May 22, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2019 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 The Apolytikion and Icon of the Resurrection of Christ

To the Clergy, monks and laity
of our Sacred Metropolis

Dear brethren,

Christ is Risen!

We were found worthy to celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection Pascha again this year, that is, to share in the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. Christ on the Cross defeated death, sin and the devil and with His Resurrection He gave His Disciples His peace, but He also gave the Holy Spirit to forgive the sins of people who want it.

These events are moving, but unfortunately, when we don't have spiritual feelings, we consider them as an opportunity for excursions, physical relaxation, as a period of vacation or even as days to satisfy our passions.

The Church celebrates these events with its theology and its own rhythm. The whole meaning of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ is expressed in the troparia, the services, especially in the Divine Liturgy, and in its iconography.

The theological meaning of every Despotic and Theometoric feast, as well as every Saint's feast, is expressed in a simple but wonderful way in the apolytikion and the sacred icons. The apolytikia are small troparia, which are chanted before the dismissal of the Vesper service, that is why they are called apolytikia (dismissal hymns), and the sacred icons are painted in a theological way, they are processed by the priests and placed in a certain place so that the veneration is paid to the one depicted by the faithful.

Within this context we must view the apolytikion and the icon of the feast of the Resurrection of Christ.

The apolytikion of the Resurrection of Christ is the well-known hymn, which is the spiritual paean of Christianity, that we solemnly chant these days and we cannot get enough of repeating it many times: "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life." That is, Christ rose from the dead, after he had conquered and defeated death with His death, and gave life to those who are in the tombs.

The icon of the Resurrection of Christ is an iconographic presentation of this troparion. It shows Christ having defeated death, "trampling down death by death". It also shows that with His two hands He raises Adam and Eve from their graves and gives them life. He does not simply free their souls from Hades, but also resurrects their bodies from the graves, thus attributing the phrase "to those in the tombs bestowing life." In general, this icon shows the Resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people from their graves.

Thus, during the season of Pascha we kiss the sacred icon of the Resurrection and at the same time we chant "Christ is Risen" with the panegyrical and triumphant sound of the plagal of the first mode. Both are coordinated with each other, since the apolytikion shows the content of the feast and the icon depicts the theological meaning of both the apolytikion and the feast.

The Fathers of the Church arranged everything well and blessedly, so that we can chant the triumph of the Resurrection of Christ and the abolition of death, so that we can hear it, but also see it with the sacred icon, as well as touch this great mystery with the honorary kiss of the icon.

In this way, all the senses, psychic and physical, receive information and empirical knowledge of the Resurrection of Christ and the abolition of death, so that we can acquire unshakable faith and certain hope, that with Christ we can be spiritually resurrected from sin and physically with our bodies at the Second Coming of Christ, according to what we confess in the Creed: "I expect the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come."

And with all this, the Church aims not only to expel from us the fear of death, but also to fill us with the fullness of life and indeed with the hope of eternal life and faith in our meeting with Christ, the conqueror of death.

Therefore, when we chant "Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life," we must remember the icon of the Resurrection of Christ that expresses it, and when we venerate the icon of the Resurrection of Christ we must chant "Christ is Risen", so that our lives can be filled with hope, light and truth. This is the great mystery of our faith.

Christ is Risen, brethren!

With resurrectional paternal blessings,


Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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