Note: We are collecting and publishing all the encyclicals of various first-hierarchs for Pascha. We will be including them under the subheading “Paschal Epistles 2009”. As they come in from various sources we are putting them up. The Epistle was written before the arrest of Metropolitan Valentine. We received notice from Bp Andrei of Pavlovskoye that the Metropolitan was released approximately four hours after his arrest, and that further details concerning further prosecution at this time are unkown. The Metropolitan was able to hold the services for Good Friday after a delay, and the rest of the Holy Weekend continued as usual. NFTU
Paschal Epistle Of His Eminence Valentine
Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir
To the God-loving flock of the Russian Orthodox Church
Christ is risen!
Now does the Orthodox Church beam with pride and dance for joy, the Church on earth and in heaven, where death has been vanquished, for Christ is risen, and life abides for all eternity!
Mankind, in the person of its first parents, Adam and Eve, fell into the sin of disobedience to God, and thereby doomed itself to condemnation and spiritual death. As a result, not only mankind, but all of creation suffers and ails together with it, to the present day.
However, our all-merciful heavenly Father, through His only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, gave us the New Testament, which revealed to mankind that God is love, and does not desire that we should perish, for He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting. (John 3:16)
The resurrection of Christ, the Giver of life, is the guarantee of our own immortality. It is the type, or image, of the future general resurrection, the source of eternal life and victory over sin, condemnation and death. The risen Christ, Son of the living God, encompasses the entire world, since He is true God and true man.
From the risen Christ, we receive divine assistance to live out our lives in diligence and godliness. (2Peter 1:3)
We have been given the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, in which our Lord Jesus Christ unites us to Himself, reveals to us the source of that eternal and sinless life in the mansions of our heavenly Father, where the righteous shine forth like the sun. (Matthew 13:43)
St. Gregory the Theologian, speaking about the day of Pascha, said, “Great and holy is our Pascha – the Word of God, and Light, and Life, and Wisdom, and Strength! We celebrate the very resurrection, not that which is to come, but that which has already been accomplished, and which reconciles everyone in the universe with each other.”
During the days of holy Pascha, only the demons and their faithful servants fall into despondency, but we, Orthodox Christians, must rejoice with the risen Christ, despite even the fact that during this bright period of paschal joy, the representatives of our local government authority, in the persons of Mr. Poltavchenko and Mr. Gorlanov, are evicting us, Orthodox Christians, citizens of the ancient city of Suzdal, from our churches, which we restored from ruins, without giving us a single dime whereby we might erect another church to pray in.
During the 1990’s, Christians from the catacombs brought to Suzdal icons and liturgical vessels that they had carefully preserved from the totalitarian Communist regime, which had once beautified our churches. Now, our communities of believers, citizens, who spared no effort or even their own health, who have resurrected Orthodoxy in our city, are being thrown out of their churces.
We have been persecuted for twenty years. We have been repressed, we have been covered with slanderous accusations for having “sold ourselves out for American dollars,” for being agents of the CIA, for being guilty of every kind of mortal sin, we have been sued in the courts, and now they are taking our churches away. In truth, the horrible atrocities of the lawless 1930’s have come back to revisit us!
“Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” the Divine Teacher inquired of his disciples. “We are able,” the Apostles answered Him. “Ye shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with,” said our risen Christ, “and ye shall drink indeed of my cup.” To our great spiritual joy, to drink from this cup is now given to us, together with the opportunity to to be baptized with the baptism of the sufferings of Christ for the Church, Which He founded. It is a great honor to become co-sufferers in the passion of Christ and in the martyrdoms of the Saints who came before us. Especially coming as they do during these upcoming days of Holy Week, when the holy Church calls upon us to follow our Lord during His last days on the earth.
Neither our Church, nor any one of us, will inscribe ourselves into the new system of the prince of this world. “If we were of this world, the world would love us,” said Christ, “Ye will weep, but the world will rejoice, but take heart – I have overcome the world.”
We will, indeed, take heart throughout all of the difficulties foretold to us by our Lord. We will deepen our faith. We will increase our hope. And we will, indeed, rejoice that we have been given the opportunity to experience the passion of Christ through these trials and slanders. We will not permit our spiritual treasures of faith, hope, and love, to be lost in these coliseums of our day.
We will, indeed, dance for joy in the risen Christ. We will redouble our efforts in strengthening our Russian Orthodoxy, which has been revealed to us as the source of moral perfection, godliness, diligence, and has brought many faithful souls to their eternal salvation.
With a feeling of trembling love for our risen Lord, and for His much-suffering Church, we will carry the joy of our faith and love into our daily lives. We will be zealous for the glory of God, and we will flee from an attitude of indifference not only as regards our fellow man, but as regards the eternal salvation of our immortal souls, which is worth more than the entire world.
Beloved Flock in Christ of the Church of Russia! Be triumphant and rejoice, for…
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
With abundant love,
Valentine, Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir
Pascha. 2009. Suzdal