May 24, 2023

Pascha as a Passage (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Pascha as a Passage

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

I have the great joy today, on the day of Pascha, of the Resurrection of Christ, to have this communication through television and the internet with all the Christians who live both in the Sacred Metropolis of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou as well as in the Sacred Metropolis of Aetolia and Akarnania, of which I am the Vicar during this time, and to address this bright greeting, "Christ is Risen!"

There is no greater greeting that has within it the element of joy, hope, optimism and love. It is the day of the Resurrection of Christ. We say "Pascha, the Lord's Pascha." The word Pascha is Hebrew and means "passage". It is a passage.

First and foremost is the passage from death to life. Death is a biological event that we carry within us from the moment the first sperm was fertilized, from the moment we were conceived in our mother's womb. And then inside that first sperm, in the first cell, there were the genes of aging and diseases. And since then we carry this death. Therefore, what we call death is not the final event, when man loses communication with the environment, when the soul leaves the body, but death is an event that we have within us from the first moment of our conception, and this is seen with age, with diseases, with elderliness and many other things.

Death is a heavy burden, but with the Resurrection of Christ we know that it is overcome; it is overcome from the point of view that we are not possessed by the fear of death and we have the certainty that the removal of the soul from the body is a temporary event, as I said before, and that the resurrection of the dead will also take place.

However, beyond biological death there is also spiritual death, which is man's alienation from God. God is the life of people and the one who turns away from God, who is life and light, experiences a peculiar spiritual death, which can also be a psychological death. When a person feels loneliness, weakness from life's problems, isolation, despair, distance from people, deprivation of loved ones, he experiences psychological and emotional death.

Therefore, Pascha means a passage from death to life. Christ is life and he who is connected to Christ truly lives. "One does not truly live," says Saint Gregory of Nyssa, "unless they have true life," that is, Christ.

But Pascha, which means passage, is also a passage from religion to the Church. Religion is the state that is distinguished by three characteristic features.

The first characteristic of religion is magic. That is, one feels that God is angry, that he is far from God, there is a wall between man and God and he must use some ways in order to overcome this wall and reach communion with God. This is the hallmark of magic. Secondly, it is the characteristic of superstition. It is the identification of the created with the uncreated, of creation with God. And the third is mysticism, as advocated by Plato and the later Neoplatonic philosophers, namely, that the soul was in the world of ideas, it fell, it was enclosed in the body, it has a memory of the world of ideas and now it must leave the body and return to the world of ideas. This is mysticism. So what we call religion consists of these three characteristics: magic, superstition and mysticism.

The Resurrection of Christ gave us something else; it gave us meaning; it gave us the possibility to leave religion and go to the Church. It is a passage from magic, superstition and mysticism to life in Christ. It is life and communion with God, which is done through Baptism, prayer and the entire sacramental life that the Church has.

Pascha is today, and indeed it is a passage from a cold ideology to life and communion. Ideology is connected with human reason, with rationalism, with creating various ideological systems, which do not give rest to the human spirit. Because it knows, as psychology teaches and says today, namely existential psychology, or existentialism, that beyond reason there is another world that is not so controlled by reason. So one can say that Pascha is a transition from ideology to life, to love. Basically, to love God and others, because this creates fullness of life.

Pascha is even a passage from love for one's self to love for others and love for the divine. Selfishness is self-love, but, according to Saint Maximus the Confessor, it is "the irrational love for the body." This is called self-indulgence and it is the greatest sin that exists in today's age. Therefore, Pascha is the passage from selfishness to philanthropy and philothea. Whoever is self-loving and closed in on himself and excessively loves the body and the demands of the body and is indifferent, of course, to the soul, cannot be a philanthropist and cannot be a philotheist; he cannot love God and love man.

Therefore, this is Pascha. That is, in other words, Pascha is the passage from death to life, from religion to the Church, from ideology to love and life and, of course, from selfishness to philanthropy and philotheism.

This is the work of Christ, this is the work of the Church.

Happy and blessed Pascha! Let us experience this passage towards life and love!

Christ is Risen, brethren!

Source: A Paschal Message from 2022. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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