May 15, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2014 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

A Paschal Encyclical for the Sacred Metropolis of Fokidos
The Resurrection Life

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

All religions have a mortal leader and founder, who was once born and died, while Christianity, which is not a simple religion, but a Church, has as its head the Risen Christ, who lives forever and enlivens the members of His glorious Body. He Himself affirms: "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death" (Rev. 1:17-18). This is the reason for which we Orthodox Christians praise and glorify the Risen Christ throughout the Pentecostarion period, but also on every Sunday, which is the weekly Pascha.

The Church, however, is not only above every religion, but is the Body of the Risen Christ. In this reality, all the Holy Mysteries are celebrated, culminating in the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, where we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. Ecclesiastical life is not an emotional life, it does not consist of any morals and customs, but it is an experiential and resurrection life. In the Church we repel despair and the fear of death, sadness and gloom, individualism and selfishness, and we are filled with faith, love, hope and light.

Then, the theology of the Church is not philosophical, but empirical, resurrected. Philosophy satisfies the imagination and human reflection, it is a mental exercise, while the Church with its life and theology sanctifies the whole person and defeats death. Every philosopher tries to interpret why the world exists, what is the reason for the evil that exists in it, why should death dominate in nature and in man himself; and, as is natural, many answers are given, and as the philosophers are so they philosophize. However, the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church, because they live in the resurrected Body of Christ, are possessed by the power of life and resurrection and are full of hope, they live the fact that Christ defeated death and gave this power to everyone connected with Him.

People who close in on themselves are possessed by despair and the fear of death. Death is not only a shocking event that comes at the end of every person's life, but it exists in our existence, with deterioration, diseases, aging, and thus the person throughout his life goes through many successive crises of death, which cause suffering, pain. Many people feel as if they are locked in a personal hell, where sadness, pain, the darkness of desolation and loneliness dominate. However, those who live in the Church and believe in the Resurrection of Christ and live the resurrection life in Christ, drive away the fear of death, drive away sadness and despair and are bright people, strong even in the difficult circumstances of their lives. This happens because they invoke the Risen Christ and He comes into their personal hell and fills them with light.

Today, on this day of the Resurrection of Christ, everything is flooded with heavenly Light, everything is joyful. However, we must pray that this spiritual joy is not temporary, that it is not connected only to a few days a year, but that the Light of the Risen Christ transforms our whole life and makes it a resurrection celebration. This is how we will face illnesses, falls, the deprivation of our loved ones, family and financial issues with hope and faith in the Resurrection of Christ. From this perspective, the Resurrection of Christ is not a theory, a social custom, an ethical event, but a way of life, it is the overcoming of all sorrow and this horrible death.

I pray all the beloved Orthodox Christians who live in the Sacred Metropolis of Fokidos to have health, but, above all, to be filled with the Light and Joy of the Resurrection of Christ. Then they will not be possessed by despair and pain, by the problems and trials of their lives. Then, the celebration of the Resurrection will not be a social, seasonal, cultural and emotional celebration, but the power of the indestructible life, a celebration of hope, love and a strong meaning for life.

Christ is Risen, brethren!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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