GERMAN DIOCESE: April 14, 2015
Paschal Epistle of Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany
“This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad therein.
Pascha the beautiful, *Pascha, the Lord's Pascha,
The Pascha all-venerable hath dawned upon us.
Pascha, with joy let us embrace one another.
O Pascha! Ransom from sorrow!”
The Church exults in joy. Christ is devotion; Christ is Truth, Christ is Beauty; Christ is our Pascha! “Pascha the Beautiful!” Will it be beautiful for all of us this year? By the grace of God, many of us who adhered strictly to Great Lent and turned to prayer, sincerely repentant, can hope for it.
But how will millions of Orthodox Christians in the Middle East or suffering Ukraine greet Pascha? How many who are languishing in refugee camps, many who survive in exile; those who mourn their relatives, friends, torn from them, deprived of their homes, the very material foundations of existence, those who have seen the horrors generated by human and diabolical cruelty?...
Our experience suggests that if the church is spiritually close, along with worship and prayer, even if two or three are gathered together in the name of the Savior, for you this Pascha will be beautiful. This is the experience of our forefathers, who established temples in the worst conditions of the wartime and post-war period. They built churches, with literally nothing in their name, living in barracks, cellars, making liturgical vessels out of tin, rewriting the texts by hand. They worked for the sake of repentance and prayer, to resort to the saving grace of the Body and Blood of Christ, to partake of the resurrected Savior, our Christ.
But what will this Pascha be like for many multitudes; though baptized, but only nominally Orthodox Christians who have no one to blame but themselves for having lost their spiritual refuge and solace, shunning their Father's house - the church, those who have lost all sense of the necessity and value of prayer, repentance and fasting? How often, alas, do we clergy meet with people who do not understand the need for a deep cleansing of the heart, the need for salvation, who never confessed or haven’t made confession in a long time! The seed sown by the Savior in the sacrament of Baptism - that seed, intended to grow in communion with Christ, was either stolen (God Himself, interpreting the Parable of the Sower, explains that the slanderer, the Devil, is the culprit) or has withered, not having taken root in patience, or suppressed by thorns, meaning stifled by the thirst for external well-being which excludes God. For they are like those in the parable of Christ, "who heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22 ). How are you souls, so precious to God, achieve the victorious completeness of “Beautiful Pascha,” becoming parties to, and partakers of this feast?
There is one path for everyone, the only path, as the Lord Himself said: "I am the way and the truth and the life; No one comes to the Father except through Me "(John 14:6). He is the Giver of Life, for our sake becoming Man, empathizing with us and resurrecting us, throwing wide the “door of repentance" to all. He is the Savior Who leads us to God the Father. He walked the earthly path, ascended the Cross, His Body descended into the tomb, His Soul into Hell. He achieves a fundamental, humanly incomprehensible and impossible feat: He opens for us the door of love and repentance. Let us pass through them into freedom! Let Christ break our shackles, rend asunder the chains of hell! But we must pass through the open doors of repentance ourselves: their determination, with deeds, with love… and our hatred ...!
Yes! With hatred for sin, because he sin still holds us captive.
True conversion certainly includes disgust: the decisive rejection of the sin, the clear will not repeat it, not to be enslaved by sin, to which we submit and so carelessly obey. So exclaims the prophet David about sin and devilish thoughts which pursued him: "I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love" (Psalm 119:113). In true conversion, one will certainly pray to Christ expressing love for Him, for His light, His beauty; prayer for the strengthening of virtue.
Pascha will be truly beautiful for us if we bring forth these "fruits of repentance." But only if wicked and arrogant condemnation of others, clothed in self-righteousness, become alien to us, if we do not dare to neglect any of God creation. If we sincerely love our neighbor - whoever it is, rich or poor, educated or simple, whether Russian or Ukrainian, Jew or German, Greek or Turk.
For the sake of this miracle we were immersed in the water of holy Baptism, to be transformed through repentance, to be resurrected. Repentance nails us to Christ, resurrects together with Christ, leading us from the depths of hell and opening for us paradise in Christ.
"Beautiful Pascha" - Christ - gives us our desired freedom and peace, good standing in the truth and long life.
Christ is Risen!
Truly He is risen!
The Lord's Pascha 2015