May 23, 2023

Paschal Pastoral Encyclical 2020 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Pascha in the Pandemic

To the Clergy, monks and laity
of our Sacred Metropolis

Beloved in the Lord,
Christ is Risen!

This year we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in a special way, due to the pandemic of the new virus. This also happened during Holy and Great Week of the Passion and the Cross of Christ. This pandemic is testing our faith, our endurance, our patience, but also our obedience to the Holy Synod, which dealt with this issue with seriousness and responsibility.

The Holy Synod emphasized that "the temporary stay of Christians at home for prayer does not imply any doubt or, much more, it does not mean questioning the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist." And that "any suspicion of the transmission of diseases from the Divine Eucharist is condemnable, because it violates doctrinal Truth and the Apostolic Faith and Tradition of the Church."

It also said that "a special scientific team has urged us to refrain from our religious gatherings until the temptation is overcome."

However, this Holy and Great Week we made the whole of Nafpaktos and our Province one big Temple, since those who needed it, through the internet and other means, i.e. television, radio, participated in the Sacred Services, even if it was temporary. Thus we understand that the real church is those who have been baptized and chrismated, they are the "baptized and confident in their faith," according to Saint Symeon the New Theologian, who meet in the temple and this temple is called the church.

So this year, because of the conditions imposed on us, all devout Christians made their homes into churches, but also their hearts a living altar of God, and living temples. During Holy Week, we experienced the pain of our fellow human beings, who are sick in the hospitals and confined to their homes, we watched the work of the doctors and nursing staff of the Hospitals and Health Centers. It was a truly Great Week for all of us, and we saw the Passion of Christ repeated, in a different form, in the lives of our brethren and the brethren of Christ.

And now we have reached the Holy and Great Day of Pascha, the Day of Christ's Resurrection. Christ, three days after His death, the Cross and His Burial, rose from the dead and appeared to His Disciples, having on His Body the marks of the nails, and this is how His Disciples recognized Him and He gave them joy, peace and the Holy Spirit. He said to them: "Peace be with you," and then he said: "Receive the Holy Spirit; if you forgive their sins, they are forgiven; if you retain them, they are retained," and "then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord" (John 2:20-23).

In the same way, the Church, which is the Body of Christ, is recognized mainly when it receives the marks of the Cross and experiences the Resurrection of Christ. The Paschal Crucifixion and Resurrection are connected. Our whole life is a joyful-sorrow, that is, joy and sorrow together. Where we are joyful, something comes and we are sorrowful. And where we are sorrowful, something comes and makes us joyful.

This year, all of Great Lent and Holy Week were a joyful-sorrow, but the celebration of Christ's Resurrection is also a joyful-sorrow.

We are still locked in our homes, we experience Pascha with the "closed doors" of the temples, but Christ shatters all those that enclose Him in narrow spaces. He shattered the locks and the gates of Hades, came out of the "sealed tomb" and entered the upper room, where the Disciples were gathered "behind the closed doors."

The Risen Christ is not limited by places and closed systems, by various closed doors, it is enough that our hearts are open. Material objects, even if they are closed, are penetrated by the Grace of God, which is not limited by anything material. But that which it cannot penetrate is our intention and freedom, or the hermetic closure of our heart. In other words, sealed tombs and closed doors do not prevent Him, but the only thing that prevents Him from doing His redemptive work is our sealed and closed hearts.

Therefore, let us ourselves open our hearts to Christ, who continues to say: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:20-21).

Let us listen to the Risen Christ knocking on the door of our house and the door of our heart and then, on the one hand, we will dine with Him on Pascha and, on the other hand, we will triumph and sit with Him on His throne.

Christ is Risen, my beloved brethren and children in the Lord!

With warm resurrection blessings,

The Metropolitan
† Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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