April 28, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2001 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

My beloved brethren,

After forty days of fasting, prayer and spiritual struggle, we arrived at the day of Pascha, which is the feast of the Resurrection of Christ, "the feast of feasts and celebration of celebrations." The Resurrection of Christ is the supreme event of the mystery of Christ's incarnation, a central event in the festive cycle of our Church that defines the entire ecclesiastical year.

The Orthodox Church is and is called the Church of the Resurrection, because the Resurrection of Christ determines our lives both in the present and in the future. The Apostle Paul clearly says: "If Christ is not raised, our faith is in vain" (1 Cor. 10:17). And in the Catechetical Discourse of Saint John Chrysostom, which we read in the Resurrection Divine Liturgy, among other things it says: "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep."

In the Orthodox tradition, the Cross is closely associated with the Resurrection of Christ. Through the Cross the state of death was defeated and through the Resurrection the soul of Christ, which descended into Hades, re-entered the incorruptible Body of Christ, which was also resurrected, since the divinity was not separated from either His body or His soul.

While the Orthodox Church connects the Cross with the Resurrection of Christ and gives great importance to the Resurrection, as the culmination of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, to the contrary, Catholics give great importance to the Cross, which they interpret differently than the Fathers of the Church.

In the Orthodox Church we live the truth that Christ was crucified out of love for the human race. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Christ on the Cross and with His Resurrection defeated death and in this way gave man the best medicine to overcome death in his personal life. The center of our life is the Resurrection of Christ, through which, as Saint Gregory of Nyssa says: "The kingdom of life came, and the kingdom of death was overthrown. And there was another birth, another life, another kind of life, a transmutation of this nature of ours."

On the contrary, the papal theologians support the view that Christ with His sacrifice on the cross, atoned for God's justice, which had been offended by the sin committed by Adam and Eve in Paradise. In this way they present God to be possessed by the characteristic features of sinful man, which are anger and insult, and that it is necessary to atone for His justice and to restore the honor He lost through the sin of man. In other words, they present God the Father as if He needed to shed the Blood of His only begotten Son, which gives Him great joy. However, Saint Gregory the Theologian writes that it is strange to support the view that the Father asked for the Blood of His Son or that He needed it. The truth is that the Blood of Christ was shed on the Cross to sanctify man by the human nature of the Son of God, so that God could free us from death and bring us back to Him through the mediation of the Son. For, as Saint Gregory the Theologian asks: "What is the reason the blood of the Only-begotten delights the Father?" Precisely because the Catholics interpret Christ's sacrifice on the Cross as an atonement for the justice of the Father and as a restoration of God's honor that was insulted, that is why they emphasize Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and ignore or underestimate His Resurrection. They are not so much interested in the victory of life over death as in the restoration of offended divine justice! They are not interested in the healing of human nature, but in fact, as strange as it may seem, the ...healing of God!!

This, of course, has many consequences for all ecclesiastical practices. In the Orthodox Church we talk about the love of God, which is His uncreated energy, through which we are saved, as well as we talk about the healing of our nature. That is, we struggle to be healed and to feel God's love. On the contrary, in papal theology there is talk of the effort that must be made to satisfy God's justice. Therefore, it is perceived that the whole effort of asceticism has a distinctly different character and perspective.

My beloved brethren,

The Resurrection of Christ that we celebrate these days gives us the opportunity to see the achievements of the great work of Christ through the deification of man and the renewal of all creation, the necrosis of death and the resurrection of the bodies at the Second Coming of Christ. In general, it enables us to feel God's love for all of us, after, of course, we first acquire spiritual senses to grasp the magnitude of God's love.

The Orthodox Church preserved all this apocalyptic truth, which gives rest to our soul and fills us with joy and spiritual exultation and arms us with hope and faith. The Orthodox Church has not been secularized, but remains the Church of the Resurrection, which helps us to gain a sense of God's love, to defeat death and to gain the certainty of the Resurrection.

On the occasion of today's great feast, I address you the resurrection greeting: "Christ is Risen"!

With paternal prayers and blessings,

† HIEROTHEOS of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *