1985 (2) Paschal Epistle 1930
Paschal Epistle - 1930
“It is the Day of Resurrection, let us be radiant O ye people; Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha: for from death to life, and earth to heaven, Christ God hath brought us, as we chant the hymn of victory.”
During these sacred days, believers have a foretaste of that endless joy of which they will be counted worthy in the other world, after the end of their earthly life. The grace of God promised us in the life to come enters into the hearts of those who pray on this grace-filled day, and they have a foretaste of the joy of the days to come. Of this the Lord spoke thus: “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:35, 36).
You see, we are called to be the children of the resurrection; in this lies the essence of our hope, which “we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 6:19, 20).
Ordinary people usually do not feel this joyous truth: they do not even wish to think about this joyous hope, letting slip out of their hands, by their own negligence, the “anchor of that hope,” which reconciles us to the injustices of the life which surrounds us, returning to the hearts of pious people only during the special holy hours of their earthly lives, and primarily on the night of the Resurrection of Christ.
This is what happened seventy years ago in the lives of Orthodox Christians in Syria and in Palestine. At that time the godless Moslems exterminated all the Orthodox Arabs in those parts. After unsuccessful attempts to persuade them to renounce Christ and accept Islam, they bound the Christians and laid them on the ground, face down; then, holding above their heads a wood-cutting saw, they shouted at them: “Say ‘There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet!’” This took place during the days of Holy Pascha, when the local Christians glorify our Lord Jesus Christ with particular enthusiasm, not only in the churches, but also in the streets, putting away all their fear. And there they were, bound and cast upon the ground, unable even to raise their heads, and they answered: “No! We say: Christ is risen from the dead!” The Moslems then sawed off their heads from the back and cast them away from their lifeless bodies.
Tell me, who is more blessed – these children of the resurrection who, daring the tortures preliminary to death, so courageously spurned the temptation of apostasy, or our fathers and grandfathers who enjoyed freedom and also rejoiced during the days of Christ’s Resurrection, but who frequently darkened that joy by gluttony and drunkenness? For wine has never been a friend of chastity and purity, as St. Basil the Great said. Only those who are “pure in heart” (Matt 5:8) are able to see God. The Apostle Paul writes to the Hebrews on the same subject: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
It is not for everyone, and it is not always easy to be at peace with everyone, when the scum of the earth, led by the enemies of Christ, i.e., those who have rejected Him, have seized control of the Holy Russia and perform their blasphemies around the holy churches on the night of the Resurrection of Christ and on the day of His Nativity. However, neither the tribulations of Christ’s flock, nor the burned-out and demolished holy churches and monasteries should take from us the joy of the Resurrection. “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (Jn. 16:22) – thus said the Lord to His disciples on the night of His betrayal.
If we were always to keep before the eyes of our mind these indubitable truths, we would not fall into despair among the physical and spiritual sufferings we are enduring, but would firmly believe him who said: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, .... reserved in heaven for you? (I Peter 1:3, 4). Let us also take to heart these other words of the apostle: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire ....” (I Peter 1:6, 7).
Fourteen years ago such a call to joy amid sufferings would not have been completely understood by Russian society: but now, for the poor Russian exiles and refugees, these consoling words fall upon their very heart, for the words of St. Paul apply to us: “For ye. . . took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34).
The door to these goods was opened to us by the Lord on the feast of His resurrection from the dead. Therefore, without dwelling upon any of our sorrows, let us cry aloud: “This is the day which the Lord made; let us rejoice exceedingly and be glad therein.” (Ps. 117:24).
Translated from Zhizneopisanie Blazhenneishago Antonia, Mitropolita Kievskago i Galitskago. [The Biography of Blessed Metroplitan Anthony of Kiev & Galicia], Vol V (In the Emigration: 1920-1936), (NY: North American & Canadian Diocese, 1959), pp. 246-248.