Epistle of His Holiness Kyrill, Patriarch of Moscow & All, Russia on the 3rd Sunday of Pascha, the Myrrh-bearing Women, to the clergy and faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Christ is Risen!
By God’s grace, we have already reached the Third Sunday of the Paschal feast, which the Church has wisely dedicated to commemorating the feat of the Myrrh-bearing Women.
The Myrrh-bearing Women and the Apostles represent, as it were, two paths of faith. The resolute and ardent Peter, ready to follow the Savior even unto death, before his enlightenment by the Holy Spirit turned out to be not so courageous and firm in the Faith when a real danger to his life arose. And the other disciples, too, afraid of their fellow Jews, left the Lord at the most critical time.
But the meek women who accompanied Christ in His earthly journeys stood silently at the Cross, sharing crucifixion in their hearts with the Lord Jesus. They did not try to prove anything to anybody, nor did they demand for themselves the honor of sitting on the right or left hand of the Savior in His Kingdom. They simply served Christ with meekness, patience, and profound humility. And it might be for this reason that He vouchsafed them the honor to become apostles for the Apostles themselves, to bring the good news to the Savior’s closest disciples.
Today, the example of their feat is especially instructive for us. Over the past several weeks, we have undergone a very complex trial. A dangerous illness has befallen our people. It has already taken many lives, among them the clergy of our Church. Tens of thousands of people are suffering in hospitals, while the doctors and nurses selflessly battle to save their lives. Even more people have to stay at home in self-isolation, to endure restrictions in communications with their friends and relatives, and often even to face acute financial hardship.
My dear ones, I am well aware of how hard it is for you today. I commiserate with all of you. Believe me, you are not alone: the Patriarch is with you. All of my thoughts and prayers are for you. Every day, I pray to God for His mercy, that this weighty ordeal may pass from our people as soon as possible, and that we may again unite together in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, praising the Lord with one mouth and one heart.
From the very beginning of this situation, it was clear to me that we were facing a dangerous and insidious disease. The clergy and our elderly parishioners were especially at risk. And in recent days, we have lost several respected clergymen and many faithful of the Church. As Primate, I have always been aware of my responsibility for the clergy and people.
It was with great grief that I decided to appeal to you temporarily not to attend church. Without exaggeration, these were the most difficult words of my life. I have never had to say anything like this. But it is the burden of responsibility that the Primate of the Church bears by assuming not only the honors of the Patriarchal rank, but also all of the spiritual pain of the episcopate, clergy, and flock. And I feel this pain in my heart every time that I think of the millions of Orthodox people thirsting for the Holy Mysteries of Christ, but who cannot cross the threshold of their beloved church; when I think about the clergy who celebrate behind closed doors and today are deprived of financial support.
However, just as faith without love profits a man nothing, so Christian compassion should have visible fruits. And for this reason, I have turned to well-off people who are benevolent to the Church with a humble appeal to give financial support to our clergy. And, thank the Lord, my entreaties have been heard. Of course, it may not change the situation radically, but every one of us should do all that is possible to help our neighbor. I am sincerely grateful to those who, despite all of the economic complexities that our country and the whole world are going through, have shown a truly Christian willingness to share what they have for the sake of their neighbors. May the all-generous Lord reward you for you good deeds.
In spite of the fact that I, just as many of you, have to stay in a closed space, I keep receiving testimonies about dramatic cases taking place in various cities and villages because of the spread of the pernicious infection. And I try as much as I can to correct the efforts of our volunteers in their truly selfless service. And to all of the volunteers headed by Bishop Panteleimon, with whom I keep in contact every day and from whom I receive all necessary information, I express special gratitude, for it is directly to you that the words of Christ the Savior may be applied: "I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me" (Matthew 25:35-36).
I would like to express special appreciation to doctors as well. Medical workers today are in the front line of the struggle with the disease, showing true heroism and faithfulness to their vocation. All this evokes sincerest admiration.
Despite the complexity of the situation, we in all circumstances are called to preserve mental peace, calm, and good sense, not to burn with indignation and hate, nor to engage ourselves in an endless search for enemies and especially, God forbid, to damn anybody, which in itself is unthinkable for a Christian. We remember what the Savior said to us: "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).
God will not abandon His Church and His faithful servants. I only ask you: do not despair, do not lose heart, I pray for you all and ask in return your ardent prayers for me as your Patriarch.
By the mercy of Risen Christ and His omnipotence, we will defeat this assault, too, for "with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26), if only we could be staunch in our present trials and faithful in our trust in the Lord, just as the Myrrh-bearing Women believed in Him with patience and meekness, just as the secret disciples Joseph and Nicodemus stayed with Him. I appeal to you with the words of Holy Scripture: "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong" (1 Cor. 16:13) and the Lord will preserve us by His grace. Amen.
Patriarch of Moscow & All Russia