The Paschal Epistle of the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine
To the archpastors, pastors, monastics,
and all faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Christ is Risen!
With these eternally living words, I heartily greet you all, God-loving archpastors and pastors, pious monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters, with our greatest Christian feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Lord has visited us with a special trial and sorrow this year. The forces of evil have gathered over us. But we neither murmur nor despair, because Christ the Savior has overcome evil by His Resurrection.
The Most Glorious Resurrection of Christ is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, truth over falsehood, light over darkness. The Resurrection of Christ is the eternal Pascha, in which Christ our Savior and Lord translated us from death to life, from hell to Paradise.
God, our Almighty Creator, created man from the ground, breathed the breath of life into his face and adorned him with His Divine image. Unfortunately, man deprived himself of this high honor when he turned away from Divine Love. Man willingly became a victim of death. The death that the Lord allowed for fallen man was not the revenge of God, but a manifestation of a new Divine love for fallen man: By death, the Lord cut off human sin, not allowing evil to become immortal. But when the Lord destroyed human sin on the Cross, He also took away the power of death. After the Resurrection of Christ, death turned from ever-reigning into a temporary sleep, the quality of which depends upon the moral quality of our earthly life.
By His Incarnation, voluntary suffering, and death upon the Cross, the Son of God, our Savior, returned Paradise lost to us, and by His Most Glorious Resurrection, the Savior made Paradise accessible to all. The doors of Paradise now open not from the inside, but from the outside, and every man has received a key he can and should use to open Paradise. The key that opens the gates of holy Paradise is repentance. By repentance, the Wise Thief opened the doors of Paradise for himself and heard the joyous words of Christ the Savior: Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise (Lk. 23:43).
How blessed were those who were vouchsafed the great honor of seeing the incarnate God, of hearing His holy words and seeing His wondrous miracles. Yet more blessed were the holy Myrrh-Bearing Women when they saw the angel sitting on the stone by the Savior’s empty tomb, who told them: Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, Which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen (Mt. 28:5-6). Yet even more blessed are those who haven’t seen the Savior with bodily eyes, but who believe in Him as the Son of God, as the Savior of the world.
The news of the Resurrection of Christ comforted not only the holy Myrrh-Bearing Women and the Apostles, but it became the joy of the whole world. Human hearts, which received the truth of Christ’s Resurrection by faith, were filled with a new grace-filled power, which instilled in people a bright hope of returning to Paradise and strengthened people in the fight against the evil that existed in the world.
Many people have so sincerely believed in the Resurrected Christ that they have completely given themselves to the service of God. They cleansed themselves of sin by repentance and united with their Creator, they humbled themselves under the will of the powerful God, and themselves became strong, becoming spiritual heroes. The holy Church calls such people earth angels.
And there are earthly angels in the world today, strong spiritual warriors who, by faith in the Risen Christ, overcome evil, and for whose sake the Lord has mercy upon all of us sinners. Such holy ascetics are often around us, but we’re not interested in them because we don’t see them. We believe the world lives for the sake of our economic, political, scientific, and other achievements, but in reality, the world lives for the sake of those righteous ones who have made room for the Resurrected Christ in their hearts—the Strong and Mighty God Who made them strong and mighty. Such people sacrificially love the entire world, they pray for us, and for their sake the Lord sends us, the unworthy ones, His mercy and generosity.
Today we humbly thank our Holy Creator that the word of the crucified and Resurrected Christ has reached our land. This saving Gospel was brought to our land by the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called. The holy Apostle Andrew taught us to believe in the Resurrected Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world; he taught us to live according to the holy Divine covenants and by such a life to testify to our love for God, Who so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (Jn. 3:16).
May every one of us, dear brothers and sisters, reasonably compel ourselves to build our lives on the sacred covenants of the Resurrected Christ, our God and Savior. Whoever lives according to the precepts of God protects not only himself from destruction, but also the surrounding world. Therefore, let us try to live in such a way that we might be the keepers of the world, not its destroyers.