PASCHAL EPISTLE


ARCHIMANDRITE VITALII (MAKSIMENKO) 1961

Father-Superior Of the Monastery Of Venerable Iov [Of Pochaev] In
Vladimirovaya In the Carpathians
1928

CHRIST IS RISEN!

Our dear readers, contributors, correspondents, and all Orthodox Russian folk [_narod_]... It is with all our soul, from a sincere Russian heart, that we greet all of you during these bright and glorious days of Christ's Pascha.

We wish for you all: joy, happiness, health, salvation, successes.... But, we know that the thoughts and concerns of many of you do not touch upon your personal joy and happiness, but rather the unfortunate lot [_nyedolya_] and calamity of the great Russian Nation [_narod_]: so many sacrifices has it made in the course of the last war [World War I], so many millions of lives of its best sons, both from subjugated [Rus'] and from regnant [_derzhavnaya_] Rus'! The whole of the Carpathians, the cemeteries of Talerhof, of Graz, of all the fortresses, prisons, and camps of the former Austrian and German empires, are sown with their graves and with their bones. The entirety of the great Russian land, from the Tisa and Poprad to China, and to the Great Arctic Ocean, is watered with their blood.

Such great sacrifices, and such a burdensome and bitter fate! The regnant Russian Nation, numbering in the millions, is enslaved by the communists and the third international. Russian sanctuaries and holy things [_svyatyni_] are looted and defiled. A great and prosperous nation is devastated and laid waste. Fertile Russian lands are being sold off to Jews. The Russian intelligentsia is exiled, and up to two million of them are knocking about in foreign parts. And whatever tiny remnants of the Russian people have remained free of bolshevik bondage, these have found themselves to be a poor, unenlightened, unorganized minority in the midst of other nations, powerless not only in acquiring new rights, but even in making use of such as have already been granted. Cast out by "freedom" into the world-arena of national contentions, we have turned out to be the weakest, the poorest, and the most-unfortunate, in the midst of the contending nations.

Such great sacrifices and such a burdensome, bitter misfortune! And we had hoped...

We had pinned many hopes upon the ending of the world war, upon the liberties announced to the enslaved nations, upon the formation of fraternal Slavic domains [_derzhavy_] and upon much else, -- but our Russian hopes were not realized in action and they perished. And we had hoped so ardently, before...

Such are the thoughts and the feelings of many Russians.

We believe in the sincerity and profoundness of these thoughts and feelings, -- even more than that, -- we ourselves are still filled with the bitterness of these experiences. But, children and friends of Holy Rus, in our thoughts of her, and in our grief for her, are we not like unto those unenlightened disciples of Christ who, going to Emmaus, disputed amongst themselves and were sorely grieved. They could not, in any way, reconcile their crude hopes and expectations for an earthly Messianic kingdom with the condemnations, mockery, torments and death of Christ -- and, again, these last events, with the incredible news of the appearance of angels and the resurrection of Christ, which the Myrrh-bearing Women had brought from the tomb.

For this reason did they respond so heatedly, so nervously, to the question put to them by Christ, Whom they had not recognized: "Can it be that Thou art a stranger in these parts, and knowest not what hath transpired here?!" -- and, in their grief, they informed the Unknown One of the passion and death of Christ.

Peruse this evangelical report, our dear grieving friends, and You will sense, and be convinced of, how close are Your thoughts and feelings to those of the wayfarers to Emmaus (Luke 24, 13-32), being almost identical with them.

They believed in their Teacher and loved Him. In the simplicity of their hearts, not suspecting the error of their views, they sincerely hoped for the coming of an earthly, sensibly-tangible Messianic kingdom. They grieved deeply and were saddened after the death of the Lord Christ: their Teacher had died; He had left them forever; all their hopes had perished and been buried; life, the whole world, had become pointless and devoid of meaning for them... "And we had hoped that He was to be the One Who would deliver Israel"... But faith, and a love for Him, still remained in their hearts. Hence, when He began to converse with them from the Scriptures concerning the fact that it was meet for Him first to suffer thus, and later to enter into His glory, -- their hearts began to burn with joy and exaltation. They cast off their grief, fear, and despair; they comprehended the true sense of Christ's suffering. They were transformed into completely different men. Filled full of faith and energy, mantled with power from above, they strove for the Kingdom of Christ, fully unto death, and saw it come in power, even during their lifetimes.

Faithful children and friends of the Russian Nation, grieving at the sight of its great, unrewarded sacrifices and burdensome misfortune! -- it is neither the parallels nor the historical correspondences that we bring to mind for You; rather, we want to point out to You the true and immutable law of existence and of life, in accordance with which history is made and nations develop.

Hence, let those of us who still have remaining in our hearts at least a spark of love toward Holy Rus', at least a drop of pity to our people [_narod_] and faith in Divine Righteousness, let such of us take our stance at the Life-bearing Tomb with our grief and our difficulties [_tuga_], and let our understanding be enlightened, viewing the bright future through the sorrowful present. Let our grieving hearts also blaze with joy.

And the first thing that we must perceive and grasp as an immutable and irrevocable law of life is the words of the Risen Saviour; it is meet first to suffer and then to enter into one's glory. Let us not despair and allow our hands fall [helplessly] at our sides upon seeing the calamities and tribulations that have befallen our common Mother and the Russian people, so precious to us, -- on to glory by way of _podvig_ [extreme travailing effort], on to life by way of torments!

And the second thing that becomes manifestly clear to us at the Life-bearing Tomb is the meaning of death and of self-sacrifice for the sake of others: _"Amen, amen, I say unto you: if a grain of wheat falling on the earth doth not die, then it abideth alone; but if it die, it will yield a great harvest"_ (John 12, 24). No, not a single life laid down for one's friend is lost; not a single self-denying _podvig_ will be fruitless -- those are all thy spiritual sowings, O Russian Nation. It is sung thus of Christ, as well, that He, like a quickened [(?): _zhizneraslennoye_] seed, was implanted into the sides of the earth, and Joseph [of Arimathaea], burying Him, did rejoice. In like manner, let us Russians, also, foreseeing the future flowering and harvest of these sowings, rejoice and be inspired upon seeing, through our tears, these innumerable sacrifices of property and of life.

Finally -- the third thing. It is true that Russians now have become impoverished, and dishonoured; and are scattered like dry bones upon the face of the earth. Truly, we can complain in the words of the prophet [Ezekiel]: our bones are become dry from grief, our hope hath perished, we are altogether slain... But here is what is revealed at the Life-bearing Tomb. The Lord brought the prophet down upon an infinitely-wide plain, -- upon the Russian Plain, as it were, -- and the prophet saw that that plain was full of bones, exceedingly dry and dead. But, at the word of the Lord, the prophet prophesied over the bones. And, lo! the bones began to come together, bone to bone, each to its joint, and they were covered-over with flesh and skin, and the spirit entered into them and they came to life, and they stood up upon their feet -- an exceedingly great multitude... It is here, O children of Holy Rus', that we are shown the way from above, and the method for the resurrecting of our Mother [Rus'] who bore us. -- Wheresoever ye might be, O Russian folk: be it in the Carpathians, or in far-distant America, in Poland, Rumania or the Baltic regions, or in the Balkans, the Far East, or the Diaspora (in emigration), [always] feel and sense that ye are flesh of flesh and bone of bone of Mother Rus'. Come together -- joint to joint; combine; invest yourselves, as though it were into flesh and skin, into the Russian _byt_ [hereditary manner of life] and mores; let the Russian spirit burn bright within your hearts... Just imagine what a great multitude that would be -- up to 15,000,000 Russian souls [This was originally written in 1928; think of the far-greater number (up to 100,000,000 Russian souls) that would comprise said multitude today! -- Translator] Were we all to join together into a single whole, we would have the power not only to improve our own lot, but even to raise up our Mother, Rus', even from out of her very grave itself.

So, it is with such thoughts, inspired by the Risen Christ Himself, with such an enlightened Christian view, that we greet you, O ye sorrowing children of suffering Rus': Christ is Risen, and hath entered into His glory through [His] passion and [His] death, in order that we might not be affrighted upon seeing the onerously burdensome suffering of our Mother Rus'; but that we might, rather, know firmly, and hope unwaveringly that, adorned with the martyric crowns of her sons, she is going on to a glory yet greater than before -- by way of Golgotha, to Resurrection.

Christ is Risen, as doth a sown seed [rise up] in springtime, coming forth from the tomb that we might not doubt that not a single drop of blood, not a single self-denying _podvig_ in Christ's name, and for the sake of our brethren, will be lost or will remain fruitless. In order that we might become aware of the fact, and know it, that in comparison with other nations we have a most-outstanding spiritual heritage and a most-fortunate futurity; and it is so precisely because of, and on account of, that which, through our nearsightedness, we consider to be an irreparable misfortune and a frightful calamity.

Christ is Risen! Let us also all join together into one, and let us rise up as a mighty, inspired Russian host.

Christ is Risen! Be filled with joy, hope, courage, energy, oneness of spirit, brotherly love, O ye grieving children of greatly-suffering Rus'.

Christ is Risen! And may Holy, beauteous, glorious, mighty, Orthodox Rus' truly arise within us, united and putting forth our goodly Christian will!

(_"Pravoslavnaya Karpatskaya Rus'"_ ["Orthodox Carpathian Rus'"], No. 2, 1928.)

Translated into English by G. Spruksts, from the Russian text appearing in _"Pravoslavnaya Rus'"_ ["Orthodox Rus'"], No. 6 (1603), 15/28 March 1998, pp. 3-4, 15. English-language translation copyright (c) 1998 by The St. Stefan Of Perm' Guild, The Russian Cultural Heritage Society, and the Translator. All rights reserved.





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