Bishop Jonah (Pokrovsky; +1925)

Sermon on the Pascha of Christ
Bishop Jonah (Pokrovsky; +1925) of Hankow, Glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in October 1996

Christ is Risen!

For several years now, we greet the Pascha of Christ amidst horrors and rivers of blood from world conflict. The joy of the Resurrection, unconquered by any power, once again descends to earth, an earth shrouded in great sorrow, flooded by the outpouring of tears of the orphaned and suffering, amid the din of moaning and wailing of peoples, martyrs for the faith and for God’s truthÉ

Could the unendurable sufferings of hundreds of thousands of human souls not be rewarded by Higher Truth?

There is only one satisfactory answer to this eternal question—the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. Only the joy of the Resurrection more than compensates for all the sorrows of the world, and it will not be defeated unto the ages!

The Resurrection of the Lord makes sense of human suffering, raising it to the level of a redeeming sacrifice for the oceans of human lawlessness. Everyone who suffers, believing in the Redeemer of the world, participates in the mystery of Christ’s Cross, and thereby draws closer that moment of inexpressible blessedness, when evil and death will be forever defeated by Him who rose from the dead—heaven will unite with earth, and the foundation will be laid for a new life, the mere glimpse of which will cast out memories of the oceans of human blood and cruel sufferingsÉ The martyrs of all ages, of all countries and peoples, filled with the glorious celebration, will sing to the Lord God the song of love and gratitude, for they will fully understand then God’s aim for the existence of the universe.

Christ is Risen—and all becomes bright, like God’s heaven on a glorious May morning; one believes in Divine Truth reigning over the world, through all the horrors of human strife—the holy love of Christ shines brightly over the earthÉ The pains endured by the finest souls are not for naught: they purchase a higher good, the joy of eternity, and one instant of the great happiness to come immeasurably overcomes all earthly tribulationsÉ

Blessed are those that suffer when they are filled with this unwavering hope, and among this myriad sufferers we, of course, are closer still—for our mother is suffering, our Holy RussiaÉ

If we pose a general question—what is happening in the life of Russia now?—the response would be brief:

From her first moments, Rus' has traveled the way of the cross, and now she enters a region of horror and suffering, where the great words are drawing near: "Everything is done!"

The Golgotha of the life of Russia is not only represented by the internal strife of recent years—our suffering has spilled over into science, painting, literature, architecture, music, into art in general—everywhere there is suffering for the ideal, for the attainment of truth.

To be fair, one of the finest painted characterizations of our existence is "Holy Russia" by Nesterov. See how it moves from the Golgotha of daily life towards Resurrection—it drags itself from the tortures of daily life towards the peaceful port—Christ and His truth!

The historic and social sufferings of the Russian people have given our music a minor key; as Nekrasov says, we have "created music as though it were a groanÉ"

The Russian people have lain down a great deal at the foundations of their culture—their unusual patience and labor—and what are these invaluable properties interwoven with?

The Russian person, as Nekrasov says, "works himself to death, drinks himself half to deathÉ"

If we ignore the sinful exceptions, then there is a single explanation for drunkenness: SorrowÉ

Recall the alcoholic from among the intelligentsia—one of the heroes of Dostoevsky, MarmeladovÉ What did he seek, spending his days in pubs and inns?

"Sorrows, sorrows did I seek in the bottom of this glass," he said, emptying his cup in Raskolnikov's presence: "Sorrows and tearsÉI sought them and I found themÉ"

Then behold how the depth of our Christian hope for the resurrection of man and faith in the mercy of the Lord was manifested in him when, in his fantasy, he painted a picture of the great mercy the Creator had for the weakness of drunkards.

"Come, all drunkards, come all ye weak ones," Marmeladov imagines Christ will say on the Day of Judgment:
"Ye are swine..."

What faith and immeasurable love of the Lord towards His sinning—and yet, crown-wearing—creatures; faith in the victory of man, in his rebirth, in the renewal of lifeÉ

Faith in the future inspired Raskolnikov to boldly embark on the path of redeeming his guilt of causing suffering, and through it, towards his own rebirth, and to take along with him Sonya Marmeladova, who traveled a thorny path herself.

Remember the wonderful passage in Crime and Punishment wherein Raskolnikov and Sonya are immersed in the Gospel reading on the resurrection of Lazarus!

Here is the moment during their own Golgotha when "salvation" from their past occurred, when a new, bright life was ignited above the darkness of rejected sinÉ

These were undoubtedly people who strove for Truth, yearned for it, but were trapped in the crypt of human habit, who felt so profoundly the power of Christ that, together with the resurrected Lazarus, they emerged from their tombs, sensed a new life within themselves, giving them the ability to act with love...

And the entire Russian nation, believing in Christ and His truth, believes in its resurrection and in the renewal of life, forging its will in the fires of suffering.

This faith in resurrection adds bright notes into the art of sorrow, and, for instance, the morose Chekhov, through the words of some of his heroes, says: "We will see a bright life, joyful, wonderful, we will be happy and we will restÉ I believe fervently, passionatelyÉ"

The sum, one might say, of the sadness of such a wide range of types within Russian society lies in the unattained Divine Truth, understood by each in his own way, but still, TruthÉ

But since the One perfect Truth is God, then, consequently, the striving of mankind to live by the truth, that is, "in a good way," can be compared to striving to live "by God," to be reborn for a new life.

Man needs God and needs immortality in order to believe in the victory of man.

"If there were no God," says Chekhov's protagonist in Ward No. 6, "He would have been invented by manÉBut I believe deeply that if there were no immortality, then sooner or later some great human mind would event itÉ"

Notice the two "ifs," and with such faith in the "crown of creation," in its inextinguishable brightness.

"If there were no GodÉIf there were no immortalityÉ" one sees here the importance of both.

The Russian people will find their resurrection, and then their eternal life in the hereafter, only through suffering, for they are loyal to Him Who through sufferings Himself granted the possibility to attain true life in freedomÉ

That is why suffering is not feared by the Russian people who understand the words of their Divine Teacher: "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Without a doubt, this year the Pascha of Christ will fill the hearts of Russian people with deluges of heavenly light and angelic rejoicing.

Everything is as it was before, the all-powerful, eternally triumphant holy words of the great greeting will resound the world over—Christ is Risen!