Paschal Epistle of Archbishop Vladimir

Christ is Risen!

 

Beloved in Christ, priests, brothers and sisters, all the faithful pastors and flock of our Russian Orthodox Church Abroad!

 

I congratulate you on the great feast of Pascha - the Radiant Resurrection of Christ!

 

In the last great Passion Week of Lent, on the very eve of the feast of Pascha,  the holy church has established special church services, during which is remembered the last days of the Savior’s earthly life, His sufferings, Judas' betrayal, and His crucifixion and burial. When we venerate the Holy Shroud (Plashanitsa) and kiss the "wounds of the nails" on the Most Pure hands and Immaculate feet of our Lord Jesus Christ, then at the call of the Holy Church, we realize that by our sins, we are also involved in the crucifixion and the shedding of the blood of our Savior.

 

On Holy Saturday the Holy Church remembers the burial of the Savior, the dwelling of His body in the tomb, the descent of the soul into hell, the introduction of the wise thief into Paradise, remaining on the throne with the Father and the Spirit, with these is also foreshadowed the onset of the great event of the Resurrection of Christ. All church services of Holy Saturday have a wonderful combination of the most opposing  feelings: trials and gladness, sorrow and joy, tears and radiant jubilation. As the Synaxarion of Holy Saturday says: "Of all the days, the Holy and Great Forty Day Fast is the most distinguished, but more than the Holy Forty Day Fast, the Holy and Great Passion Week is exalted, and more than the days of Holy Week, Great and Holy Saturday is the most exalted. This week is called Great because the great, supernatural miracles and extraordinary deeds of our Savior were accomplished during this week, but especially on this day.”

 

But also in the celebration of the Holy light-bringing day of Holy Pascha is constantly included the memory of the suffering that our Lord endured for us: "Having fallen asleep in the flesh as a mortal, O, King and Lord" (Expostilarion); "We sing Thy saving passion O, Christ", "endured the cross, and conquered death", "hell is taken captive", "Thou as a man suffered, and hast willingly endured the cross" (On Sunday Matins verses).

 

Every Christian soul empathizes with the Passion of Christ, but is also inspired by His resurrection: "Yesterday I was buried with Thee O, Christ, today I rise with Thine arising" (Troparion 3rd ode of the Canon). For us to resurrect as a new person, especially in this bright and festive day of the Glorious Resurrection of Christ - Holy Pascha, every Christian should try to suppress in themselves old sinful habits and remove from their hearts evil inclinations, as the holy Apostle Paul calls us to: "Therefore purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened, for Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5: 7). This leaven which is able to clean is only in the sacraments of the Church, which is not present among heretics and schismatics. 

 

Many flock to experience this feeling of celebration and participate in the ceremony, in spite of everything, not really observing Lent and not paying attention to anyone staying in prayer and communion. In this way, they don’t even know or they forget about the spiritual sense of the great holiday. For a true celebration may be acquired only through a narrow path, through grief, through suffering in this life on earth, the uncomplaining bearing of his cross, according to the New Testament, and the preservation of the Orthodox confession in integrity.

 

The path of salvation set by the Lord Himself is a narrow path, cramped and sorrowful (Matt. 7: 13-14) and consecrated by His teachings and His all-holy example. The Lord foretold to His disciples and followers that in this earthly life they will be sorrowful (Jn. 16, 33) that the world will hate them (Jn. 15: 18-19), that it would persecute them, despise and put them to death (John . 16: 2-3). The Lord likened the situation of the sheep in the midst of wolves (Matt. 10, 16), to the position of all His faithful followers among the vicious apostate world. This is also evidenced, for example, by Saint Ignatius (Brianchaninov) saying: "the sorrowful situation during the earthly life is the establishment of the Lord for true slaves and servants of the Lord."

 

Therefore, Christ's victory over death is not able to be celebrated by Orthodox wide-reaching apostates and  those fallen away from the Church, no matter how solemn the ritual is to theatricalize them. Christ is risen, but those fallen away from the Church can not take advantage of it until they will find unity with the Church of Christ.

 

Also painful and sorrowful for every sincere believer, is the observation of universal spiritual decline and the church apostasy of the modern world, also their former brethren who are fond of the spirit of this world. But through this sorrowful present situation God does not leave His faithful and gives a special joy, consolation and spiritual strengthening through the celebration of His Resurrection and the communion of His Holy Body and Holy Blood.

 

To be illumined by the triumph of Holy Pascha is possible primarily through participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion, which is received in the true Church. But one cannot be illumined simply by the outward ritual of bread and wine, offered in any false cult schism, ecumenism, and Sergianism.

 

The Holy Church calls us to forgive even those who hate us on this day of Resurrection, therefore we try by all means to follow this holy call, although it is better for us not to have cause in which it would be necessary to forgive someone or to ask forgiveness due to someone inflicting offense, and then we on earth can better obtain a pure heart with which to glorify Christ.

 

The modern constrained condition of the true Church is like the faithful dwelling in the tomb, but from it came Christ the King, like a Bridegroom coming forth from the grave. Who can be pious and God loving, if he accepts Pascha as a celebration of the lush Soviet organization formed to fight with the Church? Celebrating Pascha is only possible holding the New Testament with the Savior, not agreement with heretical rituals of this world, displayed under modern gilded domes. During Holy Communion the Savior bestows His Body and His Blood of the New Testament only to those living under that covenant, and not under some social programs of latter-day cults trying to usurp power by a secular heritage of the Church.

 

The Holy Apostles shied away even from social ministry in the Church, so as not to leave the service of the Word: "Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples, and said, "it is not good that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. "(Acts 6: 2). The apostolic example all the more shows us the depravity of certain elements of this world, which lies in evil, to the detriment of peace and unity to the Church of the Risen Christ. St. Paul clearly advises to beware of those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which we have learned, and avoid them (Rom. 16, 17).

 

The true church is now led by the will of the Lord into a state of apostolic times, when majestic Christian temples were not yet built, and worship took place in homes. This cannot be accepted by the wavering in faith; those who are lured to the deification of the exterior rite of various ecumenical communities. So the former liturgical splendor of the one Church is now used as a trap for the spiritual seekers of entertainment and aesthetic rather than spiritual pleasure with good intentions. Heretical falsification of Orthodox rites and rituals for the worship of the letter became the forerunner of the future establishment of the kingdom of the Antichrist rituals.

 

Christ rose in an unsightly burial cave, and in our time, in any place where the faithful through prayer and fasting spiritually empathize with His sufferings may identify with Him, and in His joy for the gift of salvation to mankind. The present meeting places for the faithful are unattractive, but with God's help, we will pass by these different cults and the future temptations of this world, who are preparing mankind to accept the Antichrist.

 

So let the passions of the modern world rage, let the enemy of the human race try to overshadow our spiritual and ecclesial life by various temptations, but let not your heart be troubled [or turned] from our wholehearted desire for the way of salvation, and let the mercy of the Lord watch over us, so that nothing could dampen us on this joyous and solemn day of the Resurrection. Amen.

 

Christ is risen indeed!

+ Archbishop Vladimir,

Pascha, 2015