By the grace of God
Orthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch, with all the Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church—to all the clergy, monastics, and all the sons and daughters of our holy Church: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, with the joyous Christmas greeting:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Brothers and sisters in the Crucified and Resurrected Lord, Our dear spiritual children,
Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One,
just as millions of His disciples have worshipped Him through the centuries, and worship Him today.
What makes us Christians different from other people? Truly it is that we worship at His Cross and we glorify His Resurrection.
Our dear spiritual children both in the homeland and abroad, Christ’s Cross and His Resurrection constitute the essence of our life, our faith and our hope. The meaning of our birth, life and death were and are found in them. In the words of the Holy Apostle Paul, if Christ has not risen, then our faith is in vain and our lives are without meaning. (cf. I Cor. 15:14-19)
Through His Cross and Crucifixion the unspeakable Mystery of God’s love is revealed and given to us. Through them God reveals Himself to us as eternal true Love, as the Love which sacrifices itself for the other, for people and nations, and for the whole world. There is and can be no greater love than this. On the Cross Christ, the Son of God, shows Himself to us as the God Who not only calls us to love, but Who shows love in action, sacrificing Himself entirely for others. Christ’s sacrifice on Golgotha is the revelation of the great mystery of God’s self-sacrificial love by which God embraces and heals all beings and all creation. There is a kind of love in nature, that is, the common worldly love which brings joy and gives birth to new life. Earthly love is like this because it reflects the divine love which created the whole world and which instilled its breath into creatures and all beings. The more the love in this world, among people, is like this divine love, the more genuine and deeper it is. And there is no greater nor truer love than that which leads someone to sacrifice his life for his neighbor. Christ’s love was and is this kind of love. This is the kind of love which also belongs to His followers. Therefore only those people and nations which live by this crucified and resurrected love can consider themselves to be spiritually alive and worthy of eternal life. (cf Acts 13:46)
Besides the fact that the superabundant love of God is revealed and given to us by the Precious Cross of Christ and that by enduring it He has made us worthy of eternal life, it reveals yet another great truth to us: Christ’s crucifixion on the Cross reveals the meaning of human suffering. In the image of the Crucified Christ and in the images of the two thieves crucified with Him on Golgotha, the state of the entire human race is presented to us. Namely, suffering is the lot of everyone on earth, but the reasons why people suffer differ for each person. According to the Gospel of Christ, some suffer because of their sins, others because of the sins of their ancestors, and still others so that God’s name may be glorified in them. Thus on Golgotha, through the suffering of the most righteous One of all, Jesus Christ, God’s love was made known. The suffering of the repentant thief was for him unto the cleansing of his sins and of the evil things he had once done, and in his crucifixion he was washed by his blood and his repentance. But the other thief, the unrepentant one, who also suffered on the cross, by his hatred towards God and by his evil deeds made not only his suffering but also his very life meaningless.
What took place on Golgotha is what has happened throughout all of human history. The just suffer in order to become even more just: they pass through their suffering like gold through the furnace so that their righteousness might shine with an everlasting radiance.
For sinners who repent, suffering becomes a fountain of virtues and of regeneration, of unending wisdom and understanding. But those people who have no faith and no repentance for their sins become through suffering even more cruel; they wander ever deeper into spiritual blindness, hatred and bitterness towards God and man.
May the Risen Christ keep us all from being this third kind! And He will protect us if we “stand fast in the faith,” in the words of St. Paul, and if we become aware of the eternal truth of life that “It is through many tribulations that must we enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Acts 14:22). For the point of suffering in not merely to bring us to our senses, as the ancient Greeks would say, but to help people and nations “to turn away from useless things to the living God.” (Acts 14:15). Only when understood and experienced in this way can our own personal suffering, the suffering of our people past and present, and the suffering of all the peoples of the earth, acquire its true meaning and significance.
To repeat: All this is testified to by Christ’s passion on Golgotha and by His suffering, as seen in the light of the holy and brilliant Mystery of His Resurrection.
This is why we worship the Cross of Christ, and why we glorify His Resurrection! This is why His Cross and suffering have become victory over death and the medicine of immortality, the fountain of resurrection and eternal life. That which is the most senseless has become the source of deepest meaning. So the mystery of Christ’s resurrection is like the leaven of new life.
People of this world constantly talk about reforms in society and try to create a “new man.” Basing their reforms on changing “trivial matters” and on superficial adaptations to the spirit of this age, without any appreciation for the life-bearing fire of Christ’s Resurrection which establishes, renews and perpetuates everything it touches, they themselves become captives of emptiness and impermanence.
These are the kind of people who would also like to reform the Church, living under the delusion that it is like worldly, human organizations which, in order to survive, must constantly change and adapt themselves. But the Church measures life by the perfect measure of Christ’s Resurrection and the human dignity it reveals. As such it never ceases to renew every person who comes into this world, as well as every area and every structure of human life, calling them to constantly greater perfection and change for the better.
Having the infinity of God as the measure of everything which is earthly and human, not only does the Church call people and nations to a constant process of ever greater perfection and growth “into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13), but by the power of the Resurrection it gives the ability to achieve this never-ending growth. So, in giving everything its eternal meaning and significance, the Church cannot accept any kind of limits or restrictions to the carrying out of its divine mission. Nothing human is alien to her, but at the same time nothing human can enslave her—neither earthly life, nor death, nor time, nor whatever people do over time which restricts them: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35-39) Even while serving a particular nation, the Church attempts to be a light to all nations and all people, attempting to transform all peoples into one People, the People of God, that all may be one as the Father is one with the Son and the Holy Spirit (see John 17:21). Therefore, in the words of the Apostle, in the Church “none of us live to ourselves, and none of us die to ourselves. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the living and the dead.” (Romans 14: 8-9)
And so, brother and sisters, our dear spiritual children, let us worship Him, the Lord of life and death, the Lord Who is risen and Who bestows resurrection upon all creation, Who is the “Bread of Life” Who has “come down from heaven” and Who is given “for the life of the world!” (John 6: 48-51). Let us all sing with one mouth and one heart the joyous Paschal hymn:
Christ is risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade at Pascha, 2003.
Your intercessors before the Crucified and Risen Lord,
Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch PAVLE
Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana JOVAN
Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands AMPHILOHIJE
Metropolitan of Midwestern America CHRISTOPHER
Metropolitan of Dabro-Bosna NIKOLAJ
Bishop of Shabac-Valjevo LAVRENTIJE
Bishop of Nish IRINEJ
Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla VASILIJE
Bishop of Srem VASILIJE
Bishop of Banja Luka JEFREM
Bishop of Budim LUKIJAN
Bishop of Canada GEORGIJE
Bishop of Australia and New Zealand (New Gracanica Metropolitanate) NIKANOR
Bishop for America and Canada (New Gracanica Metropolitanate) LONGIN
Bishop of Eastern America MITROPHAN
Bishop of Banat CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Backa IRINEJ
Bishop of Great Britain and Scandinavia DOSITEJ
Bishop of Ras and Prizren ARTEMIJE
Bishop - Administrator of Zica ATANASIJE
Bishop of Bihac and Petrovac CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Osijek and Baranja LUKIJAN
Bishop of Central Europe CONSTANTINE
Bishop of Western Europe LUKA
Bishop of Timok JUSTIN
Bishop of Vranje PAHOMIJE
Bishop of Sumadija JOVAN
Bishop of Slavonia SAVA
Bishop of Branicevo IGNATIJE
Bishop of Milesevo FILARET
Bishop of Dalmatia FOTIJE
Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina GRIGORIJE
Bishop of Budimlje and Niksic JOANIKIJE
Vicar Bishop of Hvostno ATANASIJE
Vicar Bishop of Jegar PORFIRIJE
Metropolitan of Veles and Povardara JOVAN, Patriarchal Exarch of the Autonomous Archdiocese of Ohrid
[Path of Orthodoxy translation]
Taken from http://www.spc.org.yu/Saopstenja/vaskrs2003_e.html
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