May 13, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2013 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 "It is a Festival of Passage"

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Christ is Risen!

Every Divine Liturgy is resurrectional, but the Divine Liturgy celebrated on the night of the feast of the Resurrection of Christ, i.e. Pascha, has a special grace and splendor. This happens because there was a preparation period of almost fifty days, throughout Holy Week we experienced the Passion and the Cross of Christ in the sacred services, and of course the Resurrection Divine Liturgy takes place at night in a brilliant flood of light.

The Saints of our Church celebrate Pascha from the perspective of the eternal Pascha, the Kingdom of God. They leap for joy, because on this day and period they partake of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ, but they also anticipate eternal good things. Their life has perspective and meaning, it is not closed in a narrow space, full of spiders and melancholy.

There is an amazing letter of Saint Gregory the Theologian to someone he knew, which shows how he celebrated Pascha and how he felt during that period. He wrote it during the days of Pascha and expresses the resurrection joy that overwhelmed him.

At the beginning of the letter he writes that, because we have learned to see what we hope for from afar, that is why we rejoice in the present. After this general position, he writes: "I consider the holy day of Pascha, which we have reached, as a mystagogy of heavenly good things, it is a festival of passage." This phrase is wonderful and shows how the Saints viewed Pascha, i.e. they considered this feast to be a "mystagogy" of eternal good things, and a "festival of passage" that leads us to the day that has no evening. This made them all rejoice in the present.

This experience of Saint Gregory the Theologian was not frivolous and emotional, but a permanent situation. That is why he writes in his letter: "I have gone through many Paschas until now and this is what I have enjoyed from this long life of mine." The feast of Pascha was indeed a central event of his life, which defined it and gave it meaning, and this he enjoyed in his life.

However, he then exhorts the addressee of his letter to pray for him and be his benefactor by satisfying his desire, which he sees more clearly, that is, to come out, as the Jews did, from the Egypt of this life, the bondage and darkness, and after being freed from the clay and brickwork, with which we are connected, to migrate to the land of promise, which is the eternal Pascha of the Kingdom of God.

It is important to see how the Saints lived the feasts and what were their deepest experiences. Our knowledge must be empirical and not just intellectual and emotional. Saint Gregory the Theologian, as we saw before, celebrated Pascha as a joyful life, as a life of freedom from passions, as a mystagogy and a passage to the eternal Pascha, as a triumphant victory against death and against the fear of death.

This is the experience of the Church and the experience of its real members, who are the Saints. Through this perspective they overcame temptations, sufferings, sorrows, tests, illnesses and even death that they saw coming. Pascha was the center of their whole life, their hope and expectation, their joy and cheerfulness, their future and their present. Thus, sorrow turns into joy, despair into hope, darkness into light, everything is illuminated by the light of Christ's Resurrection.

Everybody goes through their own trials, has their own problems. We come to the church, even on this glorious day, with the intrusive thoughts, the sighs, the uncertainties, the mental, physical and social discomforts. Many wonder: "What will happen to me? How will I deal with my difficulties? How will I recover? How will I raise my children? How will I overcome my loneliness? How will I spend the rest of my life?" And many other questions come to mind.

However, in the Divine Liturgy, and indeed the Resurrection, we must be nourished by the life-giving breath, the scented air of Pascha, the joy of Christ's Resurrection. To feel the feast of Pascha as a "mystagogy" and as a "passage" towards eternal goods. Then we will be filled with light and life, with hope and love, despite the difficulties and temptations we face in our lives.

With this resurrected life and resurrected hope, the "living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3) I address you the eternal greeting:

"Christ is Risen", brethren.

With resurrection blessings,

The Metropolitan
+ HIEROTHEOS of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *