Pascha Encyclical 2023
+ M I T R O F A N
By the mercy of God
Orthodox Bishop of Canada
Of the Serbian Orthodox Church,
To the Priesthood, Monastics and faithful of our God preserved Diocese
Pascha Encyclical 2023
"That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being conformed to His death, if, by any means,
I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Phil. 3: 10-11)
This is what the Holy Apostle Paul writes to his spiritual children in Philippi, and through them to all subsequent generations until the end of the world and age. And how is Christ best known? Through His Resurrection. Because He thereby showed us the eternal meaning of our life. In order to fully know or experience Him, we need to be participants in His sufferings, starting with the Holy Sacrament of Baptism. If anyone passed that way of Christ, it was the Holy Apostle Paul. And he knew the power of His Resurrection before Damascus. And then in a strange healing from physical blindness, and in the Holy Sacrament of Baptism from spiritual blindness. And what can we say about the knowledge of the power of resurrection while he stayed in the Arabian desert for three years. And he knew more and more about Christ and His Resurrection through the miracles that the Lord performed through him (Acts 19: 12). And when he summed it all up, he could truly say: "And it is no longer I who live, but the (resurrected) Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2: 20). And he did not brag about it, but on the contrary calmly said: "If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity" (ΙΙ Cor. 11: 30). Therefore, the center of his preaching is the Risen Christ (Cor. 15: 14). And throughout his life he preached that Christ the Lord was truly resurrected.
Well, the grace of God brought us to this "Holiday of all holidays", as the prayer of the Church says, giving us one more opportunity to reach and worship His Holy Resurrection, saying the words: Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! which express the foundation of our teaching, which is based on three things: "Christ, Resurrection, Truth". The Savior Himself said: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (Jn. 14: 6). They are aware of the presence of God in the world, through the fullness of life that He gives to everyone, opening the spiritual heaven and the way to eternity. It also assures the establishment of a real community of man with God and his neighbors, through the sacrifice of the Savior who defeats death. In this sense, St. Cyril of Alexandria says: "The Lord Jesus Christ, having bound the unclean spirits and shedding His blood for us and thus stopping death and decay, makes us His own, as those who no longer live our own lives, but His." That's why these words went beyond the porch of the church and went into the universe, replacing even the Paschal intermission with a simple greeting, the loudest Christian motto that creates a community among people in the spirit of the resurrected Christ, that is, true life under the sign of eternity. The greeting: Christ is risen! and the response greeting: Truly He is risen! became a sign of recognition and strengthening of those who have the same faith in the resurrected Christ. The icon of the Resurrection, with the angelic witness and the witness of the guards of the tomb or the representation of the Savior's descent into hades, for the sake of liberation from the centuries of being held, correspond to the songs of the paschal service, glorifying God the conqueror of death, such as these: "Thou didst descend to the depths of the earth, O Christ and you broke the everlasting chains , which held death’s captives; and on the third day, like Jonah from the whale, you rose from the grave". Or: "Having fallen asleep in your body as a dead King and Lord, raising Adam from decay and killing death, You rose again on the third day; Pascha unblemished, salvation to the world".
The foundation of our Orthodox faith is the Resurrection of Christ.
Troparion: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!", observing the significance of the holiday, briefly summarizes all our teaching about the Savior's person and work, or all that God through His Son has done for us humans . That is, when we say: Christ rose from the dead, we understand that the Savior fulfilled His greatest miracle on His own person as a true God and a true man, that is, a true God-man.
But, in order to fully understand the truth about Christ, we must return to the words of the Holy Apostle Paul, that the Son of God accepted, out of obedience to His Father, humiliation, suffering and crucifixion for our sake (Phil. 2: 6-8). Only the true received human nature of the Son of God as the Son of Man could die, and only in perfect union with the divine nature could it be resurrected. Only with the price of the sacrifice of a sinless man, at the same time an unsuffering God, can salvation be obtained for all the dead, spiritual or physical. His Resurrection is the pledge of universal resurrection. And the Paschal greeting imposed itself so much on the Christian consciousness that, by analogy, it partially spread to other holidays, with natural adaptations, such as: "Christ has Ascended!" and "Christ is Born!", "Christ (God) has Appeared!" This greeting speaks of our greatest desire, which is to unite with the resurrected Christ in His Kingdom.
Let us be aware, dear brothers and sisters, and especially you who suffer in our Kosovo and Metohija, that the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is our only hope, our light, our life, our Salvation. I will cite an event that happened last century in a country where Orthodoxy was persecuted. Namely, in a place with beautiful Christian traditions, in a municipality, a conference was held against outdated religions. The speaker was so pleased with his talent that he felt he should open a discussion on the subject, that is, atheism. A younger priest, very modest and shy, also applied. His attention was drawn to the reserved time for the answer, to which he said: "I will be very short." And he immediately addressed those present with the words: "Brothers and sisters, Christ is risen!" The whole assembly answered in unison: "Truly He is risen!" To that, the priest concluded: "I have nothing to add." The case is characteristic, because all the faith of the Eastern Orthodox Church is summed up in these words full of conviction in the greeting for Holy Pascha.
Dear brothers and sisters,
In order to fully experience the joy of Christ's resurrection, we must make an effort to suffer with Him, as St. John of Damascus wonderfully said: "Christ is on the cross - let us rise together (with Him on the cross), and become partakers of suffering, so that we may also be of His glory (resurrection). Christ among the dead - let us die to sin, so that we may live for justice (righteousness). Christ wraps himself in shrouds and clean mantles - let's free ourselves from the chains of sin and clothe ourselves in divine light. Christ is in the new tomb - let us cleanse ourselves of the old leaven, and become a new dough, so that it will be Christ's dwelling place. Christ is in Hades - let's go down to the high-creating humility, so that we can be resurrected (with Him); and let us exalt ourselves, and glorify ourselves, constantly looking at God, and being looked at by Him....Get up - sleeping Adam, and rise from the dead, because Christ-Resurrection has appeared!
Let us pray to the resurrected Lord for our long-suffering people in Kosovo and Metohija. May He receive their fervent and weeping prayers, so that they too may welcome Christ's Pascha with joy. May they be protected from visible and invisible enemies. May the Lord protect our martyred people and our sanctuaries, through the prayers of our holy ancestors. It is our holy land. The sanctuaries are ours and no one else's. They belong to us and are not for sale. The shrines are priceless. And we have not one shrine in Kosovo and Metohija, but hundreds and hundreds. Our holy emperors, kings, prefects, despots and magnates raised them for their souls, not only for their time, but for centuries and eternity. And most importantly, we should take care of our souls as well as the souls of our brothers and sisters. Because according to the words of Christ, one soul is more valuable than the whole world, let alone thousands and millions of souls!
Let's pray for higher peace and salvation for our suffering Orthodox race: in Russia, Ukraine and Syria, as well as for all those who suffer. May we all welcome His glorious Resurrection with joy, greeting as brothers even those who hate us:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
TRULY HE IS RISEN!
Your intercessor before the Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
BISHOP OF CANADA