May 4, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2006 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

My beloved brethren,

And again this year, after the solemn Holy Week, we were found worthy to brilliantly celebrate the feast of the Resurrection of Christ. It is not only a natural event (spring), nor a cultural event, but par excellence ecclesiastical, theological and human, since it refers to the hope of our own resurrection.

Indeed, Christ, who, according to the Apostle Paul, is the "originator and perfecter of our faith" (see Heb. 12:2), but at the same time the Head of our Church (see Eph. 1:22), resurrected three days after His death. When we speak of the Resurrection of Christ, we mean the resurrection of His Body that had died on the Cross.

According to the teaching of our Church, Christ from the moment of his conception took on human nature, pure and holy, but with corruption and mortality, in order to defeat death and corruption. Thus, according to the testimony of the holy Apostles and the confirmation of our Church, on the third day, after His death and burial, He resurrected His body, with His divinity. Actually His soul along with the divinity descended into Hades, and His body, along with the divinity, remained in the tomb, therefore His body remained incorruptible, undissolved. This body was resurrected by His divinity and thus the Disciples saw it, touched it and of course "rejoiced when they saw the Lord" (John 20:20).

According to the teaching of the Church, decay did not touch Christ's body while it was in the tomb, because it was united with His divinity. After His Resurrection, corruption and mortality were put away from the body, but the body was not put out of its familiar nature. Thus, the resurrected body of Christ, even though it rejected the so-called blameless passions, mortality and corruption, remained an indescribable, co-divine, spiritual body, that traveled long distances in seconds, exited the sealed tomb, entered through closed doors, and the Disciples recognized Him.

This great event took place in Christ, in whom we believe and honor these days. Of course, in the time of Christ, but also throughout the centuries there were people who doubted this fact, but billions of people believed it and confirmed it personally, giving this testimony of the resurrection from the dead and experienced martyrdom. How, after all, is it explained that millions of martyrs confessed this truth and sacrificed their lives?

The Resurrection of Christ, that is, the resurrection of Christ's body, is the most basic point of our faith. One cannot be a Christian if one denies this basic fact. The Apostle Paul confesses: "If Christ was not raised then your faith is in vain" and we are "the most pitiful of all people" (1 Cor. 15:17-19). In fact, in the Creed we confess "and He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures."

As members of the Church, who are at the same time members of the risen Body of Christ, we daily acquire certainty of His Resurrection. And this is because every time we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, we partake of His resurrected Body, which has been called as the "medicine of immortality". In this way we can transcend all the problems of the perishability and mortality of our human life. Then, in the Church we have the sacred relics of the saints who are the real members of the resurrected Body of Christ, since the saints were united with Christ.

Of course, in speaking of relics of the saints, we mean the relics of the martyred saints in which the Holy Spirit dwells and is manifested in various ways, and not just any members, and which are confirmed by theological criteria and ultimately by the Church and not by any individuals people.

We must realize that the greatest mystery throughout the ages is the Resurrection of Christ. And because the Church is the real Body of Christ, that is why it is the place of mysteries and spiritual changes, through the mysteries, asceticism and a sanctified life. We do not wait for external testimonies to believe in the resurrected Christ, but we have or can acquire our own experience that Christ is Risen and is the Lord of life and death, He is the one who also gives man the ability to be freed from his passions and weaknesses. Of course, we also honor the saints, who are members of the Body of Christ, but they can never replace and undermine Christ, who is our Head and our Life and to whom we give our worship.

We celebrate this risen Christ every Sunday in the Church, it is He we celebrate these days too, He we experience when we repent and sanctify ourselves, He we hear to comfort us in the difficult moments of our lives, when, through the intercessions of our saints, especially the Theotokos, we plead with him to help us, He is our life and our hope, He is our faith and our expectation, He is the High Priest of future good things, Him we will praise unto the ages, "with all the saints", if He finds us worthy of this great joy.

In the risen Christ we must believe and hope and live with Him. Then our life will acquire a profound spiritual meaning.

Brethren, "Glory be to His rising on the third day." "We venerate His rising on the third day."

"To Him be the glory and the authority forever. Amen."

With warm resurrection blessings,


+ HIEROTHEOS of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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