fact it loses its meaning. It is therefore not surprising that it is precisely in this question that we encounter the most powerful of stumbling blocks. We see the beginning of such opposition even in antiquity, when, for example, Apostle Paul's speech about the Resurrection in the learned Areopagus of Athens was greeted with considerable scoffing. When he spoke about God and His attributes, about the creation, about salvation from sin, the Athenians listened to Paul. But as soon as he spoke of the Resurrection, they interrupted him, saying: "We will hear thee again of this matter" (Acts 17: 32).
For this reason let us strongly believe, with all our heart, in the Resurrection, and let us immerse ourselves in the dogma of the Church, that we may "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" (I Pet. 3: 15). Let us strive to instill this truth in our own life and thus inspire others to serve God and man. In our parishes and monasteries let us see genuine followers of the risen Christ, who shine with His beauty and radiance, His triumph over evil. Let our clergymen and monastics, parishioners and pilgrims, become a living and convincing proclamation of Christianity, that the people may be confirmed in the Faith. Only this will help our neighbor to see, feel and understand that the Resurrection of Christ is the beginning of our common resurrection, that it is the passage to that region where there is no grief or sighing, where the ideal of the fullest human life is the day that never sets, the joy that never ends.
I prayerfully desire that all be renewed by joy in the Resurrection of the Lord and made steadfast in firm faith, hope and love for God and neighbor!
May the noteworthy dates celebrated this year also restore our strength: the 5th anniversary of the restoration of unity within the Russian Orthodox Church, and the 200th anniversary of the victory of Russia over Napoleon and of the blessed repose of Metropolitan Platon (Levshin), that great hierarch of the Church of Russia, who did so much to bring about the rebirth of spiritual enlightenment in our homeland.
The celebration this year of the 5th anniversary of the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion should prompt us to analyze the path we have taken and to set forth plans for the strengthening of brotherly ties, good cooperation, joint action and unity, continuing to build up the Church's service to God and man on the foundation of our common heritage of Holy Russia. This celebration should remind us that we must carefully address ourselves to unity on all levels of our life and activity, refraining from introducing our own passions into the life of the Church, striving in word and deed to establish among us "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4: 3). May this celebration inspire us to an active, irenical labor within the Church, both with those with whom we are in fellowship, and those with whom we wait and hope for the joy of fellowship and unity!
Pondering the 200th anniversary of the victory in the Patriotic War, the fact springs to mind unbidden that in 1812, before the battle of Borodino, a miracle-working copy of the Kursk-Root Icon was sent to General-Field Marshal Mikhail Ilarionovich Kutuzov, who was with the army in the field. This connection with the principal holy object of the Russian Diaspora obliges us to mark this event with prayer and to take an interest once again in our own rich history. The invasion of Napoleon profoundly shook the pillar of the Church of Russia of that period, namely, Metropolitan Platon of Moscow and Kolomna, that "second Chrysostom" and "apostle of Moscow," great pedagogue, homilist and writer, who educated a whole series of talented clergymen, among them the Holy Hierarch Philaret (Drozdov). May the life, labors and writings of Platon help us to meditate on this unique personality, to delve into the doctrine of the Orthodox Church, and to delight in the "banquet of faith" and the "richness of the goodness of the Lord" (the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom), mindful that the Resurrection of Christ is our life and our eternal joy!
With Paschal joy in the Resurrection of Christ!
Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad