Metropolitan Vitaly's Paschal Epistle


1996


Christ is Risen!

Beloved brothers and sisters, Christ is Risen!

In the holy city of Jerusalem, Golgotha stands very near to the Tomb of the Lord; so near, that it was possible to build one church in honor of the Resurrection of the Lord ­ the Pascha of Christ ­ over both of these most sacred sites. In this we see the providential indication that only out of sufferings for the Truth is pure, incorruptible joy born. But joy without sufferings is usually a stolen, sinful joy, and it is, therefore, no longer even joy at all.

And so, Golgotha of the Passion and the Tomb of the Lord were then side by side, and in the spiritual world they will always remain side by side, while the earth exists and the human race on it. They are indivisible, supplement one another, give birth to one another. To some Christians, to His elect, the Lord has vouchsafed the great honor of pouring out their blood and even of being killed for Him, in order to be crowned with the crown of martyrdom and to partake of Christ's eternal Pascha. While us, all who have remained outside of this way of the cross of the passion­bearers, the Lord invites also to Golgotha, but to the voluntary Golgotha of the Christian ascesis of fasting and prayer, of enduring offenses and of bearing one's cross without complaining. This is our common Golgotha, without which no one will enter into the chambers of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In prayer, we ask the Lord, as the physician of our souls and bodies, to cleanse us from the hellish fire of our passions, while by bodily ascesis, we fortify our prayer; and He, seeing that our prayer is, through bodily ascesis, as though inscribed by our blood, sends to us His fiery grace, which burns up our passions. Here the words of instruction of Venerable Simeon the New Theologian come to mind, who confirms that all our ascetic works of fasting, prostrations and every voluntary self­oppression are nothing more nor less than our proof of the sincerity of our prayers for our salvation. In such a small outpouring of blood, all Christians, without exception, must take part, for fasting also is a kind of payment of ours in blood.

And whenever this happens to a man ­ whether in summer or winter ­ then it is PASCHA for him. Pascha stands in the midst of the whole earth, of the whole universe. This is the day of all days, because it is the day "which the Lord hath made." The Church invites us all to this joy through Golgotha to the Tomb of Christ and His Resurrection.

Amen.

Metropolitan Vitaly

Pascha, 1996.





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