The Serbian Orthodox Church
to her spiritual children at Pascha, 2015
By the Grace of God
Orthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch, with all the Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church to all the clergy, monastics, and all the sons and daughters of our Holy Church: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, with the joyous Paschal greeting:
Christ is Risen!
“Though Thou didst descend into the grave, O Immortal One, yet didst Thou destroy the power of Hades, and didst arise as victor, O Christ God, calling to the myrrh-bearing women, rejoice, and giving peace unto Thine Apostles, O Thou Who dost grant resurrection to the fallen.”
This song of immortality, our dear spiritual children, we sing ceaselessly during these days of our celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, which occurred, as the ancient seers of God's mysteries witnessed, on the same day of the week on which God created in the beginning - out of nothing - heaven and earth.
On that same day, according to those same mystery-perceivers, the Lord delivered His chosen people from Egyptian slavery; hence, we call it Pascha – that is, the passing-over from slavery into freedom in the Lord through the Red Sea.
Just a little before midnight on Saturday, April 11, 2015, the Blessed Sabbath, His Grace Bishop Maxim, the clergy, and the Orthodox faithful gathered at the Saint Steven's Cathedral to participate in the Feast of Feasts, Great and Holy PASCHA, the Resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
As the children of the Youth Chorale chanted the verse "Come Receive the Light", His Grace offered the Paschal Light of Christ to the faithful and after receiving the unwaning light the Easter procession around the Church began as the clergy and faithful sang, "The angels in heaven, O Christ our Saviour, sing of Thy resurrection. Make us on earth also worthy to hymn Thee with a pure heart". After returning to the closed doors at the front of the church, His Grace announced the Resurrection of Christ and the Easter Troparion was sung, "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life".
His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej officiated the Paschal Holy Hierarchal Liturgy at the Saint Sava Memorial Cathedral on Vracar in Belgrade at midnight.
The Paschal service was attended by President of the Republic of Serbia Mr. Tomislav Nikolic. Thousands of believers came to the Cathedral to welcome the Holy Fire, which this year, with the blessing of Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem and Serbian Patriarch Irinej was transferred from the holy city of Jerusalem to the Serbian capital.
Of all the days the Holy and Great Forty Day Fast is the most distinguished, but more than the Holy Forty Day Fast the Holy and Great Passion Week is exalted, and more than the days of Holy Week Great and Holy Saturday is the most exalted. This week is called great not because these days or hours are more exalted but because the great, portentous and extraordinary deeds of our Savior were accomplished during this week, but especially on this day.
Why do atheists and skeptics want to destroy faith?
During the long history of Christianity, there has never been a single miracle that skeptics and atheists have not tried to disprove. They have used and still use every possible means in this battle. Even St. John Chrysostom talked about those [the chief priests and Pharisees] who denied the miracle of the Resurrection, saying, “But note, I pray thee, their plotting, how ridiculous it is. They [the chief priests and Pharisees] say, ‘Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, “After three days I will rise again”’ (Matthew 27:63). Yet if He were a deceiver, and boastfully spoke falsehood, why are ye afraid, and why do ye rush about, and make such a commotion? They reply, ‘We are afraid that the disciples might steal Him away, and deceive the multitude.’ And yet it has been proved [in the previous paragraph of his homily] that this could in no way happen. Malice, however, is a thing obstinate and shameless, and attempts to do what is foolish” (The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of St. Matthew. Homily LXXXIX 2).
On Great and Holy Friday, Christ died on the Cross. He gave up His spirit with the words: “It is finished” (John 19:30). These words are better understood when rendered: “It is consummated.” He had accomplished the work for which His heavenly Father had sent Him into the world. He became a man in the fullest sense of the word. He accepted the baptism of repentance from John in the Jordan River. He assumed the whole human condition, experiencing all its alienation, agony, and suffering, concluding with the lowly death on the Cross. He perfectly fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”