Gifts of Grace from the Resurrected Christ

Paschal Epistle 2020


Christ is Risen!

With these eternally-living words, so dear to our hearts, I congratulate all of you: the God-loving archpastors and pastors, pious monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters—the faithful children of our holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church—with the bright feast of the All-Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.

The feast of the Resurrection of Christ is the greatest of all of our Orthodox feasts. The Resurrection of Christ is known as the “Feast of feasts and Triumph of triumphs” (Paschal Canon, Ode 8, Irmos), because in the bright Resurrection of Christ, we celebrate the victory of life over death.

The Son of God, the Second Hypostasis of the holy Life-giving Trinity, in His boundless love for us, fallen men, bowed down the heavens and came to Earth, taking upon Himself human nature, sanctifying, purifying, and saving it. The Son of God, our Savior and Lord, tore up the handwriting of our sins upon the Cross, freeing us from the authority of the devil and delivering us from his hand. When our Savior died upon the Cross as man and His soul descended into Hades, it was the completion of the Savior’s redeeming feat.

After that began the triumph of victory. Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. By His All-Glorious Resurrection, the Savior spoiled hell, deprived death of its power, and returned to us the lost Paradise.

On the day of the bright Resurrection of Christ, early in the morning, the holy Myrrh-bearing Women came to the life-bearing tomb, where the Body of their Divine Master and Lord had been buried, but they saw the tomb empty. An angel of God was sitting upon the rock and with his words, he brought the saddened hearts of the holy women to joy: Fear not ye, the angel said, for I know that ye seek Jesus, Which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen... Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead; and, behold, He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him (Mt. 28:5-7). The holy Myrrh-bearing Women joyfully brought the news of Christ’s Resurrection to the Apostles, and the holy Apostles spread this news throughout the entire world, preaching that “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life” (Paschal Troparion).

St. Nikolai (Velimirovic) says that the preaching of the All-Glorious Resurrection of Christ, of the triumph of the victory of life over death, brought with it joy for all people. Every other victory on Earth divides people. When one king defeats another, the first is consoled while the second mourns. But the victory of the Heavenly King over the devil, who tormented mankind, brought sorrow only to the devil, but to all of mankind—the joy of eternal salvation and blessed life.

In His holy Resurrection, Christ, our Savior and Lord, gave all of us, to each person individually, the grace of salvation. But one thing is required of us: to come to the Lord with faith, receive this grace, and use it.

The world has the custom today that if someone suffers from fire, flood, earthquake, or any other disaster, other good people send humanitarian aid to the victims in the form of special packages including food, clothing, medicine, and other things that the victims need for life.

The good God came to Earth, a land devastated by “progress,” built up by the proud mind of fallen man, to help man live worthily in the desert of earthly life and attain blessedness in life in Heaven. By His All-Glorious Resurrection, the Lord gave every man gifts of grace, necessary for man to survive; that in the troubles, difficulties, and trials that fill earthly life, man would not break, but preserve his human dignity, decency, beauty, and nobility, with which the Lord has adorned each of us.

Those who have received Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity—the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit—have received gifts of grace from the Resurrected Christ. We have only to make sure that this spiritual package with grace-filled gifts from the good God is opened and that we use it; that we wouldn’t be like the Gospel servant who received one talent from his master and buried it in the ground (Mt. 25:25), and whom his master therefore called a wicked and slothful servant (Mt. 25:26). This spiritual package is opened and kept open with the help of prayer and fasting. Whoever fasts and prays generously uses and enjoys these gifts of grace that the Risen Christ gave to every person.

When the Son of God was born in Bethlehem, there were eyewitnesses: the Most Holy Virgin Mary and St. Joseph the Betrothed. When the Savior was baptized in the River Jordan, St. John the Baptist bore witness. When the Lord was transfigured on Mt. Tabor, three Apostles bore witness. When the Savior was crucified upon the Cross, there were many witnesses, but when Christ rose from the dead, there was not a single witness. Why? St. Dimitry of Rostov says that no witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ were needed: The entire history of the Church of Christ is an indisputable and ceaseless witness to the truth of the Resurrection. In other words, we can say that the witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ are all the saints and those of us who live on Earth today who through faith took these gifts of grace from the Resurrected Christ: those sacred spiritual packages that Christ gave us by His All-Glorious Resurrection; and who keep these sacred spiritual packages open by prayer and fasting and draw blessed strength from them, which we need to live worthily on Earth and for salvation in Heaven.

Again, I cordially congratulate you all, dear brothers and sisters, with the great day of the bright Resurrection of Christ. I wish you all health, salvation, and the Paschal joy experienced by those who love Christ and who live with Christ. May Divine grace, which the Risen Christ has given us, fill our hearts and give us strength to live on Earth such that would be good witnesses to the great mystery of the bright Resurrection of Christ. Such a life is a great joy for man.

In the name of the holy Resurrection, let us love and forgive one another, as the Risen Christ has loved and forgiven us. Amen.

Indeed Christ is Risen!

+ Onuphry,
Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine

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