The Paschal Epistle

Of the Most-Blessed Metropolitan Anastasii,
the First-Hierarch Of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad



Dear brothers and sisters, near and far, abiding both in the Diaspora and in our Fatherland. Pascha, this festival of life, of light, of love and of brotherhood unites us anew into one family of Christ, enlivening the hope within us of the soon-resurrection of Russia. When the sun rises, it first of all gilds the tops of the hills, and of the trees, and of other tall objects; then it illumines the entire surface of the earth, penetrating even into the chasms of the earth, into mountain gorges, and into the clefts of rocky cliffs.

The same can be said of the quickening rays of the feast of Christ's Resurrection -- they fall first of all upon those whose hearts are always directed fixedly towards the heavens -- towards those spiritual peaks of Christian humanity; after which they embrace all other people with their gleam, not excluding even such as have generally become accustomed to slithering about in moral quagmires, without lifting up their eyes to heaven. And everywhere, wheresover the light of Pascha might extend, it gives rise to life and joy.

We -- wanderers and newcomers amidst other peoples that we are -- are fortunate indeed in having brought with us this precious pledge from our Native Land, which from of old so came to love and so profoundly to assimilate the grace-endowed suspiration of this festival. From the moment that Rus' came forth from out of her baptismal fount, she began to burn brightly with the light of Pascha, which ceased not to illumine the whole of her thousand-year-long history. Nowhere in the world does Pascha so obviously manifest its royal merit as the holiday of holidays and the triumph of triumphs as in the Russian Land. The latter truly was transfigured in those bright days; and, as the Bride of Christ, she did gleam then with joy and spiritual beauty.

As it once "was good" for the Apostles who found themselves in the rays of the Lord's Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, in like manner did the heart of the Russian people take sweet delight in glorifying the risen Savior, and burned, as it were, with a radiance; and when the Bright festival would finally draw to a close and the triumphant paschal peal of bells -- of that wondrous heavenly music which had poured forth upon the unencompassable expanses of our Native Land -- would finally fall mute, then would our Russian folk return to their daily round of life, feeling a reluctance -- and even, as it were, some degree of sadness -- not unlike what the Apostles experienced in their descent from Tabor after the Transfiguration of their Divine Teacher.

It was in the light of Paschal radiance that there came into being that entire philosophy of life of the Russian nation which had become accustomed to seeing the entire world from the point-of-view of the eternal victory procured for us by the Risen Savior, Who had vanquished the power of hell and death. From hence sprung its (the Russian people's - ed.) moral fortitude; its exclusive serenity in enduring the blows of fate; the inner harmony of its heart; its peaceful resigned attitude to death; its unwavering faith in the final triumph of righteousness -- however much it might sometimes be scorned and abused on earth; this enlightened love of nature and of all men, whom [the Russian] considered to be his brothers, even though they might be alien to him by blood. It is here that one should seek the main key to the solution of all the mysteries of the Russian soul, which has not ceased from arousing the curiosity of the western world. However much the temptations of the world might delude and seduce him, the Russian believes unwaveringly that Christ alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that outside Him, and without Him, there is no true happiness; and life itself loses its meaning, becoming an oppressive burden to its bearers. Humanity can live only to the degree to which it is capable of renewing itself and being reborn in Christ, Who constantly repeats the miracle of resurrection over it.

The experience of these present times convinces us of this truth with especial clarity; although, unfortunately, in the main, it does so in a negative way. Observing world events around us, as they rush along in such a mad headlong dash, we see that the farther people depart from Christ, the farther they depart from the sources of life, and the more quickly do they draw near to death; or, to re-phrase it in a better way: they themselves draw her to them. We have examples of this before our eyes.

Turn your attention to those monstrous weapons which belch forth a thousand deaths; to those frightful explosives and poisonous gases capable of destroying multitudes upon multitudes of people, like insignificant insects, and of turning an entire region into a desert; is not all this the enlargement of the domain of death and hell -- poised, at present, to consume the entire world, which had been redeemed by means of the death and resurrection of Christ, the Giver of Life.

If the time has not yet come "to turn swords into plough-shares, and spears into sickles" -- for war is frequently inevitable as a restraining principle against the spread of evil, violence and injustice on earth -- then, in any event, Christian nations should hasten to soften its horrors, rather than multiplying for it its means of destruction and widening the very sphere of its murderous action, adding a so-called total character to it. These manifold underground shelters, with the construction of which states so occupy themselves during a war -- do they not speak clearly of the fact that people, by their cruelty, have deprived themselves of any right to live freely in the world, to take delight in the sun's radiance; and that they must, instead, hide themselves away in underground warrens from pursuing foes, in the manner of lizards and other creeping things?

Thus, departing away from Christ as the Source of Light, we again immerse ourselves into the chaos and darkness of barbarism. The very conquest of the elements: of the sea and air -- wherewith our age so prides itself -- by no means makes of man a true king over nature; rather, it makes him the victim of the latter. Having become accustomed to following her mechanistic, mortifying norms, he is prepared to surrender his whole life and culture to those selfsame laws of soulless mechanics, and not only that aspect thereof which is external and material, but even that which is internal and spiritual, sacrificing toward that end the royal freedom of his person and the autocracy of his creative reason. He desires to create not only a governable household, but governable thought, as well; and even conscience, applying to them that very same principle of compulsion which he applies to other spheres of life.

"Fraternity or death" -- this fearsome slogan of the French revolution, this "brotherhood of Cain" -- as one of the activists of the latter so accurately defined it, is being reborn anew in the XXth century, finding its reflection -- especially so -- in the theory and practice of communism, which attempts to inject this pernicious principle into the universal human consciousness. Having quenched in itself the luminary of the eternal commandments of Christ, contemporary cultured humanity has lost the measure of absolute truth and righteousness, having replaced them with conditional human truth, and sometimes even with outright falsehood.

It is not surprising that the world, having lost a firm moral foundation beneath its feet, is teetering to every side and submitting itself to the chance dictates of the moment: to considerations of benefit and advantage, first of all, which currently dominate all the loftier motives of human actions. Russian bolshevism brought the entirety of this sorry wisdom of the present age to the most extreme and crude degrees of its development; hence, our soul, as before, is repulsed by it, sensing the breath of hell and corruption in it.

However much we might thirst for the sooner rebirth of our Native Land, we would not want to see the kingdom of a Ching'his-khan or of a Tamerlane established there in place of Holy Rus' -- although each of these, to a certain degree, was more sublime and more humane than the merciless and corrupting ruling-organization of the Soviets; nor would we want to see an ant-hill of labor come into being there, descending deep into the earth and, as it were, become as one with it.

We desire to see our renewed Native Land as none other than free, radiant, joyful, peaceful, spirit-bearing, strong with the righteousness and love of Christ, rising aloft, like Jacob's ladder, from the earth to the heavens, in order to unite them, the one with the other. And we know that the risen Savior has the power to re-establish her as such, even were she to stink as badly as Lazarus, four days in his tomb. Although, to our consolation, she has not yet reached a state of total corruption, which usually bears witness to the onset of death.

Those who had the opportunity, in the newly-united Russian regions in Poland or in Finland, to meet face to face with the red-army boys who had come from simple peasant surroundings, bear witness with one heart and with one soul to the fact that the venom of communism has not yet had a chance to penetrate into the depths of the folk-organism and to poison its governing nerve-centers. Today's Russian has not yet forgotten the faith of his fathers, although he is forced to conceal it from the zealous gaze of the godless authorities. The Russian Orthodox soul yet lives in our people, and can easily put forth the shoots of new life, if the grace of resurrection but breathes upon it.

Arise, then, O Lord, our God; may Thine hand be lifted up. Forget not Thy wretched, miserable ones to the end. Let God also arise in the hearts of all the other nations of the present day, that they might extend to one another a mutual, brotherly embrace, having forgiven everything by the resurrection, and having ceased from the bloody fray; and that they might again acquire their spiritual strength, their happiness, and their true life in Christ, the Victor over hell and death.

April 1940. Belgrade. The title has been added by the editors.

(_"Pravoslavnaya Rus'"_ ["Orthodox Rus'"], No. 9, 1940)

Translated into English by G. Spruksts from the Russian text appearing in _"Pravoslavnaya Rus'"_ ("Orthodox Rus'"), No. 7, 1997. English-language translations copyright (c) 1998 by The St. Stefan Of Perm' Guild; The Russian Cultural Heritage Society; and the Translator. All rights reserved.

This translation is posted with permission .

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