April 16, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2023 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

by the mercy of God Bishop and Metropolitan
of the God-saved Sacred Metropolis
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

the Clergy, Monks and Laity
of our Sacred Metropolis

Beloved children in the Lord,

This year we are again celebrating the great event of the Resurrection of Christ, which is the triumph of life over death, showing that death has been defeated, Hades has been put to death, life has risen from the grave. All the resurrection troparia speak of this great event. In this perspective we celebrate Pascha, as we chant: "Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha; for Christ God has brought us from death unto life, and from earth unto Heaven."
However, we all continue to be, to varying degrees, under the state of death, spiritual and physical death, since other people live without the Risen Christ, in the darkness of sin, and in general, when the time comes, we all die, and that is why we weep over the death of our loved ones, but we also live with the fear of our own death. The question is how is it explained that we celebrate Christ as the victor of death and that death continues to exist and torment us?
Before the incarnation of Christ and His Resurrection, people died and their souls went down to Hades, the land of death, even the righteous. After the Resurrection of Christ and the blessing we have of living in the resurrected Body of Christ, with Holy Baptism and the Mysteries of the Church, physical death still prevails, but different other possibilities were created. First, people with the power of Christ do not fear death, that is, they are liberated from the fear of death; secondly, the soul of the person who is connected to Christ does not go to the darkness of Hades, but "in the land of the living", "in the dwelling-place of the righteous", in the heavenly Divine Liturgy, as described in the Book of the Revelation of John; and thirdly, there is the certainty of the resurrection of those bodies that are now buried on earth, so that the whole man may live with Christ.
This is the meaning of the triumphant event of the Resurrection of Christ, which is not full of hope of life, but of the certainty of eternal life, which begins now and will continue to be completed in the future age.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa gives an answer to this question. He writes that with the birth of Christ "the Sun of Righteousness appeared to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death" and with all His work "He crushed the many heads of the dragon by treading on it with His foot and crushing it and trampling it to the ground."

Continuing, he answers those who said: "How is this possible, since murders and thefts, sins and worse crimes continue to be committed even today?" Could we say death was conquered, while we see the shadow of death around us and live with the knowledge that the time will come to die?
Using an example, Saint Gregory of Nyssa says that "when we kill a snake, we see that the whole snake does not die together with the head, but while the head is dead, the rest of the body is alive and shows its anger, without having been deprived of its life force."
This is what Christ did. He defeated the devil-dragon, crushed its head, "the force that undoes good", but "allows the movement to remain in the dead beast, as an occasion of struggle for posterity." That is, God allows the existence of death to give us the possibility to fight with the power of the resurrected Christ.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa then explains:

"Therefore, He Who destroyed the might of death, crushed the power contained in the serpent’s head, as the Prophet says. The rest of the beast’s body, dispersed in human life, as long as mankind is motivated by evil, always roughens life with the scales of sin. The serpent’s power is now dead, since its head has been rendered useless, but as time passes and things endowed with motion come a standstill at the awaited consummation of this life, then the tail, the enemy’s last remaining part, that is, death, is annulled. In this way evil will completely disappear, when all are recalled to life through the resurrection: the righteous will immediately be transported to celestial bliss, while those held in the grip of sins will be consigned to the fire of Gehenna" (On the Nativity of Christ).

Beloved brethren,
This wonderful discourse of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, which expresses the entire tradition of the Church, clearly shows that with the Resurrection of Christ, the devil and death were defeated, its head was put to death. Still, however, death moves among us. And as long as we live sacramentally and ascetically in the Church which is the Body of the Risen Christ, we can from now on defeat the devil and the death that comes from him, having the certainty of our participation in the comprehensive triumph of the Resurrection with the Second Coming of Christ.
With these resurrectional thoughts, celebrating the death of the head of the serpent by the Risen Christ and awaiting the final resurrection of all people, I exclaim: "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs, bestows life."

Christ is Risen beloved children in the Lord.
With paternal blessings,

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *