Patriarchal Pascha Encyclical
The Serbian Orthodox Church
to her spiritual children at Pascha, 2015
By the Grace of God
Orthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch, with all the Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church to all the clergy, monastics, and all the sons and daughters of our Holy Church: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, with the joyous Paschal greeting:
Christ is Risen!
“Though Thou didst descend into the grave, O Immortal One, yet didst Thou destroy the power of Hades, and didst arise as victor, O Christ God, calling to the myrrh-bearing women, rejoice, and giving peace unto Thine Apostles, O Thou Who dost grant resurrection to the fallen.”
This song of immortality, our dear spiritual children, we sing ceaselessly during these days of our celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, which occurred, as the ancient seers of God's mysteries witnessed, on the same day of the week on which God created in the beginning - out of nothing - heaven and earth.
On that same day, according to those same mystery-perceivers, the Lord delivered His chosen people from Egyptian slavery; hence, we call it Pascha – that is, the passing-over from slavery into freedom in the Lord through the Red Sea.
The fullness of God’s presence in His creation is particularly revealed in the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection, this holy day in which we sing to Him the song: In the tomb with the body, in hell with the soul as God, in paradise with the thief and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit, wast Thou, O boundless Christ, filling all things.
Clearly, the Resurrection of Christ appears and presents itself not only as victory over death and mortality, but also as the revelation of the fullness of God’s providence in the world and with man.
Man's deepest yearning is the yearning and cry for freedom and eternal life. However, man's true freedom is only that freedom which frees him from the tyranny of mortality and death – everything else or anything different represents a only an unfulfilled yearning for freedom, or simply an illusion of freedom.
The power of Christ’s Resurrection is precisely the yeast of the one, true freedom, as the yeast and pledge of immortality and eternal life. God and man are united with that power and divine light, and heaven and earth, angels and men, and time and eternity are enlightened by it. Filled and embraced by the Light and by the Divine Love of the Resurrected Christ, ancestors and descendants, all the generations of mankind, and all creation become one in the Resurrected Christ, gathered together in the Church as His Divine-human Body.
We Christians are Christians because we are witnesses and bearers of that eternal and unending dignity of mankind, having become, by grace, “sons of the Light and of the Day.”
Thus, the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection is the celebration of Life eternal and unending. Earthly life is only the seed of that eternal life. That seed is conceived in the maternal womb, through the effectual power of God's once for always-creative blessing: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28)
In the light of Christ’s Resurrection, every conception, every birth, and every human being has eternal significance, representing a birth for eternity, as well as our eternal human responsibility for it.
The Resurrected Christ, “Who trampled down death by death and on those in the tombs bestowed life,” is the foundation of man’s awakening to responsibility for every human being, not only in time but also before eternity. Confessing the Resurrection of Christ and believing in the general Resurrection of the dead, we confess and become aware of our own unending responsibility for the sanctity of every human being and every creature, and we celebrate the indestructibility of faith and human hope in the eternal meaning of life in Christ, the God of love, sacrificed “for the life of the world.”
Today, as always, self-love and selfishness threatens to destroy the meaning of this selfless self-sacrificing love of Christ, the love by whose radiating flame all beings and all creation is warmed. Only faith in man’s immortality and in eternal responsibility for one's life and actions can - by its flame – abolish selfishness as a false principle of life, revealing that self-sacrificial love for God and our neighbor, our eternal brother and co-worker, is the only way out of and our only salvation from all of man’s delusions, darkness and hopelessness. Only souls filled with and renewed by the light of the Resurrected Christ and by hope in the general Resurrection of the dead are freed from selfishness and injustice, fear and greed; receiving shyness and kindness, they find the true measure of all transitory things and a balance between the sanctity of the general and communal good and of personal needs; they learn the brotherly sharing of goods and hearts in the mystery of the breaking of the Bread of Life, that is, in the Mystery of Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ.
Celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, “for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), guided by pastoral concern, we call upon you, brothers and sisters, to confess and safeguard your Orthodox Faith, not only with words, but with your life – with actions and endurance. Let us safeguard ourselves from all those who “come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). In peace and love let us go to our churches and our holy shrines, participating in the services and partaking of the Divine Mysteries of Christ.
We are well aware what it means to hold to sound teachings of piety, and what it means and where foolish squabbling leads, “from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (I Tim. 6:4-5). Therefore, in a common prayer, “let us commit ourselves and each other and our whole life to Christ our God!” With one mouth and with one heart the prayer of the unity of faith and communion of the Holy Spirit is being sung to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity and the safeguarding of the Orthodox concord of the Church and the people.
Let us pray to the Resurrected Lord that peace may return to all places from where it has been expelled, firstly to our hearts and our homes. Let us preserve the sanctity of Christian marriage, for it is the foundation of an exalted, healthy and honorable Christian family.
The great Russian elder, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, would always greet his visitors with the words: “Christ is risen, my joy!” thus showing that the Church of Christ and her saints live in the reality of the Resurrection. May God grant that we become witnesses of that truth, and that in our souls and in our faces the joy of the Resurrection may shine unceasingly.
Greeting you, dear brothers and sisters, with most joyous Paschal greetings, we call upon you to live in love for God and neighbor, thus walking on the path that leads to eternal life, for only in such a way will we become and be sons and daughters of the Resurrection. Therefore, preserve in love the mystery of life, which was established and sanctified by God Himself. This we should do for our welfare and reputation, for the sake of our children-our greatest treasure, for whom we live and work. Of course, true faithfulness and mutual forgiveness should not be overlooked, either.
When we know that the Lord is with us and in us, we then should turn to Him and confess our sadness and sorrows. He will comfort, strengthen and lead us through this earthly life. Let us safeguard this gift of God within us, and let us also be watchful so that we do not offend the Lord by our sins. When the enemy attacks us, let us cry like the Apostle Peter: “Lord, save me!” (Matt. 14:30)
In life we will have many tribulations, injustices and sadness, but let us be mindful that the Lord, inasmuch as we are with Him, turns the greatest sadness into joy, and that He said to His disciples and through them to us: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (St. John 16:33)
On this Feast of feasts, elated with the joy of the Resurrection of Christ, we greet you all: the mother who watches over her infant under her heart and leaning over the crib of her sick child; all those who suffer and struggle, those expelled for the sake of God’s justice; we greet all those despised and humiliated; all captives in prison cells; we greet all those who labor for good and those that work, and travelers and sailors; we greet all, learned and uneducated and all those who seek the eternal meaning and mystery of life; we greet all the sick and sufferers; we greet all people with the greeting of eternal victory: Christ is risen – bringing faith, hope, love and eternal life, taking away sadness and death!
With this greeting, let us bring joy to our brothers and sisters in Kosovo and Metohija who with us today celebrate the victory of Good over evil, Life over death, Christ the Resurrected over the powers of darkness.
We address all our sons and daughters, our spiritual children of our Church living on all continents, but with whom we are united in prayer, to rejoice together with us in the Resurrection of Christ, which calls us to preserve the unity of the Holy Church of Christ, to safeguard “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:3), and never to put earthly interests above the interest of the Church and the common well-being of our people.
May the trials and anxieties of our days vanish before the light and joy of Christ’s Resurrection! And may we never forget that the Resurrection means the beginning, the sure pledge and foundation of our resurrection.
In the joy of the Resurrection of Christ, let us embrace each other and all beings, and let us sing the holy song of eternal life and Light:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade at Pascha, 2015.
Your intercessors before the Resurrected Christ:
Archbishop of Pec,
Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and
Serbian Patriarch IRINEJ
Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands AMPHILOHIJE
Metropolitan of Dabro-Bosna NIKOLAJ
Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana PORFIRIJE
Bishop of Sabac LAVRENTIJE
Bishop of Srem VASILIJE
Bishop of Banja Luka JEFREM
Bishop of Budim LUKIJAN
Bishop of Canada GEORGIJE
Bishop of Banat NIKANOR
Bishop of New Gracanica-Midwestern America LONGIN
Bishop of Eastern America MITROPHAN
Bishop of Backa IRINEJ
Bishop of Great Britain and Scandinavia DOSITEJ
Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Osijek and Baranja LUKIJAN
Bishop of Western Europe LUKA
Bishop of Zicha JUSTIN
Bishop of Vranje PAHOMIJE
Bishop of Sumadija JOVAN
Bishop of Branicevo IGNATIJE
Bishop of Milesevo FILARET
Bishop of Dalmatia FOTIJE
Bishop of Bihac and Petrovac ATANASIJE
Bishop of Budimlje and Niksic JOANIKIJE
Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina GRIGORIJE
Bishop of Valjevo MILUTIN
Bishop of Ras and Prizren TEODOSIJE
Bishop of Nis JOVAN
Bishop of Western America MAXIM
Bishop of Gornji Karlovac GERASIM
Bishop of Australia and New Zealand IRINEJ
Bishop of Krusevac DAVID
Bishop of Slavonia JOVAN
Bishop of Austria and Switzerland ANDREJ
Bishop of Central Europe SERGIJE
Bishop of Timok ILARION
Retired Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla VASILIJE
Retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina ATANASIJE
Retired Bishop of Central Europe CONSTANTINE
Retired Bishop of Slavonia SAVA
Vicar Bishop of Moravica ANTONIJE
Vicar Bishop of Toplica ARSENIJE
Vicar Bishop of Jegar JERONIM
THE ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF OCHRID:
Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje JOVAN
Bishop of Polos and Kumanovo JOAKIM
Bishop of Bregal MARKO
Vicar Bishop of Stobija DAVID
[Path of Orthodoxy translation]