True Orthodoxy in Greece

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”. If you have a copy of an Epistle we aren’t aware of, use our contact form above– let us know! NFTU

[Read during the Divine Liturgy of the Sunday of Holy Pascha in the parishes throughout Greece belonging to the Genuine Orthodox Church (Synod of Metropolitan Cerycus).]

“We celebrate the slaying of death,

the dethronement of hades, and

a new life of eternal renewal.”

Beloved brethren and children in the Lord,

We, your spiritual shepherds, have the habit of preparing and delivering “Paschal Epistles” during this time of the Bright and Joyous Resurrection. Many of these may have a deep meaning and are rich in theological and pastoral technicality, but are poor in regards to teaching one how to live spiritually and resurrectionally

We tend to voice to one another our paschal greeting without making this greeting apply to our own personal death and resurrection. And this is because the idea of “co-resurrection with Christ” is missing within us, even though this is the means whereby our Savior’s Resurrection lives within us. We are missing within us the “slaying of the hades of sinfulness” and the immediately followed “new life of eternal renewal.”

This mystery of the co-resurrection of mankind with the Risen Christ is the mystery of our salvation. And as a mystery it cannot be circumscribed, it cannot be analyzed. On the contrary, it can only be lived. And this way of life means that the kingdom of sin is shattered within us, the locked gates of hades are broken, and only then does the light of the Resurrection shine within us. Otherwise, no matter how much we greet one another with “Christ is Risen,” and no matter how much we preach with our mouths and lips the response “Truly He is Risen,” if we yet remain in the tomb of indifference, evil, pride and lack of repentance, we remain outside of the mystery of salvation.

In such a manner, although we say with great words, and although we print fantastic greetings, although we feel an apparent worldly joy, we do not meet the Risen Christ. On the contrary, we deny him by our evil actions. We, from the Royal Doors exclaim “Come receive ye the light, of the unwaning light,” and you all run to light your candles. And despite all of this, we remain for the most part in darkness. Because, if by our sinful life we extinguish the light within us, how overwhelming is the darkness? If our lips voice “we celebrate the slaying of death” and yet we live as though we are dead, hopeless and careless towards the spiritual things, and if we are not moved by the plea of St. Joseph of Arimathea to ask for the body of Jesus for burial, and if we are not inspired by the courage of St. Nicodemus and the bravery of the myrrh-bearing women, and if we remain in the tomb of denial and of faithlessness, then what use is it for us to say “Christ is Risen?”

How can we work towards our exit from the tomb of sinfulness? How can we celebrate a true Pascha? Through co-resurrection! But first we must pass through the road of co-crucifixion. To walk with Christ towards Golgotha and be lifted up on the Cross with Him is of great necessity for the achievement of co-resurrection. And this walking with Christ and being lifted up on the cross with Him, receives its worth and becomes a reality only through humility and contrition. Even if we directly deny the Teacher, there is still a way of returning to the right road and walking with Him. For, after his third denial of Christ, upon hearing the cock cry thrice, St. Peter “went out and cried bitterly.”

Only the humiliated and brokenhearted know the road of repentance and contrition. And only those who have passed through their own personal Golgotha of humility and martyrdom (which in this case means repentance), and have reached the empty tomb, live resurrectionally and are given a foretaste of the inexpressible joy of eternity. Only those who know Christ in their lives as the “slain lamb” see him as the conqueror of death, because only they understand the meaning “he came victorious and that he may conquer.”

Beloved brethren, as always, even today the road towards Golgotha is the road that is directed by the true Church of Christ. Rather, the Church is the only road towards Golgotha. It is the only way towards Resurrection. It is the Church of the Cross and the Resurrection. They who remain as members of the Church, they who hold unadulterated and uncounterfeited the good Confession (that is, Orthodoxy, which cannot be understood without Orthopraxy, which is walking with and being crucified with Christ), only they indeed rise up to the martyric road of Golgotha, only they really celebrate the Resurrection, only they are deemed worthy of co-resurrection with Christ, and only they experience the reality of the Paschal greeting:

“Christ is Risen! – Truly He is Risen!”

Your fervent supplicant before the Risen Lord,

+ Metropolitan Cerycus of Mesogaea and Laureotica

Sunday of Pascha, April 6/19, 2009, Athens, Greece.

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