May 1, 2016
Paschal Epistle of His Holiness Kyrill, Patriarch of Moscow & All
Russia to the Archpastors, Pastors, Deacons, Monastics & All the
Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,
that we should be called the
sons of God.
- I John 3:1
Your Graces the archpastors, all-honorable priests, God-loving monks
dear brothers and sisters:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
these joyous and life-affirming words I greet you, my beloved, from
the depths of my heart and congratulate you all on the great and
saving feast of Pascha.
The Church calls this day
"the Feast of feasts and the Festival of festivals" through the
lips of one of Her great ecumenical teachers, the Holy Hierarch
Gregory the Theologian. Herein is contained a profound spiritual
meaning, for "Pascha is as
far exalted above all triumphs – not only those which are merely
human and earthly, but also those which are of Christ Himself and
are made perfect for Him – as the sun is exalted above the stars"
(Oration 45: On Holy
Pascha). The glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which
has become the most important event in the history of the salvation
of the human race, contains the very meaning and profound essence of
our Faith, the heart and mighty power of the Christian message to
the world. In these days, what we preach may be encapsulated in
these three words: "Christ is
risen! In saying this, what more can I say? All has been said!"
proclaims the Holy Hierarch Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow (Homily
for Holy Pascha, 18 April 1826).
The history of humanity after the fall of Adam is the history of the
unceasing struggle of good with evil. Having shown disobedience to
the Creator, people welcomed sin into their lives and into the
world, and with it suffering and disease, corruption and death. Yet,
most importantly, sin separated people from God, Who did not create
evil and Who is foreign to any falsehood. Not a single righteous man
has ever been able to overcome this tragic division, this great
spiritual abyss, as it is impossible to do so purely through human
endeavor. And so it was that, as the Holy Hierarch Gregory the
Theologian says, "we needed
an incarnate God, Who would die that we might live" (Oration
45: On Holy Pascha).
In other words, Christ’s Resurrection has become that breach into
eternity by which human limitation has been overcome and the thirst
to be united with God has been satisfied. Pascha is the triumph of
the Creator’s boundless love for people,
"for God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
And yet, what does it mean to celebrate Pascha in a world weighed
down by pain and suffering, exhausted by war and conflict, replete
with hatred and enmity? What does it mean to sing
"trampling down death by
death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life," when death
remains the evident culmination of the earthly life of each one of
us? Undoubtedly, Pascha does not abolish the real presence of death
in the world, but now human pain and the tragedy of our earthly life
are overcome by the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, Who has granted
to us, His disciples and followers, unconquerable hope for
attainment of eternal life. Death is henceforth for us Christians no
longer a parting, but the joyful encounter and longed for
reunification with God.
Christ, "the first fruit of
them that slept" (I Cor. 15:20), has shown us the only possible
way of overcoming sin and death. This is the way of love. And it is
to this love that we are called to bear witness before the whole
world. And we are called in the first instance by the example of our
own lives, for "by this shall
all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to
another" (John 13:35).
Love, which according to the Apostle Paul,
"is the bond of perfectness"
(Col. 3:14), is the loftiest and greatest of Christian virtues. When
we enter eternity and are granted to see the Lord Himself, our faith
will be transformed into knowledge, and our hope in salvation with
be turned into reality by God’s mercy. And yet, love never fails (I
Cor. 13:8) and does not change.
As the Holy Hierarch Ignatius (Bryanchaninov) so wonderfully writes,
"the perfection of
Christianity lies in the perfect love of one’s neighbor" (Ascetic
Essays: On Love of One’s Neighbor). What does "perfect love"
mean? It is a love that extends to a love for strangers, for
ill-wishers and even for enemies. It is a sacrificial love which
transcends all human reasoning, as it cannot be contained by the
framework of everyday worldly logic. We can attain it only through
great spiritual endeavors, which evoke the grace of God that grants
to us the ability to respond to hatred with love and to evil with
It is precisely this love which Christ has shown to us when for our
salvation He endured terrible humiliation, suffering on the Cross
and agonizing death. By His all-conquering love, which fills all
things, hades was destroyed to its foundations, and finally the
gates of paradise were opened to all humanity. In all of life’s
circumstances, we are called upon to remember that the powers of
evil are indeed illusory and not so great, for they cannot compare
with the powers of love and virtue, the sole source of which is God.
Let us recall, too, that the best response to and the most effective
means of resisting sin and falsehood is our sincere prayer, lifted
up from the depths of our heart, and mainly prayer which is
communal, offered up in church at the divine services, and even more
so communion of the Body and Blood of the Savior in the Sacrament of
In experiencing today the great Paschal joy and contemplating with
piety and fear Christ the Giver of Life, Who is risen from the tomb,
let us share this saving message with those near and far, so that
they, too, may see the ineffable radiance of Divine Love and.
together with us, "bless and
glorify the all-honorable and majestic name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
May the saving light of Christ’s Resurrection, which surpasses all
human comprehension, immutably illumine our life’s path,
enlightening and comforting us, making us participants and heirs of
the Kingdom of Heaven.
Rejoice, my beloved, for
CHRIST GOD HAS TRULY RISEN!
Patriarch of Moscow & All Russia
The Pascha of Christ