on the Pascha of Christ
Bishop Jonah (Pokrovsky; +1925) of Hankow, Glorified by the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in October 1996
Christ is Risen!
years now, we greet the Pascha of Christ amidst horrors and rivers
of blood from world conflict. The joy of the Resurrection, unconquered
by any power, once again descends to earth, an earth shrouded in
great sorrow, flooded by the outpouring of tears of the orphaned
and suffering, amid the din of moaning and wailing of peoples, martyrs
for the faith and for God’s truthÉ
Could the unendurable
sufferings of hundreds of thousands of human souls not be rewarded
by Higher Truth?
There is only one satisfactory answer to this eternal question—the
resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. Only the joy
of the Resurrection more than compensates for all the sorrows of
the world, and it will not be defeated unto the ages!
of the Lord makes sense of human suffering, raising it to the level
of a redeeming sacrifice for the oceans of human lawlessness. Everyone
who suffers, believing in the Redeemer of the world, participates
in the mystery of Christ’s Cross, and thereby draws closer that
moment of inexpressible blessedness, when evil and death will be
forever defeated by Him who rose from the dead—heaven will unite
with earth, and the foundation will be laid for a new life, the
mere glimpse of which will cast out memories of the oceans of human
blood and cruel sufferingsÉ The martyrs of all ages, of all countries
and peoples, filled with the glorious celebration, will sing to
the Lord God the song of love and gratitude, for they will fully
understand then God’s aim for the existence of the universe.
Christ is Risen—and
all becomes bright, like God’s heaven on a glorious May morning;
one believes in Divine Truth reigning over the world, through all
the horrors of human strife—the holy love of Christ shines brightly
over the earthÉ The pains endured by the finest souls are not for
naught: they purchase a higher good, the joy of eternity, and one
instant of the great happiness to come immeasurably overcomes all
Blessed are those that suffer when they are filled with this unwavering
hope, and among this myriad sufferers we, of course, are closer
still—for our mother is suffering, our Holy RussiaÉ
If we pose
a general question—what is happening in the life of Russia now?—the
response would be brief:
From her first
moments, Rus' has traveled the way of the cross, and now she enters
a region of horror and suffering, where the great words are drawing
near: "Everything is done!"
of the life of Russia is not only represented by the internal strife
of recent years—our suffering has spilled over into science, painting,
literature, architecture, music, into art in general—everywhere
there is suffering for the ideal, for the attainment of truth.
To be fair,
one of the finest painted characterizations of our existence is
"Holy Russia" by Nesterov. See how it moves from the Golgotha
of daily life towards Resurrection—it drags itself from the tortures
of daily life towards the peaceful port—Christ and His truth!
and social sufferings of the Russian people have given our music
a minor key; as Nekrasov says, we have "created music as though
it were a groanÉ"
people have lain down a great deal at the foundations of their culture—their
unusual patience and labor—and what are these invaluable properties
person, as Nekrasov says, "works himself to death, drinks himself
half to deathÉ"
If we ignore
the sinful exceptions, then there is a single explanation for drunkenness:
alcoholic from among the intelligentsia—one of the heroes of Dostoevsky,
MarmeladovÉ What did he seek, spending his days in pubs and inns?
sorrows did I seek in the bottom of this glass," he said, emptying
his cup in Raskolnikov's presence: "Sorrows and tearsÉI sought
them and I found themÉ"
how the depth of our Christian hope for the resurrection of man
and faith in the mercy of the Lord was manifested in him when, in
his fantasy, he painted a picture of the great mercy the Creator
had for the weakness of drunkards.
all drunkards, come all ye weak ones," Marmeladov imagines
Christ will say on the Day of Judgment:
"Ye are swine..."
and immeasurable love of the Lord towards His sinning—and yet, crown-wearing—creatures;
faith in the victory of man, in his rebirth, in the renewal of lifeÉ
Faith in the
future inspired Raskolnikov to boldly embark on the path of redeeming
his guilt of causing suffering, and through it, towards his own
rebirth, and to take along with him Sonya Marmeladova, who traveled
a thorny path herself.
wonderful passage in Crime and Punishment wherein Raskolnikov and
Sonya are immersed in the Gospel reading on the resurrection of
Here is the
moment during their own Golgotha when "salvation" from
their past occurred, when a new, bright life was ignited above the
darkness of rejected sinÉ
undoubtedly people who strove for Truth, yearned for it, but were
trapped in the crypt of human habit, who felt so profoundly the
power of Christ that, together with the resurrected Lazarus, they
emerged from their tombs, sensed a new life within themselves, giving
them the ability to act with love...
And the entire
Russian nation, believing in Christ and His truth, believes in its
resurrection and in the renewal of life, forging its will in the
fires of suffering.
in resurrection adds bright notes into the art of sorrow, and, for
instance, the morose Chekhov, through the words of some of his heroes,
says: "We will see a bright life, joyful, wonderful, we will
be happy and we will restÉ I believe fervently, passionatelyÉ"
The sum, one
might say, of the sadness of such a wide range of types within Russian
society lies in the unattained Divine Truth, understood by each
in his own way, but still, TruthÉ
But since the
One perfect Truth is God, then, consequently, the striving of mankind
to live by the truth, that is, "in a good way," can be
compared to striving to live "by God," to be reborn for
a new life.
Man needs God
and needs immortality in order to believe in the victory of man.
were no God," says Chekhov's protagonist in Ward No. 6, "He
would have been invented by manÉBut I believe deeply that if there
were no immortality, then sooner or later some great human mind
would event itÉ"
Notice the two "ifs," and with such faith in the "crown
of creation," in its inextinguishable brightness.
were no GodÉIf there were no immortalityÉ" one sees here the
importance of both.
people will find their resurrection, and then their eternal life
in the hereafter, only through suffering, for they are loyal to
Him Who through sufferings Himself granted the possibility to attain
true life in freedomÉ
That is why
suffering is not feared by the Russian people who understand the
words of their Divine Teacher: "In the world ye shall have
tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
Without a doubt,
this year the Pascha of Christ will fill the hearts of Russian people
with deluges of heavenly light and angelic rejoicing.
is as it was before, the all-powerful, eternally triumphant holy
words of the great greeting will resound the world over—Christ is