By God’s Mercy
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church: May the Grace, Peace and Mercy
of Christ Risen in Glory be with you All
Dear venerable Hierarchs and beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
The experience of Christ’s Resurrection, the all-saving victory of Life over Death, is the nucleus of faith, divine worship, ethos and culture of the Christ-loving orthodox people of God. The life of the Orthodox faithful, in all its manifestations and dimensions, is nurtured and nourished by faith in the Resurrection, and constitutes a daily Pascha. This paschal experience is not simply a remembrance of the Lord’s Resurrection but also a participation in our own renewal, and an unshakeable conviction about the eschatological perfection of all.
Primarily in the Eucharistic Liturgy, which is inextricably linked with the “chosen and holy day” of Sunday, the Orthodox Church celebrates this existential participation in Christ’s Resurrection and experiential foretaste of the blessings of God’s Kingdom. The resurrectional and delightful character of the Divine Eucharist is impressive, always occurring in an atmosphere of joy and gladness and depicting the ultimate renewal of all beings, the fulfillment of joy, the fullness of life and the future outpouring of love and knowledge.
It is about the redemptive vision of the present under the light of the end and the dynamic journey toward the kingdom. It is about the indissoluble relation and interweaving of the presence and eschatological nature of our salvation and the world’s transfiguration in Christ, which gives ecclesiastical life a unique dynamism and serves for the faithful as a stimulus of good witness in the world. The Orthodox believer has special reason and strong incentive to struggle against social wrongdoing because we are intensely conscious of the contrast between the end times and every historical event. From an Orthodox perspective, philanthropic service, helping our brothers and sisters in need—according to the Lord’s words that “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40) and the tangible love of the Good Samaritan that was shown in deed (see Lk. 10:30-37), as well as in accordance with the Patristic saying that “you should consider all those in need as your neighbor and feel that you are called to come to their aid” (Isidore of Pelusium)—constitutes an extension and expression of the Church’s Eucharistic ethos, a revelation that love is the quintessential experience of life in Christ, both in the present life and in the Kingdom of heaven.
It is in this context that we should also understand that liturgical life in the Orthodox Church is shaken by the experience of “common salvation”, the gift of “common freedom” and a “common kingdom”, as well as by the expectation of “common resurrection”. What prevails is the “we”, the community of life, co-participation and co-existence, as well as the sanctifying identification of freedom in Christ through sacrificial and doxological love. Such is the awe-inspiring message of the radiant icon of the Resurrection in the Descent of Christ into Hades. The Lord of glory descended into the depths of the earth and shattered the gates of Hades, emerging victorious and luminous from the tomb, not alone and bearing a banner of victory, but along with Adam and Eve, raising them up with himself, holding them tightly and supporting them. And in their persons, all of the human race and creation is also raised, held and supported.
The gospel of the Resurrection, this “common feast of all”, the abolishment of the power of death by almighty love, resounds today in a society replete with social injustice and reduction of the human person, in a world that resembles a Golgotha of refugees with myriads of innocent children. It announces from the depths that, in the face of God, human life has absolute value. It proclaims that sufferings and trials, both Cross and Golgotha, do not have the final word. It is impossible for crucifiers to triumph over their tragic victims. In the Orthodox Church, the Cross lies at the center of piety; however, it is not the ultimate reality that determines the final point of orientation in church life. The essential meaning of the Cross is that it constitutes a way to the Resurrection, to the fullness of our faith. On this foundation, the Orthodox proclaim: “For behold, through the Cross joy has come into all the world”. It is characteristic that in the Orthodox Church, the Service of the Passion is not depressing; instead, it is a mingling of the Cross and Resurrection, since the Passion is always approached and experienced through the Resurrection, which is our “ransom from sorrow”. For the Orthodox mindset, the enduring connection of the Cross and the Resurrection is incompatible with every form of esoteric flight to any false mysticism or self-sufficient pietism, which usually tend to be indifferent to the misfortunes and misadventures of humanity in history.
In our age, the message of the Cross and the Resurrection challenges the human being’s self-centeredness and arrogant self-glorification in a secular and rationalistic world—a human being who is convinced of the dominating power of science and is attached to earthly and temporary things, without any desire for eternity. It also combats any attempted repulsion of the Incarnation of the Word and the “scandal” of the Cross in the name of the absolute transcendence of God and the unbridgeable distance between heaven and earth.
In all these things, dear venerable hierarchs and beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, we Orthodox faithful—filled with the experience of the luminous Resurrection, receive light from the unwaning light and give thanks for all things, keeping our mind on heaven and already possessing from here the pledge and assurance of the eschatological fulfillment of Divine Economy, while also publicly proclaiming: “Christ is Risen!” Therefore, we pray that our Lord who suffered, was buried and arose, may illumine our minds, hearts and whole life, guiding our steps toward every good deed and strengthening His people to witness the Gospel of Love “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) for the glory of His name that is “above all names”.
At the Phanar, Holy Pascha 2018
+Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant to the Risen Christ
BY THE GRACE OF GOD POPE AND PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA AND ALL AFRICA
TO THE PLENITUDE OF OUR APOSTOLIC AND PATRIARCHAL THRONE
GRACE AND MERCY AND PEACE FROM OUR RISEN LORD AND GOD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST
“You killed the author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15)
My dear brothers and sisters,
The Apostles testify and the world celebrates. The Apostles confess and the world rejoices. The Apostles assert and the world believes. That truly the Creator of our life is risen. That truly the Author of our life is risen.
That truly the Renovator of our life is risen. Nonetheless, can the light of the Resurrection overcome the thickening darkness of human history? Can the message of the Resurrection freely reach out to every one of our brothers and sisters in Christ, to every person of good will? Or does the Prophet still wonder: “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another?”(Malachi 2:10).
When God created us, He did so voluntarily. And when He re-created us through His Only Son, He did so without us offering anything in advance. However, the Kingdom of God, in other words our union with God, will only occur if we desire God; only if we seek God; only if we existentially set as our first priority the will of God.
The Apostolic faith concerning God’s will is clear: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” (Acts 10:34-35). Entering the Kingdom of God only requires the fear of God as a respect for His will, and the righteousness of God as the fruit of His will.
What do we do? We set aside the fear of God. We consider the fear of God to supposedly discredit our ego. Moreover we distort God’s righteousness. We see it through the deforming lenses of nation, race, color, or diversity. And we come to the point of burying under successive layers of elements of identity the one and only element that unites us all: our common origin from God.
We forget that a Samaritan man became the model of compassionate philanthropy. We forget that a Samaritan woman became the model of heartfelt alteration. We forget that a prostitute became the model of saving repentance. We forget that the thief of the eleventh hour became the first inhabitant of Paradise. We forget that the only distinction that should exist on a human level is the one that distinguishes our brothers and sisters as those who are self-sufficient and those who are in need of help.
My dear brothers and sisters,
Today as we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord and open our homes to share our joy, let us keep in mind the will of God. Christ said: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed”. (Luke 14:12-14).
Why should we invite all those people in need? Our holy predecessor, the Patriarch of tangible love, St John the Merciful, gave the answer: "For indeed they can help us inherit the Kingdom of Heaven." It is not just that our brothers and sisters need us. We have a much greater need of them, because our brothers and sisters who are in need hold the keys of Paradise.
It is with this faith that we walk through the Africa of the nations, the Africa of the tribes, the Africa of diverse cultures. Not with the faith of the intellect, but with the faith of the heart. Not with ideological faith, but with humanistic faith. Not with faith that shows favoritism, but with the faith that in the person of every brother or sister we meet in Africa, in the Continent of hope, Christ may be hidden, the Author of Life!
Christ is Risen!
† THEODOROS II
POPE AND PATRIARCH OF ALEXNADRIA AND ALL AFRICA
In the Great City of Alexandria Pascha 2018
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 Paschal greeting:
Christ is Risen!
We have completed the time of the Great and Holy Lent, during which in daily services with repentance, confession and tearful prayers we co-suffered with our Lord, accompanied Him on the way of the Cross leading to the Resurrection, and chanted gratefully: “Glory to thy long- suffering, O Lord!” We have lived through His voluntary suffering, humiliation, spitting and death on the Cross so that we may today, by God’s immeasurable mercy, welcome Christ’s glorious Resurrection. By participating in these events we live through them, overcoming death and every sadness; for just as without death there is no Resurrection, so likewise without spiritual struggle carried out in hope and long-suffering there is no consolation. That is why we worship and give thanks to the Lord risen from the dead, because He has made us, His faithful people, worthy to be communicants of his miraculous works, feeling in our souls the new life that conquers all tribulations.
Let us celebrate today’s bright Feast Day with joy, our dear spiritual children, for its grace and light come not from the Sun, nor from angels, but rather they come from the Unapproachable Light which dispels the darkness, and the eyes of the people see all the beauty and harmony of God’s world. Only in this Light can we clearly see the meaning of the existence of mankind and of the world in honor, which belongs to them as God has ordained. On this day we are reminded and counseled together with our God-bearing fathers of Christ’s Church that the cause and goal of creation is God. Each of us, as God’s co-worker, is responsible not only for ourself and our people, but for all people and all nations, for all of God’s creation. This is the universal human philosophy by which our faith has lived and worked through the ages, demonstrating what today is now called “ecological consciousness.” Therefore, on today’s Feast Day, which is an oasis of peace and joy, we are doing a spiritual review, arming ourselves with hope so that, with the help of God’s full arsenal that is found in the Church, we may endure all tribulations and all temptations, drawing strength from the Lord Who encourages us with these words: “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The Resurrection is the greatest victory over evil, sin and death, which reminds us that we have the possibility and duty to stand up against every spiritual fall and against everything that prevents us from walking towards the good. Let us not despair, but rather let us hope in the Lord, so that we may receive God’s grace and help in every struggle. Faith in the Resurrected God-Man reveals the cure for the increasing depression found in the modern world. According to the words of St. Theophan the Recluse, it gives us the possibility to “see over sin and suffering” with our spiritual eyes. If we sin according to our weaknesses, the Holy Gospel tells us: Arise, O you who sleeps – in sin – arise and resurrect from the dead – with repentance – and Christ will enlighten you. (cf. Ephesians 5:14)
The Lord Himself out of His exceedingly great mercy and love towards us takes upon Himself a wondrous ascetic feat – He becomes the God-Man, born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary for us and for our salvation, so that He might be “delivered up because of our offenses, and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25), to return everything to its original harmony and to return to us the joy of gazing upon His face. So then our justification is our deification in Christ Jesus, and our joy is the eternal joy and hope of the Resurrection, upon which is established the Christian creed of faith, which brings with itself the greatest gift: the victory of life over death. The Incarnation, as the beginning of the economy of the salvation of mankind in the Resurrection, accomplishes the final fulfillment of the saving work which is constantly celebrated by the Orthodox Church every Sunday. According to the golden-winged words of the Saintly Bishop Nikolai, this annual cycle in which we live is not “only a listing of the dead”, but rather it is always the open dynamism of life, which goes to meet Christ Who is coming. This is why he who belongs to Christ and calls himself a Christian is freed from death, for the Lord Himself assures us of this: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he may die, yet he shall live.” (John 11:25) With these words He gives us hope for the true life which is the joy of our faith. From them we understand that His Resurrection is our resurrection, for Christ by his death destroys death, giving us eternal life.
This blessed life, life with all the saints, begins here and now on earth. Joy and peace begin here in this life for everyone who fills his or her soul with the eternal word of God and forgives everyone for everything. There is no one today, believing or non-believing, who would not want to participate in true joy, at least for even a moment. But peace and joy are to be found nowhere. All around is hopelessness, the soul is drenched with personal desires and wishes stemming from self-love and selfish living, leading to spiritual death and its consequences, aimlessness and negligence of eternal salvation.
We are witnesses of a general alienation and destruction, foremost in families, where community between spouses is increasingly destabilized, and the mutual disrespect between parents leaves an indelible wound on the souls of the children. We cannot seek our rights by violating the rights of others. We have forgotten that it is necessary to respect oneself and the holiness of one’s own body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. Corinthians 6:19), so that we may come to the true measure of everything transient, respect our neighbor and his freedom, the holiness of all and the common good, as well as one’s personal needs.
Therefore, our spiritual children, respect and safeguard the holiness of marriage, for it is the foundation of a healthy and unbreakable family. In love guard the mystery of life sanctified by God Himself. May true faithfulness and mutual forgiveness adorn our every family, which is a domestic Church. Abortion, the greatest crime of our century, unfortunately, is present even among our people, for according to the statistics, the population in Serbia declines every year equivalent to that of a small town. Every conception, birth, and every human being in the light of Christ’s Resurrection is a gift from God which has eternal meaning and is born for eternity. Setting before you, dear brothers and sisters, these temptations of all mankind, we, with paternal love ask you to conduct yourselves in a sound and responsible way, redeeming soberly and in peace the time of your lives “because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:11) Let us pray to the Lord that peace may reign in places where it has been banished, firstly, in our hearts and our homes, but also in the entire suffering world!
We Christians do not hate this world and its people. We firmly walk upon this earth with our eyes raised towards heaven. Respecting all human accomplishments, we want all to be sanctified with God’s grace and power, for the Lord tells us: “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) Rejoice with the Paschal joy, for the Lord wishes “that your joy may be full.” (I John 1:4) Victory with Christ, accomplished through grace and our efforts to follow God’s commandments, is certain. It is when a person is born of water and the Spirit that his resurrection begins. This is the central point of eternal existence, which gathers together all the elements by which we arrive at knowledge of self and knowledge of God. Knowing Truth, real Truth, is faith in the Resurrection and the joy of the Resurrection.
In these bright days of our joy, we do not forget human pain, sorrow and suffering. We do not forget the sick, old and infirm, those in poverty, in exile and in misery, persecuted and expelled from their homesteads. We pray with faith and hope that God will erase every tear from their faces. (cf. Revelation 7:17) We incessantly co-suffer with our clergy and monastics, faithful people and children in Kosovo and Metohija, who are our conscience and without whom Serbian spiritual conscience would be weak and void. Encouraged by your strength and decisiveness, we always offer prayers on our knees that you may endure and that the Kosovo Oath will become a bridge between heavenly and earthly Serbia. We dare not, because of injustice, give in nor take fright, but instead we choose the Heavenly Kingdom along with the Holy Tsar Lazar, who offered a sacrifice just as you offer it today.
Injustice and misuse of the goods of this world did not bypass our greatly suffering but never crushed and humiliated people who, by the grace of God, will next year celebrate eight hundred years of autocephaly of the Church and state. This gives us self-confidence and confirmation that we are a people led by saints: Saint Simeon, Saint Sava and Saint King Stefan the first-crowned. They have forever planted the Serbian people on the corner-stone of the foundation, on the Resurrected Christ Himself.
We call upon all our sons and daughters, the spiritual children of our Church, who live on all continents, with whom we are united in prayer, to rejoice together in Christ’s Resurrection. This resurrection calls upon us to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)
Wishing you every true good, forgiving one another, we invoke the grace, peace and power of the Resurrected Christ, so that we may with one mouth and one heart joyfully exclaim:
Christ is Risen!
Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade on Pascha 2018.
Your intercessors before the Resurrected Christ:
Archbishop of Pec,
Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and
Serbian Patriarch IRINEJ
(Also signed by the rest of the bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church)
The life of all the mankind is therefore directed towards resurrection, while the present physical universe is directed to a new heaven and a new earth in which death will no longer be, as we read in the book of Revelation, chapter 21.
That is why, on Easter night we sing: Now all things have been filled with light, both heaven and earth and those beneath the earth.
Since the feast of Holy Easter is the celebration of life’s victory over death and the triumph of joy over sorrow, we are called to offer merciful love, peace and joy to those around us, especially to the orphans, the sick, the poor, the grieving, and the lonely.
On the feast of Holy Pascha, we wish you all good health and salvation, peace and joy, addressing you the Easter greeting: Christ is Risen!
Beloved in the Lord children of our Holy Church,
Christ is Risen!
With light in our souls and in our hearts, with genuine Paschal joy and gratitude to the Heaven because of the Light of life rising from the tomb, this year again we reverently meet the Resurrection of Christ. We are bowing down before the wondrous Providence of God and we are singing the triumphant hymn: Christ is risen from the dead! And our joy is complete beacuse it springs from our blameless faith in our Lord Who defended death and Who „…is risen, just as He said” (Matt. 28:6). And Who went through humiliation and suffering for our sake as He underwent death – „even death on the cross” (Phil. 2:8) to cover the crime committed in the past, to liberate us from the slavery of the sin and death and to bestow us with His salvation.
The Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ Who destroyed death in its very dominion, as He made the very Hades tremble and annihilated corruption (cf. Morning Service on the Holy Saturday), Who ever-victoriously resurrected on the third day and raised the fallen in the past human nature „at the right hand of the Father” (The Symbol of Faith, 6), and Whom today we festively glorify as our Lord and our God (John 20:28-29). It is Him Whom we glorify, Him Whom we praise, together with the heavenly host and the whole creation, Him Whom we confess of the same mind in the hymns and chants of the Paschal divine service and in the innermost prayers and thanksgiving springing from our hearts. It is Him, the Victor over darkness and the Source of „the unfailing light”, and it is Him Whom today we continue to follow and in His Name to be saved, because we do not know on this world „other Name under heaven that is given among mortals by which we should be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Through Christ’s glorious Resurrection – as the Divine Liturgist testifies – „the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, to those who sat in the region and shadow of death, to them light has dawned” (Matt. 4:16). Light, peace and salvation for every person and for all the peoples, in all times, that have accepted with faith and continue accepting Him – „the true light” (John 1:9). Those who have recognised in Him their only true God and Saviour, and to Whom He has given the chance from children of sin and death „to become God’s children” (John 1:12).
That is why in the most bright dawn of Pascha our holy father John Chrysostom is triumphant, and, being triumphant, he requires: „Let none lament his poverty; for the universal Kingdom is revealed. Let none bewail his transgressions; for the light of forgiveness has risen from the tomb. Let none fear death; for death of the Saviour has set us free.” (The Paschal homily). And together with the apostle he asks: „Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55). Because what else is death but breaking away from the Source of life? However, now, after the Incarnation of God’s Son and His glorious Resurrection – now, when „God is with us” (Is. 8:10), also the Very Life is already with us, and death has already been enervated.
Brothers and sisters,
Life and faith, which our holy Church confesses and preaches and with which all its faithful live and are saved, are a divine gift for all of us and for every person; life that is „in abundance” (John 10:10), and faith – that defeats „the world” (1 John 5:4) and all that that is „of the world” (John 15:19) and is not pleasing to God. Faith, through which we truly find Lord’s way – the way to Heaven and to the eternal life in the bosom of the Father. Because, as the apostle also testifies, it is by this faith that we walk, „not by sight…” (2 Cor. 5:7), and through it we become by blessing „God’s children… in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). Faith, which in the past, in the long centuries of the Old Testament was just an anticipation, but which now, after the Incarnation, the suffering and the death on the cross, and especially after the Resurrection and the Ascension of God’s Son, is already a reality, in which and with which the Church has been living throughout the centuries – like a ship in the rough sea.
It rests with us to keep and follow this faith, so that by this we would be saved by it. In our midst is „the Kingdom of God” (Luke 17:21), according to the words of our Lord and Saviour, and it is in our power to live and to turn into deeds this salvific Orthodox faith of ours and to worthily benefit from the opportunity to be real „fellow-citizens with the saints, and members of God’s households” (Eph. 2:19), generously offered to us by Christ, through His most glorious victory. In it – in this faith gifted by God we are again strengthened by the dawn at the empty tomb, the day of the holy Pascha, the Holiday of all holidays and the Triumph of all triumphs, as the Church has always called the day of the most holy Resurrection of Christ.
May the Light rising on this day from the empty tomb always shine upon all of us. May it always warm our hearts and enlightens our minds, so that guided by it to walk constantly after Christ’s steps, following the example beqeathed by Him, and by this to be also vouchsafed with the eternal life with Him – in the Kingdom prepared for us „since the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34) – Kingdom of light, of divine love and every justice – Kingdom that is „righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
On the occasion of the Resurrection of Christ, we are greeting all faithful children of our Orthodox Church: those who are living within our Motherland as well as all those who are living abroad; and we are extending our most cordial wishes to all of you for enjoying the light of the Resurrection and the joy from God’s triumph always luminous in our hearts!
May to all of us be the Grace and Peace from our Lord Jesus Christ Who has risen from the dead!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
HEAD OF THE HOLY SYNOD
PATRIARCH OF BULGARIA
METROPOLITAN OF SOFIA
(Also signed by the rest of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church)
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
I greet all of you on this bright day, the radiant and holy day of Pascha, the day upon which the light of Christ has risen upon all mortal human beings. The light that now surrounds us in our Churches, in our Monasteries, and in all of creation, is greater than can be accounted for by physical candles, chandeliers, or the sun and the moon.
The light that presently shines is the light of the Lord’s dramatic victory over hell, over corruption and over death itself. He had reminded His Disciples that whosoever lives and believes on me, shall never die and today, that promise is fulfilled in us, for Christ’s victory has become our victory – we have entered fully into it.
The Holy Apostle Paul reminds us of this when he says: Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection (Romans 6:3-5).
As we share the joy of the Feast of Feasts in our communities, with our families, and even with strangers, let us all give thanks for the light in our hearts, for it is not a simple emotional response, but an experience of authentic life – life which pierces through the darkness of our earthly cares and passions.
And so, let us rejoice in the Lord with thanksgiving for His great victory, and let us cry out with the paschal hymn: Yesterday, O Christ, I was buried with Thee, and today I rise again with Thee, in Thy rising. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee, now glorify me, O Savior, in Thy Kingdom.
Christ is risen!
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada