April 27, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2000 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

My beloved brethren,

The Orthodox Church is and is called the Church of the Resurrection, because it is closely connected with the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. The Resurrection is a historical event, which is confirmed by the testimonies of various historians, but mainly by the testimonies of eyewitnesses and people who sacrificed their own lives because of this event. The Apostles and the Myrrhbearing women saw Christ, heard Him and some of them touched Him. And, of course, they then gave their personal testimony about Him.

Christ after His Resurrection did not appear to His crucifiers and enemies to miraculously confirm His value. He could have done this to prove His divinity. But Christ has no need of worldly means to prevail. Christ appeared to His Disciples and the Myrrhbearing women, because they had properly prepared to see Him and thus this vision became life for them. According to the teaching of the holy Fathers of the Church, the vision of God and the presence of the Risen Christ is reached by the person who has previously been purified and illumined by the Grace of God, because he is able to withstand the sight of His great light.

Among the people who saw Christ was Mary Magdalene. Of course, as Saint Gregory Palamas says, the Panagia saw the Risen Christ first, but Mary Magdalene after the Panagia was the one who had this great blessing, and then she became the evangelist of the Evangelists.

She is called "Magdalene" because, as is claimed, she was from the region of Magdala. Christ healed her of the demon possession she had. The Evangelist Luke writes: "Seven demons were cast out of her", and she was included in the group of women who followed Christ and ministered to Him from their possessions (Luke 8:2-3). After the exorcism of the seven demons, as Saint Gregory Palamas says, "the divine Grace of the Spirit seven-fold" settled in her. Mary Magdalene attended the entombment of Christ, after she defied fear, together with Mary and Joanna and even "saw where" the body of Jesus was laid (Mark 10, 47). Then, together with the other women, she prepared to visit the tomb, after "they bought perfumes to come and anoint Him" (Mark 16:1). Then, she came together with the Panagia "to see the tomb" (Matt. 28:1). She saw, together with other women, the angels who announced to them the event of Christ's resurrection and conveyed it to the Disciples (Luke 24:9). Furthermore, having great zeal, she came alone to the tomb "while it was still dark" and was found worthy to see and worship Christ (Jn. 20:1-18). The vision (theoria) of the Risen Christ constitutes her deification (theosis).

It seems, then, that Mary Magdalene was cleansed of demons, received the energy of the Holy Spirit, acquired great zeal for the divine, all her inner powers were healed, after she also acquired fearlessness, was freed from selfishness, had communication with the Panagia, the Mother of Christ, she repeatedly went to the tomb, after she neutralized the fear that had gripped even the disciples, she was found worthy to see the angels and in the end she reached theosis with the theoria of the Risen Christ. The result of the theosis was her later sanctified life, her sacrificial death and her miraculous relic. Her memory is celebrated on the 22nd of July and the translation of her relics on the 4th of May each year.

The path followed by Mary Magdalene, the way of her life and the end of this path show the purpose and the end of all those who want to reach sanctification and deification (theosis), the vision (theoria) of the Risen Christ. The purification of the heart precedes, the illumination of the nous follows, and then deification is experienced. This is man's course, this is his method of healing, this is the method by which the purpose of his creation and existence is fulfilled.

My dear brethren,

These days we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and we rejoice exceedingly. However, we must not remain on an external level, but we must go deeper and begin to taste the mystery of the Resurrection and arrive one day to see "face to face" (A' Cor. 13:12) the Risen Christ. For this to happen we must imitate the way followed by Mary Magdalene. With our purification from the energies of the passions, which is done by the Grace of God, we can reach the vision of the Risen Christ. The holy Theophylaktos writes: "Every soul that has mastered the passions is called Mary. Having been cleansed through dispassion, behold Jesus, both God and man."

May the Grace of the Risen Christ be with you always.

With paternal prayers and blessings,


† HIEROTHEOS of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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