Of the Most Reverend VALENTINE, Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir,
To the God-loving flock of the Russian Orthodox Church
"Truly sacred and supremely festive is this saving night, radiant with light, the forerunner of the bright beaming Day of the Resurrection, whereon the Timeless Light in bodily form shone from the grave for all."
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Beloved in the Risen Christ Archpastors, honored fathers, dear brothers and sisters!
In the day of the Bright Resurrection of Christ, unearthly joy filleth again the heart of every Orthodox Christian. It becomes understandable to us now what feelings, as described in the Holy Gospel, the Holy Apostles experienced during that great and bright night almost 2,000 years ago. Today all our being, and the entire universe, are full of joy, as Christ has destroyed death and has given us eternal life! In order to keep and increase the promise of eternal life, to inherit the Heavenly Kingdom, and always to be with our Lord, we need to draw strength from the Holy Church. It is said that for sailors God has given islands as a place of refuge; and for the world that lies in sin, God has appointed the holy Church, where the teaching of truth is kept.
To our regret, some of our fellow-countrymen still share the strange belief in the anarchism of the totalitarian, godless, communist regime. They think that Christians are simply those who have received holy Baptism; that holy Baptism is sufficient for calling one a Christian. Even from the ambo we may hear sermons about the "Orthodox by baptism" or "by birth," and not by belief, not by life. The majority of our countrymen were baptized indeed in infancy; but very few of them celebrate the saving, salutary feasts, keep the fasts, or sincerely seek to follow God's commandments. Such people are very neglectful towards Church life, falsely thinking that it consists only of some sort of external "folk" rites. They consider most important for our salvation the "faith one keeps in his soul," and believe that faith is a belief in something vague, described in pseudo-philosophical terms such as "the highest intellectual reason." Dear brothers and sisters, the truth is that all these beautiful sermons about "faith in one's soul" and "higher reason" are nothing but an attempt to hide their reluctance to live according to the Holy Gospel; nothing but an endeavor to adapt the Faith to their sinful weaknesses, delusions and ignorance. The Gospel teaches us to completely change our existence, to leave the "dead" of this life and entirely follow the Risen Christ. And Christ is not an abstract "Higher Intellect," but instead a living Personality of the God-man: He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Christ is the Head of the Church that is militant on earth and triumphant in Heaven, and so the first indication of our following the Risen Christ is the most active participation in Church life. There is nothing minor, secondary or shallow in the Church. Its every action has a deeper, higher meaning, established either by Christ Himself or through His saints, through which we spiritually cleanse ourselves by fleeing from the sinful life toward likeness to God, so that we become God-bearers.
The most-blessed Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), in accordance with the ancient Fathers and teachers of the Church, has noted the exclusive joy that the faithful soul senses during the Holy Paschal night, calling it a foretaste of the eternal, brightest joy that will be the foundation of the heavenly felicity of paradise. In the Paschal canon that we have just heard, the Holy Church clearly calls upon us to "Partake of Thee fully in the unwaning day of Thy Kingdom." In the last troparion of the Paschal canon, we are mysteriously united to the New Pascha, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; His heavenly Kingdom, that is open to us by the Resurrection of Christ; and the Communion of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which is the most evident and obvious way of our partaking of the eternal joy of living with God and in God. O great and most sacred Pascha, Christ, O Wisdom and Word and Power of God! Grant that we partake of Thee fully in the unwaning day of Thy Kingdom.
May our joy in the risen Christ multiply, because the Conqueror of death has cleansed His people from sin, has released us from the ancient curse, and has given us the source of Heavenly blessing and meaning with zeal for our life in this multi-lamentable earthly valley.
We Christians announce to the world that still lies in evil and is ruled by sin, the Blessed News. "Hades rules, but not always, over mankind," exclaims the Great Saturday hymn. Due to our weakness and spiritual indifference, we cannot share the happiness of the Resurrection with all the people on earth, and many still have not realized the blessing of faith in Christ our Lord. That is why there is so much sadness and grief in this world; that is why all our earthly existence is so tragic and full of contradictions in the moral, social, political and economic spheres. Faith in the Risen Christ, joy because of the Holy Gospel's announcement, and the promise of eternal life in Christ remove all these contradictions. But the world does not know this Faith, does not share this joy, does not hear God's promise. It does not know, share, or hear, because we have not brought this news to the world. We Christians cannot look calmly and indifferently at how sad the world now is. The Paschal joy must become an impulse for the Gospel preaching and must awaken every one of us to witness about Christ's Resurrection to our close and distant ones, calling them into the salutary gates of the Church of the Living God.
Beloved in the Risen Christ, co-brothers, Archpastors, all-honored fathers, honored monastics, I especially greet you, my zealous co-servants and co-supplicators, and again heartily congratulate you on the all-joyful feast of Christ's Pascha! Christ is Risen! Let your soul be always lightened, as it is released from Hades and sin by the Resurrection! Christ is with you forever! The Church and every one of us lives by the joy of the Resurrection, and not only on the brightest Paschal day. All our life in the Church is filled with Pascha, so that the joy of the Resurrection should never fade in you, despite any external circumstances.
"I am with you all the days until the completion of the age" [Mt. 28:20], said our Lord. Always remember this. Neither lose nor diminish the joy that every one of us feels when one knows with all his heart that God is here. And most importantly: stay with God yourself; be worthy of His presence; and He, always truthful, shall never leave you. He will make you co-heirs of His felicity, giving you all He has. "Your joy can never be taken away from you" is another of God's promises, which we must remember through all the hardships of earthly living. Our true and unhypocritical joy in Christ, our true love for one another and all people, are the best witnesses of the truthfulness of our Faith and our Church. If we have no such foundation, then hundreds of volumes of works in theology and canon law will remain useless.
The enemy of our salvation tries to take away our Paschal joy, to introduce arguments and quarrels, to break our Christian community, using our weakness and human mistakes. Oppressions that have again fallen strongly upon our Church compel us to increase our prayer to the Risen Christ, asking for His grace and protection, patience and humility to do His will. We must pray more often: "Let Thy will, O Lord, be done in me, the sinful one, for Thou art blessed unto the ages of ages!"
I call upon you the blessing of the Risen Christ and heartily wish you to keep undamaged the Orthodox Faith and unbreakable unity with the True Church in Christ our Lord unto the ages of ages. Amen.
CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED!
Asking for your holy prayers,
Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir
Christ's Pascha 2002,