Paschal Epistle of Archbishop Vladimir

Christ is Risen!

Beloved in Christ, fathers, brothers and sisters, shepherds and flock of our

Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia!

I congratulate you with the Great and joyful Feast of the Bright Resurrection of Christ!

All the heavenly powers are now triumphing and rejoicing, while the sky, the earth, people and even the underworld are filled with light; the whole creation celebrates the resurrection of Christ.

For Christ the Lord had reconciled us with God, revealing the path to salvation and giving us a source of comfort and bliss.

Before the fall, the first man lived in peace with God, with his neighbor, and with himself, enjoying peace and tranquility and being filled with the grace of God. The fall, incl. disobedience, self-will and resistance, has disordered all these relationships. Man has become an enemy not only to God and his neighbor, but also to himself. Being immortal, he suddenly, because of his sin, inherited death, as did all subsequent generations after him.

We, Christians, have a twofold birth: the carnal, old and sinful, which comes from Adam, and the spiritual, holy and blessed from Jesus Christ, the New Adam. This is what is called the old and the new birth, the old and the new man, the old and the new Adam, the old and the new Jerusalem, and the outer and the inner man.

The human race could only be saved by a New Adam, "who would not only be sinless and completely invincible, but could forgive sins and deliver from punishment those subject to sin - and not only possess life, but also have the ability to revive, to make those who cling to Him and belong to His descent the participants in life; and not only the representatives of the subsequent generations following Him, but also those who have already died before Him, "says St. Gregory Palamas.

In such a manner as the old birth takes root from Adam, the new birth takes root from Jesus Christ. According to the word of St. Peter the Apostle, this happens through the word of God, which is the seed of the new birth: " Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." (1 Peter 1, 23). "Of his own will” says the Holy Apostle James, “begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." (James 1:18). The Word of God awakens in us the faith that is contained and is encompassed in the word of the Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit. Through the power and action of the Holy Spirit, a person is reborn.

The new birth takes place through the Holy Spirit (John 3, 5). This is what the Lord calls: to be born of the Spirit. The new man is born through the faith, in love; believing that: "Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him." (1 John 5, 1). The new man is born through holy baptism, as the Lord says: " Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3, 5).

After the fall of Adam, it was from him that man inherited the great evil: sin, curse, anger, death, the devil, condemnation and hell. These are the fruits of the old birth. Whereas from Christ, through faith, hope and love, man inherited the greatest boon: truth, peace, blessing, grace, life and eternal bliss. From Adam, man inherited the works of the flesh and the fulfillment of the will of the evil spirit, whilst from Christ, man inherited the grace of the Holy Spirit with His saving Sacraments and gifts. The spirit that lives in a person determines the quality of his life, and oftentimes a person cannot come to the understanding of this in himself, as the Lord says about it: "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." (Luke 9, 55). From Adam, man received a proud, arrogant, haughty and disobedient temper, whereas from Christ, through faith and virtue, man can acquire the spirit of humility, brotherly love and obedience. From Adam, man inherited the spirit of insolence, anger, enmity, lies and slander, whilst from Christ - a spirit of meekness, friendliness, mercy, truth, sincerity and consistency.

It is the New Adam - our Lord Jesus Christ, the Source of life and immortality, Who has revealed to us "the example of Godly living", according to the word of St. Maximus the Confessor; Who suffered the passions for our salvation and has risen from the dead, Who, by His obedience to God the Father, has dissolved the condemnation of the ancestral sin and, by His death by the cross, has abolished the power of death; He alone, the One, the Holy and the sinless, could free us from the old Adam.

Before the resurrection of Christ, death was frightening, but now the Savior has trampled all fears and the death itself - with His three-day resurrection. Now the death is only a transition from a temporal earthly life to the eternal heavenly life. A believer who is faithful to Truth does not lose anything with death, but on the contrary - he gains an abundance: eternal bliss and eternal joy about Christ Jesus our Lord. Even hell itself no longer horrifies a believing Christian. It has been captured and incarcerated by the Savior who had descended into it. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?". Everyone can now escape hell if he follows the commandments of the risen Lord.

We are redeemed at a very high price. "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1, 17-19). This is the blissful redemptive fruit of Christ, which produces in us, Orthodox Christians, renewal and sanctification.

Thus, the new birth is taking place within us from Christ; and the holy baptism was instituted by Him as a great and immutable means for that: in the holy font we immerse into the death of Christ, in order that with Christ we become dead to our sin by the power of His death; and when we rise in the font, we are raised with Christ from our sin, by the power of His resurrection. And St. John Chrysostom says: "When we plunge our heads into the water, as if into a coffin, it is the old man being buried and, being immersed, completely disappears. Afterwards, when we are exalted (i.e., arise), the new man emerges "(Vol. 8, p. 165). That is why in the True Church they baptize through complete immersion; and not by the non-canonical pouring or sprinkling that cannot even depict in-full the meaning of the Holy Mystery.

Therefore, beloved brothers and sisters, celebrating today the reconciliation with God, we will thank now and in all our days, the One risen for our sake and "for the sake of our salvation", our Lord Jesus Christ, and we will strive to use all the means given to us, so that the resurrection of Christ would serve to the resurrection of our souls and eternal salvation. Amen.

Truly Christ is Risen!

Archbishop Vladimir

Pascha of Christ, 2018