Patriachal Paschal Encyclical 2012
The Serbian Orthodox Church
to her spiritual children
at Pascha, 2012
By the grace of God
Orthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch, with the 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!
”This is the day which the Lord made;
Let us rejoice, and be glad in it”!
The Resurrection of Christ our Savior is, dear brothers and sisters and all our spiritual children throughout the inhabited world, “The Feast of Feasts, the celebration above all celebrations” – the Miracle above all miracles and the Gift above all gifts, which All-Mighty God, in His immeasurable mercy and love, has given to mankind. In this Gift are found all gifts; in this Blessing are found all blessings – as here on earth, so also in heaven (cf. Ephesians 1:3).
The world has been enlightened with the light of God’s truth, and mankind has been filled with great joy as the greatest treasure sent to us from above by God’s Providence.
That which the prophets of old and Godly inspired people prophesied thousands of years ago and communicated to the chosen people of God has taken place openly, magnificently and gloriously in the presence of a multitude of eyewitnesses (cf. I Cor. 15:4-8).
“Arise, O Lord, judge the earth!” (Psalm 82:8) – the prophet of God has written; and we, so many centuries later, sing that very same song knowing that it really has to do with Christ’s Resurrection.
The Resurrection affirms that man is created for eternity, for immortality, and not for ephemeral life.
The Holy Apostles, having seen His empty tomb, witnessed with their lives to that which they had heard, seen and touched with their hands (cf. I John 1:1), joyously and courageously proclaiming Christ’s Resurrection to the people in Jerusalem and Palestine (cf. Acts 4:20). They, with the Myrrhbearing Women, were the first heralds of the news that the Savior of the world, by His sacrifice on Golgotha and His glorious resurrection, has opened the door of God’s Kingdom to mankind “in which mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:11).
Christ’s Resurrection is not a joy given of this world. The source of that joy is God’s goodness and love; and it carries the seal of eternity. That joy’s existence and endurance is not dependent upon on the will and power of people, but rather on the almighty will and power of God. That is why the Savior has told His disciples that no one can take it away from them (cf. John 16:22).
By His glorious resurrection the Savior has given us life eternal (cf. Rom. 6:23), and the joy of eternal life, because “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:20) – joy, because the sacrifice for our salvation has been offered on the Cross, and we are called to freedom (cf. Gal. 5:13); joy, because we have been cleansed from the ancestral curse by the Most Pure Blood of the Savior (cf. I John 1:7); joy, because through the Resurrected Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, we enter “into the joy of our Master” (Matthew 25:21).
With Christ’s Resurrection the saving mystery of mankind’s redemption from sin and death has been accomplished. This new Pascha of the Lord reveals the truth that we have passed from death to life (cf. John 5:24); and that Christ remains with us in all the days until the end of the world (cf. Matthew 28:20).
When we know that the Lord is with us and in us, we must turn to Him, confess to Him our sorrow and trials. He will comfort us, strengthen us and lead us through this earthly life. Let us safeguard this gift of God within us and ever be watchful, dear spiritual children, so as not to offend our Lord with any sins.
Out of love for Him, let us not allow sins to blemish us. When attacked by the enemy, like the Apostle Peter let us cry out: “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).
Understandably, in life we will experience many trials, injustices and sadness. But know that the Lord, so long as we are with Him, turns the greatest sadness into joy, because He said to His disciples and Apostles: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The God-Man Himself has experienced much sadness, tribulation and suffering. On Great and Holy Friday the greatest and the most fearsome dual in the entire historical struggle between good and evil took place, the battle between truth and untruth, between life and death.
The most mysterious question asked by every man, which a few thousand years earlier was asked by the Righteous Job, is: “If a man dies, shall he live again”? (Job 14:14) Before this eternal question the greatest minds of the world bow their heads in silence. But we Christians know the meaning of our life, and have our hope – and our hope is in the Resurrected Lord. “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, yet shall he live.” – said the Savior of the world (John 11:25)
It is written somewhere that man begins to die the very day that he is born. But he also begins to resurrect to eternal life when he receives Christ as his Savior and Lord, that is, when he begins to live life according to Christ.
So that we may live according to the Gospel, dear brothers and sisters, it is necessary to arm ourselves with the whole armor of God, to put on the breastplate of righteousness (cf. Ephesians 6:13-14); but above all things to put on love, which is the bond of perfection (cf. Colossians 3:14).
“This I command to you” – said the sweet Christ – “that you love one another” (John 15:17); “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”, (John13:35); “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13); “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9).
This is the kind of commandment Christ has given us. No other law-giver, no other worldly wise man, could have brought more perfect and more salutary law: clear, simple, beneficial and all useful. This law is the basis for life, for where there is no love, hate, evil, vice, chaos, jealousy, malice, revenge, and the annihilation of life rule.
This law of Christ is attainable by all: learned and unlearned, rich and poor, healthy and sick, powerful and weak, genius and uneducated, old and young.
By His glorious Resurrection the Savior at the same time has revealed the steadfastness and life-creating nature of His Holy Church on earth, in which the Holy Spirit lives and works. She is a living organism of God and our Savior, Who personally manifests Himself in the Holy Liturgy through the sacred Mystery of Holy Communion, because the Holy Spirit guides and leads the Church, and not the spirit of this world.
All of us who ar baptized and enlightened by the Spirit of Truth have become the members of Christ’s Church. Therefore, all of us through the power of the faith given to us by God can say: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), always asking: what kind of member of Christ’s Church am I? Am I obedient to my Church which teaches me and my children towards goodness, chastity, holiness and nobleness?
By His resurrection Christ unites our loved ones, both living and those departed in the Orthodox faith, with us. With Him we know and feel that they are with us and we are with them connected with the unbreakable bonds of God’s eternal love.
This great day, this holy day, this the day of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through its meaning, its message and its teaching obligates all of us to safeguard and rightfully confess our Orthodox faith. Above all, it obligates us to safeguard human dignity, in everyone, and in ourselves. For the Son of God took upon Himself the sins of the entire world, suffered and resurrected, to make all people children of God (cf. Ephesians 1:5).
This Feast Day requires that we live our life in full awareness of our responsibility. The duties that we are to accomplish – whether in the home, or field, or in a factory in front of a machine, as educators and teachers, as clergy and preachers of Truth, as statesmen and leaders of this nation, must be done properly and responsibly. Always in the name of God Who has indebted us to redeem the time of our life with love and sacrifice, while being watchful that no one is brought to tears or becomes sorrowful because of us. Thanks to the Resurrected Lord, every innocently shed tear of man is saved in the bosom of the God-Man.
Therefore, dear spiritual children, lovingly safeguard the mystery of life established and sanctified by God Himself. Do this for our tranquility and the reputation of our nation, for our children – our biggest treasure, for whom you live and work. Of course, do this without leaving out true faithfulness and mutual forgiveness.
Respect and safeguard the sanctity of Christian marriage, because it is the foundation of an uplifted, healthy and upright family. Abortion, the greatest crime of this age, is spreading throughout our nation as a plaque. It is awful to even imagine that half of million unborn babies every year are deprived of life, and thus have never seen the light of the world. Husbands, have in mind the words of the Lord: “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment”. (Matthew 5:21)
On this great day of joy and life we greet our mothers, who with their love, day and night watchfully guard the cribs of their children. We greet the sick, despised, humiliated and imprisoned; we greet all the laborers and workers, travelers and those who intend well; teachers and students; we greet founders and donors, builders and benefactors. We pray with faith and hope for all those persecuted and driven from their homesteads, that the Lord may wipe away their every tear (cf. Revelation 7:17). We offer our unceasing prayers to our Resurrected Christ for our brothers and sisters in Kosovo and Metohija. We ask them to never give up in spirit and to remain faithful to their Orthodox faith on their and our ancestral homestead. Presenting to you, dear brothers and sisters, the meaning of the Holy Resurrection of Christ for all mankind, in fraternal love, we ask you to carefully and soberly discern the events and times in which we live. Let us discern good from evil, the temporary from the eternal, the permanent from the transient.
We pray to our Resurrected Lord that we may experience His Resurrection as our own resurrection and as deliverance from every kind of spiritual and moral illness and temptation!
May the luminous rays of Christ’s Resurrection illumine all of you in our Homeland, those of you living abroad and all people of good will.
“Do not be afraid, for I have overcome the world. I am the resurrection and the life, everyone who believes in Me, even if he dies, shall live”, the Resurrected Lord tells us so that we may know.
Christ is Risen!
Indeed He Is Risen!
Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade at Pascha 2012.
Your prayerful intercessors before the Risen Lord:
Archbishop of Pec,
Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and
Serbian Patriarch IRINEJ
Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana JOVAN
Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands AMPHILOHIJE
Metropolitan of Dabro-Bosna NIKOLAJ
Bishop of Sabac LAVRENTIJE
Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla VASILIJE
Bishop of Srem VASILIJE
Bishop of Banja Luka JEFREM
Bishop of Budim LUKIJAN
Bishop of Canada GEORGIJE
Bishop of Banat NIKANOR
Bishop of New Gracanica – Midwestern America LONGIN
Bishop of Eastern America MITROPHAN
Bishop of Zica CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Backa IRINEJ
Bishop of Great Britain and Scandinavia DOSITEJ
Bishop of Bihac and Petrovac CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Osijek and Baranja LUKIJAN
Bishop of Central Europe CONSTANTINE
Bishop of Western Europe LUKA
Bishop of Timok JUSTIN
Bishop of Vranje PAHOMIJE
Bishop of Sumadija JOVAN
Bishop of Slavonia SAVA
Bishop of Branicevo IGNATIJE
Bishop of Milesevo FILARET
Bishop of Dalmatia FOTIJE
Bishop of Budimlje and Niksic JOANIKIJE
Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina GRIGORIJE
Bishop of Valjevo MILUTIN
Bishop of Raska-Prizren TEODOSIJE
Bishop of Nis JOVAN
Bishop of Western America MAXIM
Bishop of Gornji Karlovac GERASIM
Bishop of Australia and New Zealand IRINEJ
Bishop of Krusevac DAVID
Retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina ATANASIJE,
Vicar Bishop of Hvostno ATANASIJE
Vicar Bishop of Jegar PORFIRIJE
Vicar Bishop of Moravica ANTONIJE
Vicar Bishop of Lipljan JOVAN
Vicar Bishop of Remezijan ANDREJ
THE ARCHDIOCESE OF OCHRID
Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje JOVAN
Bishop of Polos and Kumanovo JOAKIM
Bishop of Bregal and locum tenens of the Diocese of Bitolj MARKO
Vicar Bishop of Stobija DAVID
[Path of Orthodoxy translation]