Paschal Epistle 1984
April – May, 1984
Victory over Death – Paschal Epistle of the Chief Hierarch of the Russia. Orthodox Church Outside Russia
The holy Church teaches us that of all of God’s creation, man is the most exalted; he alone was created immortal. God made not death, the Holy Bible tells us (Wisdom 1:13) …. As God is possessed of immortality, in the words of the Apostle, so He created man, His image and likeness, immortal, but warned him that if he violated the commandment of His Creator, he would surely die; that is, he would lose immortality and become mortal.
Ever since the first-created people broke the commandment and heard the dread pronouncement of God, Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return, death has stood as an ominous spectre before sinful humanity. “I weep and lament when I think of death,” says the Church in sending up prayer on behalf of a dead person and accompanying him to the grave. When confronted by the gloom and coldness of the grave, the horror of corruption and the disintegration of the human body, philosophy is powerless and all man’s attempts to reconcile him self to the fact of death are in vain. Man turns from it in terror and tries to forget about it, despite its alarming inevitability. For thousands of years there was no relief, no comfort, until One came Who uttered the wondrous words:
I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
What righteous, what boundless spiritual power and what infinite love fill these hallowed words …. In these words of the Lord men are promised freedom from fear of death and its dominion, the triumph of life over death is promised! And behold! He Who gave these promises has sealed their truth through His own Resurrection from the dead! If, in promising men resurrection and life everlasting, He Himself had remained in the grave, who would have believed His words? But He did arise, and thereby showed that He indeed has within Himself resurrection and life, and furthermore, as almighty Master and Lord, He has the power to bestow this resurrection and life upon the human race which He fashioned.
The Resurrection of Christ is the victory of life over death, the triumph of righteousness over falsehood. And however weak, infirm and sinful a man may be, he cannot but rejoice in this victory. Therein he sees the triumph of a higher justice, the victory of the heavenly law of love over human vanity and error, Only he who has utterly given himself over to evil and falsehood, like the devil–the father of lies, does not sense the joy of the radiant Resurrection of Christ. And the soul, even if sinful and flawed, if it still has not altogether extinguished within itself good principles and impulses, joyfully responds to the glorious news of the Resurrection, for it senses how the highest expectations and Christian truths quicken within it…
Hew splendid, how magnificent is the feast of the Resurrection of Christ. How joyously and solemnly the Church celebrates it! Can any other celebration in the world compare with the magnificence of the paschal service? …. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anthony, in agreement with the Holy Fathers and teachers of the Church of old, points out that the special and particular joy of Pascha, which the soul of the believer experiences on that radiant night, is, as it were, a foretaste of that everlasting, unfading blessedness spoken of in the final words of the Symbol of Faith: “the life of the age to come”… Would that all children of the Orthodox Church might enter into that joy, that everlasting blessedness, of which the eternal and just Judge will say to His faithful:
Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.