Christ is Risen!
Dear fathers brothers and sisters both in the homeland and abroad, faithful pastors and flock of Our Russian Orthodox Church Abroad!
From my whole heart I greet you with the glorious feast of the Resurrection of our Lord.
Following the example of our Lord, the Church established a period of the 40 day fast in anticipation of this great feast.
The holy fast is appointed before the great Feast for good reason, as a living ladder, which through prayer and fasting (especially the prayer of St. Ephraim) leads us, rung by rung by the great mystery of our Lord’s Redemption of mankind to His glorious Resurrection.
The holy fathers teach us that the days of the fast represent the days of this temporal life while the days of Pascha represent the joy of eternity. During the fast we experience compunction and at Pascha joy, just as in this life we repent in order to find eternal goodness in the next life.
The Fathers, Apostles and Evangelists all unanimously teach us to greet the fast and keep it holy.
Saint Asterious, a contemporary of Saint John Chrysostom bears witness that the holy 40 days are a teacher of moderation, the mother of good works, a teacher of the children of God, a guide of those without order, the calm of troubled souls, the support of life, that her importance and strictness extinguishes evil and pride, and calms all worry.
By His descent into hell, our Lord did not lead all the souls out, rather only those who were found righteous in the eyes of God.
In this way those who struggled through the great 40 days despite worldly and spiritual temptations met holy Pascha with particular joy because the Joy of the feast descends especially on such souls. However the Savior’s Mercy does not escape even those who kept the fast less fervently during the 40 days, to them it is revealed why their Paschal joy is incomplete.
It is not enough to call oneself a Christian, one must bear witness to the name. It is not enough to know the God-given truth, the dogmas and canons, one must understand them correctly. False understanding of these will not lead to our salvation. When can we understand these things without danger of losing the path? Not when we attempt to learn them on our own, rather when we understand them as the Church understands them and explains them. It is easy to lose the truth when interpreting these without the guidance of the Church, from this is born all heresy, sects and schism.
Saint Filaret of Moscow teaches that in these times freedom leads to free will - freedom to anarchy - tolerance to indifference - peace to the brink of war. Work in the Church corrects the sorrow of worldly events.
A live fish, he explains, swims against the current while a dead fish flows with the current. A true Christian goes against the flow of this sinful world while a false believer enjoys the current. The contemporary spirit is one of lies and deceit. Today it praises one thing and tomorrow another. What the spirit of today supported just 5 years ago, it ridicules today, and in another 5 years if not less, it will ridicule what it adheres to as truth today.
For this reason brothers and sisters, in accord with the Fathers of the Church he who deviates from the Church into various heresies, schism, and sects (for example the sects of Balabanov) has no wisdom. Such people can say nothing wise or kind because they, in the words of Saint Basil the Great "are like unto the clouds carried hither and hence by the changing winds." Likewise, any person who manifests some faith or loyalty to the enemies of Orthodoxy has no spiritual wisdom.
For this reason beloved we will ask our Lord to in all the days of our lives and especially during great Lent to observe these holy days not tempted by this world; but to remain true to the teachings of the Holy Church that our Risen Lord may send us Paschal joy both in this world and the next. Amen.
Truly He is Risen!