Paschal Epistle of Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir, 2006

To the Reverend Pastors, Monastics,
and All Loyal Children of the Russian Orthodox Church

“Belief in the resurrection is the crown of faith and the stone upon which faith is tested. Belief in the resurrection separates the Christian from the non-Christian.”
Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky)
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Spiritually contemplating and celebrating the radiant day of the resurrection from the dead of Christ the Life-giver, His beloved bride, the Holy Orthodox Church, “Which He hath purchased with His Own Blood,” exults, calling her faithful children to enter into the joy of her Lord.

The most precious and pure possession that we have in this earthly life is the good news that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. This news ignites faith, strengthens hope, and
increases love.

Through this supernatural event of the victorious resurrection, God was well pleased to grant unto mankind both wonder, and wisdom. Just as during the time of the apostles, when the masses demanded to see miracles, and the more educated, such as the Greeks, sought wisdom (1 Cor. 1:22), the Christian faith increased the reputation of the Church of Christ, and introduced to the world the miracle of the resurrection of Christ.

It is essential to remember that while accepting or rejecting the news of Christ’s rising from the dead, we all, nevertheless, remain the same creatures of God as we were, capable of opening our souls and hearts to the call of our Creator. Man has been given the freedom of choice; to accept or to reject, to believe or not to believe.

Faith is a gift from God! A burning lamp is capable of being snuffed out by a strong burst of wind, or, to the contrary, is capable of being fanned into a bright flame, which gives light to all. On the eve of our Lord’s Passion and sufferings on the cross, treasuring the gift of faith, the Apostle Simon-Peter, in the name of the entire gathering of all of the apostles, asked Christ, his Lord and Divine Teacher, “Lord, increase our faith!”

“Confirm, O God, the holy Orthodox Faith and Orthodox Christians,” asks the holy Church of her Lord even until now. The Christian faith is founded on the immutable truth of the resurrection of Christ, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain,” says the holy Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:14).

We must feed the flaming fire of our faith with our love for God, actively intensifying our pursuit of the Christian virtues, so that “men may see your good works, and glorify your Father, Who is in heaven.” Hoping in God, and trusting in Him, no man has the right to deny His holy Church, “Which He hath purchased with His Own Blood,” or to hold his own vain opinions higher than His canons and rules, remembering that “only those, who are found to be in the Church may receive salvation, for it is only to the Church that the Lord has promised an eternal kingdom. (From the “Spiritual Meadow.”)

The most joyous feast of the Lord’s Pascha, annually renewed for us by the holy Church, should become for us the precursor of divine and eternal life. The soul must be renewed in God, and in the light of His resurrection.

Behind us now lies the field of great lent, which we have just finished; days of fasting and of feeling remorse for our sins. We are comforted by our Christian hope that the merciful God will forgive us our sins, just as He forgave the prodigal son, the repentant sinful woman, and the publican who amended his life.

The love of God strengthens us continually. The joy of theresurrection fills us with spiritual ecstasy and with a feeling of triumph of the truth of the kingdom of God.

We must not lose sight of the fact that these moments of triumphant joy will pass, and we will be left with our earthly vanities and cares, labors, sorrows, and illnesses, which will act to diminish the spark of faith, cool the soul, and try to drown out our spiritual joy. “If we do not work to keep the flame of faith going in our hearts, then because of our carelessness it may completely die out in us, and Christianity with all of its sacraments will become as something lifeless for us. This is exactly what the enemy strives for— to put out the fire of faith in our hearts and consign the truths of Christianity to forgetfulness,” as St. John of Kronstadt writes in his diary.

And then perhaps someone will say to us, “Where now is the triumph of the risen Christ? What has happened to the joy that was once in the human heart?” Knowing our weaknesses and wishing to help us in every way possible, the holy Church has equipped us with rules and regulations, services and rituals, through the keeping of which we can gain and increase zeal for God, which is an inexhaustible fountain of good deeds and of an all God-pleasing life; it is a bush that burns and is yet unconsumed. If you stop up a fountain, the flow of refreshing and life-giving water will cease; if you restrain zeal,beneficence and all thoughts about pleasing God will end. If you put out a fire, there will be no light, no warmth; if you extinguish zeal, the soul will not be inclined to any good thing, and its life in God will grow completely cold,” St. Theophan the Recluse says.

So then, an active faith increases love, and gives strength to hope. It suffices for us to recall St. Seraphim of Sarov; all of his life was lived in the joy of the risen Christ, and he greeted everyone who came to him at any time of the year or of the day with the comforting words, “My Joy, Christ is Risen!”

Dearly beloved in the Lord, Fathers, brothers, and sisters of the holy, much-suffering Orthodox Church of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, I direct to you the triumphant words of our faith, Christ is Risen! And mutually responding to you in turn, I proclaim, Truly He is Risen! And my prayerful and ardent desire for you is to find this grace-filled Paschal joy on this auspicious and holy day!

Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir
Pascha, 2006