Eminent archpastors, reverend fathers, all-honorable monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
By the grace of the All-Merciful God, we have been vouchsafed to arrive at the radiant Paschal night, and once again rejoice in the glorious Resurrection of Christ. I sincerely greet all of you, my dear ones, with this great feast and "festival of festivals."
Almost two thousand years separate us from the event we recall today. And yet, every year with unfailing spiritual awe, the Church celebrates the Resurrection of the Lord, tirelessly bearing witness to the exceptional nature of what occurred in the burial cave by the walls of ancient Jerusalem.
The whole earthly path of the Son of God – from His miraculous Incarnation to His Passion and terrible death on the Cross – is the fulfillment of the Maker’s promise, once given to our forefathers. God promised to send into the world the One Who "hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 53:4) and Who "shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). The Lord affirmed this promise through His prophets many times, He remained true to this vow even when the chosen people rejected the covenant and violated the will of the Creator.
It is, then, in the Resurrection of Christ that God’s love is revealed in its fullness, for death has finally been vanquished – the last boundary separating man from the true Fount of life. And although death continues to exist in the physical sense and takes away our human bodies, it no longer has the power to destroy our souls, that is to say, to deny us life everlasting in communion with the Maker. Death has been defeated and its sting has been removed (cf. I Cor. 15:55). The Lord has "led captivity captive" (Eph. 4:8) and cast down Hades. "With God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37), for truly "He is risen, as He said" (Matthew 28:6)!
This year, the peoples of the world face extraordinary ordeals. A baneful epidemic has spread throughout the whole world and has come to our lands, as well. The authorities have introduced restrictions in order to avert a rapid spread of the epidemic. In some countries of the Moscow Patriarchate’s pastoral responsibility, public worship, including the celebration of Divine Liturgy, has been suspended. However, we Orthodox Christians are not to be despondent or to despair in these difficult circumstances; even more so, we should not surrender to panic. We are called upon to preserve our inner peace and recall the words of the Savior spoken on the eve of His redemptive Passion: "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Pascha has become for all of humanity the transition from enslavement to sin to the freedom of the Kingdom of Heaven, "the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rm. 8:21). It is only thanks to the Savior’s Resurrection that we obtain the true freedom of which the all-praised Apostle Paul speaks, calling upon us to "stand fast… in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free" (Gal. 5:1). How many times have we read or heard these words? Now let us consider: do we live today as though Christ’s Resurrection never happened? Are we not in danger of exchanging the riches of eternity for never-ending worldly concerns, once more being held captive to the vanity of this world, surrendering to transient fears and forgetting the incorrupt spiritual treasures and true calling of the Christian to "serve [the Lord] in holiness and righteousness before Him" (Luke 1:75)?
And yet, "pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this" (James 1:27): to treat each other with love and patience, to help and support one another in tribulations, following the example of the Good Shepherd shown to us in the Gospel. No outward restrictions should ever tear apart our unity and take away from us the true spiritual freedom which we have obtained through knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who has conquered death and granted to us the opportunity to "be called [and to be] the sons of God" (I John 3:1).
All of the faithful children of the Church are of "one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32), for apart we are but members, while together we are the Body of Christ and nothing in all creation "shall be able to separate us from the love of God" (Rm. 8:39). Therefore, let those who today are unable for reasons of circumstance to come to church and pray, know that they are being remembered and prayed for. Faith grants to us the strength to live and overcome with God’s help all sorts of infirmities and tribulations, including that which has become a part of our lives through the spread of this dangerous virus.
I fervently call upon all of you, my dear ones, to augment your common prayer to the Lord, so that we may, in spite of all hardships, remain partakers of the grace-filled liturgical life of the Church, so that the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist may be celebrated and the faithful may with boldness draw near to the Fount of Life which are the Holy Mysteries of Christ, and so that the sick may receive healing and the healthy be protected from this dangerous infection.
We believe that the Risen Savior will never forsake us, and that He will send down upon us the resolve and courage to stand steadfastly in faith and to walk our salvific earthly path to life everlasting.
I sincerely congratulate all of you, my beloved brothers and sisters, on the radiant feast of Holy Pascha, and call upon you to always be the image of the Savior’s true disciples in setting a good example to the people around you, and in proclaiming the mighty acts of the One "Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light" (I Peter 2:9), so that all the days of our life we may through our deeds testify to the unsurpassed power and truth of the Paschal greeting:
TRULY CHRIST IS RISEN!
Patriarch of Moscow & All Russia
Pascha 2020 A.D.