May 3, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2005 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

My beloved brethren,

In the season of spring we celebrate the spring of life, which is connected with the Resurrection of Christ, which is the prelude to our own resurrection. The Resurrection of Christ is the sweetest milestone in the history of humanity, but also the faith and life of true Christians.

The Orthodox Church is and is called the Church of the Resurrection. And this is important because Western Christianity honors more the Birth of Christ and His Crucifixion, while the Orthodox Church, without underestimating these two Great Despotic Feasts, gives great importance to the Resurrection of Christ, since Christ with His Resurrection defeated death and gave the certainty to all of us that we too will defeat death in Christ and taste of the first and second resurrection. The words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth are important: "If Christ is not raised, our preaching is empty, and your faith is also empty...your faith is in vain" (1 Cor. 10:14, 17).

The Orthodox Church, even by foreign scholars, was called the Church of the Resurrection for many reasons. We will mention some of them.

It is the Church of the Resurrection because it is based more on the Resurrection of Christ, which is a continuation of His sacrifice on the Cross. All Religions have leaders of people who have died. But the Head of the Church is the resurrected Christ who, with His Resurrection, defeated the state of death. Thus, without the Resurrection of Christ the preaching of the Church is in vain. The Church is the resurrected Body of Christ. As the swimmer has his head out of the water and so the whole body lives, in the same way our Head, Christ, is out of the state of death and that is why those connected to Him breathe the life of the Resurrection.

It is the Church of the Resurrection because the Apostles saw the resurrected Christ, touched His resurrected body, tasted the gifts of the Resurrection. It is characteristic that the basic element of the apostolic life is the sight/vision of the resurrected Christ. All saw the resurrected Christ and received His blessing. And when it was necessary to replace the place of Judas who betrayed Christ and then killed himself, then the Disciples chose Matthias who had the qualification to be a witness of Christ's Resurrection. The Apostle Peter, speaking about the qualifications that must be possessed by the one who will be numbered among the Disciples and Apostles, also referred to this qualification: "One of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection" (Acts 1:22). But also the Apostle Paul, to show that he himself is an Apostle of Christ, referred to the sight of the resurrected Christ. "Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" (1 Cor. 9:1).

It is the Church of the Resurrection because its unceasing preaching is the mystery of the Resurrection, i.e. the resurrection of the soul, with the death of sin and freedom from passions, and the physical resurrection with the future resurrection of bodies. The Apostle Paul expresses his great desire to continually know Christ and the mystery of His Resurrection: "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection" (Phil. 3:10). And whoever knows the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ in his being, he becomes its herald, a preacher of this mystery. In a troparion it is written: "You preached the word of the resurrection." The word of the true Disciples of Christ is not an anthropocentric, moral, political, social word, but a resurrection word, it is a word about how we can be resurrected from the passions.

It is the Church of the Resurrection because all its real members are members of the resurrected Body of Christ, who previously passed through the cross, that is, crucified the passions, and defeated the power of death within their existence. This is done with baptism and the ecclesiastical life, with the mystery of the Divine Eucharist. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans closely connects baptism with the death and resurrection of the believer (Rom. 5:1-14). Man's entry into the font shows the death and burial of the old man, the man of passions, and his exit from the font shows the resurrection of the new man, the man who is connected to the resurrected Christ. This happens because with the catechism, which precedes baptism, man learned to transform, with the power of the Grace of Christ, love for self to love for God and love for others.

It is the Church of the Resurrection, because it brilliantly celebrates the feast of the Resurrection of Christ, which is the greatest feast of the Orthodox Church. We prepare for forty days to celebrate it existentially, and when the feast of Pascha comes we celebrate it brilliantly, with lighted candles, with "Christ is Risen", with the Resurrection Divine Liturgy, with the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, with external joy and with a completely festive atmosphere. We celebrate the coming of the new life that Christ brought into the world. But we also celebrate it every Sunday which is called the weekly Pascha. All the troparia of every Sunday composed by Saint John the Damascene are resurrectional and call the Christian to chant and live the mystery of Christ's Resurrection.

Beloved brethren,

The Orthodox Church is the Church of the Resurrection for all the reasons we mentioned, because the Head of the Church is the resurrected Christ, because the Apostles saw the risen Christ and preached Him, because all its real members, who are the saints of all time, are children of the Resurrection of Christ and shine with the light of the Resurrection, because we await the future coming of Christ and the resurrection of all those who have fallen asleep in order to experience the mystery of the second resurrection.

Therefore, the Orthodox Church is the Church of the Resurrection, in which Christ's victory over death is repeated, within the limits of every believer's life. And when one sees within the Church schisms and divisions, passionate situations and various problems, one should know that all these are not manifestations of the real Orthodox Church and the children of the Resurrection, but manifestations of the sick members of the Church who still have the old man within them, with their passions and desires, who have not been resurrected from the works of sin, who have not yet known the mystery of Christ's Resurrection, and thus the words of the Evangelist John apply to them: "For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world" (1 John 2:16).

May the Risen Christ, the Head of our Church, enlighten us all, Clergy and laity, so that we may acquire the knowledge of the mystery of the Resurrection and daily put to death the old man so that the new man may be resurrected within us. Let us perceive the Church as the resurrected Body of Christ and let our preaching be a preaching of real life, the culmination of the Resurrection. The world today does not need ideas and words, but wants to know how to overcome death and experience its spiritual and physical resurrection.

I wish you all a good Pascha, a good Resurrection.

With warm blessings,

The Metropolitan

† HIEROTHEOS of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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