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Paschal Encyclical 2008

 
The Serbian Orthodox Church to her spiritual children at Pascha, 2008

P A V L E

By the grace of God
Orthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch, with 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!

“Today all is filled with light,
 heaven and earth and the lower regions;
 therefore, let all creation celebrate the resurrection of Christ,
 for in Him we are established.”


With these words of the great church hymnographer we congratulate you all on the Feast Day of Christ’s resurrection, and greet you, dear spiritual children, with the greeting,


CHRIST IS RISEN!

After Great and Holy Friday, the greatest tragedy of mankind, but also the glory of God when man became a merciless judge of God’s Love, when man judged and killed the God-Man Christ, when a lie, deceit, and delusion triumphed over the crucified Christ, when heaven and earth and the lower regions became ashamed because of the evil act of mankind, and when the darkness enwrapped everything – behold the Day of the Passover of the God-Man Christ from death to life, from the darkness of the tomb into the light of the Day. Behold the Day above all days, the Time above all times, in which He has shattered the chains of sin, death, and the devil with which mankind and all of nature were imprisoned. Behold the day of our freedom and joy! With the Resurrection of Christ, everything and all is filled with a new light of life, a light in which we are established. Therefore, let us rejoice and be glad in the Lord’s Pascha, the Feast Day of freedom and life. Those imprisoned by darkness most of all rejoice in the freedom of light. With the Resurrection of Christ, the centuries old injustice brought upon man by sin and death has been conquered. The holy apostle Paul, overtaken by the resurrectional delight, victoriously asks: O death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory? They are no more!  For the sting of death has been broken, and Hades has been emptied, and the prisoners of Hades have been freed.

The light of the world has shone forth from the tomb like the Sun, just as before the passion it had shone on Mount Tabor. Let all creation rejoice in the Resurrection of Christ, for through its might the weak and helpless become strong and powerful. In the Resurrection of Christ the entire universe has been changed. This is why the Resurrection is a new creation of the world and a new birth of man, this time from the very Life which the Resurrected Christ bestows upon the world and man. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” says the Lord of Himself.


The Resurrected Lord appeared to the myrrhbearing women and the frightened apostles, who out of fear of the Jews had run away. And gathering them again around Himself, He fortified their faith by saying to them: Do not fear, I have conquered the world! — the world which only a few days earlier had condemned Him and crucified Him on the Cross. In like manner, He today and always gathers all of us around Himself and says to us: do not be afraid, for I have conquered the world! Having seen and experienced the glory of Him resurrected, let us glorify Him and proclaim to the world: Christ is risen, O ye people! Christ is Risen, let us glorify Him! Christ is Risen, believe O ye people, for “we proclaim that which our eyes have seen, and our hands have touched” as the holy apostle and evangelist John the Theologian says, “so that you too believing may have eternal life”. Our faith is the faith of the cross-resurrection experience. We know, and this is why we believe. The knowledge obtained through experience is the greatest confirmation of faith.


Before his suffering, burial and resurrection, our Lord brought three of his disciples to the peak of a very high mountain. That was Mount Tabor. On this mountain, in the mystery of His transfiguration, He revealed to them the mystery of His divine nature within Him, the nature which they and the entire world would come to know through experience after His resurrection. The manifestation of the divine nature and glory was accompanied with the light of the uncreated grace which is in Christ and which the world has received through the Resurrection of Christ. The world without Christ is a world of darkness. The world with the resurrected Christ is a world of eternal light, the light which enlightens every part of our soul and our entire being. This is why we are children of the light. From Him Who is the Light of Life we have received light to shine forth in this world. This is why the Lord says to us: “May your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify our Father Who is in heaven”.


Only the resurrected Christ is the cornerstone of our faith and of our life. At the same time He is the cornerstone and divine-human head of our holy Church. Another stone has no one laid, nor can anyone lay. When the disciples asked St. John the Baptist whether the Christ was the One which was to come or whether they should wait for another one, he said to them: His sandal strap I am not worthy to loose! The holy prophet, forerunner, and baptizer of the Lord St. John said this — he who laid his hand upon the head of the Savior. If then he who is the greatest ever born of woman said this, how is it then that somebody can proclaim himself the visible head of the Church, infallible and vicar of the Son of God here on earth? God forbid! Our Holy Church with all her priests and the faithful people stands firmly in the Christ-Resurrected Faith of the holy prophets, apostles, martyrs and saints. At the same time, we are the Church to which God gives strength to be a Church of dialogue with all people and nations, calling all of them to the enlightenment of with the light of the Resurrected Christ. We do not withdraw within ourselves, nor do we shut in Christ within the narrow confines of our mind. On the contrary, we shine the light upon the world and witness the Truth to others, as did the holy apostles, saints, and martyrs. This is how the world recognizes that we are Christ’s, for the Holy Apostle Paul says: “I was everything to all in order to gain somebody for the Gospel of Christ…”


What is the resurrection of Christ for us who live 2000 years after it happened? Is it only a recollection or memory? Is it only a celebration, or is it something more and something deeper? The grace of Christ’s resurrection is the inexhaustible fountain of the salvation of man and of the world in every place and age. It is the absolute and complete change of man and of the world that the God-Man Christ has brought with his coming and resurrection. So then, Christ’s Resurrection has the same and equal strength and power for us today, 20 centuries later, as it did for His contemporaries. The Holy Apostle Paul assures us that we eternally live with Christ, for “…through one Man’s righteous act [that is, the resurrection] the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” (Romans 5:18) “…Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him…likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6: 9-11). The past, the present, and the future have been saved by the Resurrection.


In these days of Paschal joy, in this time of divine mercy toward all and everybody, we cannot but remember the human injustice and violence of the mighty of this world inflicted upon our Kosovo and Metohija, our Serbia and the entire Serbian nation. Kosovo and Metohija are an integral part of every Serb’s life, as every Serb is a part of Kosovo and Metohija. Knowing this, the creators of this historic injustice wanted to inflict the deepest possible wound, unbearable pain and suffering, the pain and suffering which directs us to the single, salvific suffering on Golgotha of our Lord.


Kosovo and Metohija is not only a question of Serbian territory. Above all it is a question of our spiritual beings, because we were born, grew, lived and matured with Kosovo and Metohija as individuals and as a nation. We have lived and died by the Kosovo testament: “The earthly kingdom is transient, while the heavenly kingdom is forever!” This is why the question of Kosovo and Metohija is so vitally, psychologically and anthropologically connected with every one of us. This is well known to the mighty of this world, and this is why they collectively wish to hurt and punish the Serbian Orthodox people; they wish to break and crush them in order to make out of us a defaced mass ready to fall down on our knees before them, surrendering to their will and manipulation. By submitting ourselves to Christ’s will and His teachings, we bring light upon their unlawful acts, their hypocrisy, similar in many ways to Pilate’s washing of hands in the blood of the Righteous One.


Having Kosovo and Metohija in our hearts and our unceasing care for our brothers and sisters and all those that suffer there, having a living Kosovo and Metohija within ourselves day and night, no one will take them away from us. The Homeland is the heart of man, says one poet. Within our hearts we have placed Kosovo and Metohija. We call upon all Orthodox Serbs to fulfill the Kosovo covenant in full, and that is the Holy Lazar’s testament. If we complete that covenant no one will take Kosovo and Metohija away from us, neither in this nor that age, just as no one could have taken Holy Jerusalem from the Jewish people. We call upon all of you, beginning with politicians and scholars down to the most humble and youngest sons and daughters of our Homeland, that with their work and honorable lives we be deserving of and preserve Kosovo and Metohija before God.


Let scholars with their scientific work defend Kosovo and Metohija; let artists with their creativeness express the beauty and the essence of our Kosovo and Metohija; let athletes vow their successes to Kosovo and Metohija; let every parent have Kosovo and Metohija be a first word to whisper in his newborn’s ears; let every farmer dedicate his first hour of labor to Kosovo and Metohija; let every worker dedicate his first hour of work to Kosovo and Metohija; let every politician dedicate his first political thought to Kosovo and Metohija, let every pastor offer his first prayer to God for Kosovo and Metohija!


This is the call to the unending battle that will be well pleasing to God, and our prayer will be heard by God, for we do not give the question of Kosovo and Metohija into the hands of deceiving people and their interests, but rather to God and His judgment. Just as the Psalmist of old sings of the unjustly taken and destroyed Jerusalem, we too must sing in the spirit of the Kosovo covenant: If we forget you Kosovo, if we forget you Metohija, let then the right hand of the Lord forget me! Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not put forward Kosovo and Metohija as the beginning of my joy.


Dear spiritual children, we live in a hard and critical time of globalization, in a time of the abolishing of basic human rights: the right of man to life; the right of a baby to be born; the right of parents to raise and guide their children; the right of a mother to be a loving and caring mother of her children and a wife to her husband, the right of man to be a man! A strange civilization of globalization is being created according to the measure of deformed moral values, that is, immorality, without the yeast which gives human life eternal meaning. Such a civilization which is in direct opposition to the Resurrected Christ and His Gospel cannot survive. Being mindful of this, let us be wise and cautious when we approach this strange table of worldly offers and delights. Let us choose wisely only that which is worthy of Christ; let us choose that which is worthy of our calling and dignity. Let us refuse all that is of pseudo-civilization, distorted and inhuman, just as Christ refused all the offers of the Devil: if you bow down to me all this that you see will be yours! We know the true answer: It is written: serve only God, and to Him only bow down!


We especially greet our brothers in the diaspora: in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Europe. We greet and call them to unite in our Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, that they never again let others divide them and make them quarrel among themselves.


We also greet our brothers and sisters in the Republika Srpska and Bosna and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. We greet the entire Church of God spread throughout the world and among people of good will. We call all to peace, unity and a good witness before all those outside. Let us renew ourselves with the resurrected Christ, and let us shine with good and virtue in this world. Gathered at the Divine Liturgy, in good witnessing of the Truth, let brother embrace brother, let us greet one another, heaven, and earth, with the all-joyous greeting:

 
Christ Is Risen!
Indeed He Is Risen!

Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade at Pascha 2008.
Your prayerful intercessors before the Crucified and Resurrected Lord:

Archbishop of Pec,

Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and
Serbian Patriarch PAVLE

Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana JOVAN

Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands AMPHILOHIJE
Metropolitan of Midwestern America CHRISTOPHER
Metropolitan of Dabro-Bosna NIKOLAJ
Bishop of Sabac LAVRENTIJE
Bishop of Nis IRINEJ
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 for America and Canada (New Gracanica Metropolitanate) LONGIN
Bishop of Eastern America MITROPHAN
Bishop of Zica CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Backa IRINEJ
Bishop of Great Britain and Scandinavia DOSITEJ
Bishop of Ras and Prizren ARTEMIJE
Retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina ATANASIJE
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 Western America MAXIM
Bishop of Gornji Karlovci GERASIM
Bishop of Australia and New Zealand IRINEJ
Vicar Bishop of Hvostno ATANASIJE
Vicar Bishop of Jegar PORFIRIJE
Vicar Bishop of Lipljan TEODOSIJE
Vicar Bishop of Dioclea JOVAN
Vicar Bishop of Moravica ANTONIJE
THE ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF OCHRID
Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje JOVAN
Bishop of Polos and Kumanovo JOAKIM
Bishop of Bregal MARKO


[Path of Orthodoxy translation]

 



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