“This is the day of resurrection.
Let us be illumined, O people.
Pascha, the Pascha of the Lord.
For from death to life and from earth to heaven
has Christ our God led us.”
(The Canon of Pascha, Ode I)
With these verses of the Paschal hymn, dear spiritual children, we, the believing people of God, begin the Celebration above all celebrations, song above all songs, about the Event above all events – The Resurrection of Christ. The Resurrection, like the Crucifixion, is a stumbling block for the Jews and foolishness for the Greeks, but we experience and celebrate it as the deepest experience of our faith and life. This is the experience which was first encountered by the holy myrrh-bearing women and the holy apostles, which they have graciously passed down to us and which we have received with faith — with the faith that becomes the power of life.
Filled with joy by this fact of the new life, the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian proclaims his experience to Christians of every time with these words: “…That which we have heard, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled,” is that which is “…Life made manifest…and we declare to you that Eternal life.” The Day of Resurrection is the day of Life. Therefore, let us rejoice and be glad in it! We celebrate the Lifegiver, Christ the God-Man!
The day of Resurrection, dear spiritual children, begins a new era. If Great and Holy Friday was the particular “terrible judgment” by fallen man against God Himself, then the day of the Resurrection is the Day of the victory of God’s love and goodness. The Resurrection took place on the first day of the week. Thus it has received its beginning in time and space, just as on the first day of creation the world received the dimensions of existence of everything visible and invisible. The Day of Resurrection is not, as some would want and wish, only a spiritual and poetic event, but above all it is a historical-eschatological Event that has changed the history of the world. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away and all things have become new,” said the holy Apostle Paul.
The Day of Resurrection is filled with Divine light – a light with which the Risen Lord Himself enlightens us. “Come, receive light from the unwaning Light!” – are the first words with which the Church invites us to the beginning of the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. If anyone would truly celebrate the Resurrection of Christ as his own life experience, he must first be illumined with the light of Christ. The gladsome light of the unfading Light is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. He rose from the tomb as the sun rises in the east out of the darkness of night to shine upon the whole earth, to warm it and renew a life on it. Let us be illumined with the Light of the Resurrection, the light which has shone from the tomb. This is the light of the God-Man Christ, Who said of Himself: ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Today and always, through His Holy Church, He calls us to the enlightening of our mind, heart, and our whole being.
Pascha, the Pascha of the Lord! The Jewish people passed through the Red Sea in order to be delivered from sin-poisoned Pharaoh. How? With God’s help. For, “The Lord went ahead of them on the road as a pillar of cloud during the day, and at night as a pillar of fire, giving them light so that they could travel day and night.” This pillar of cloud and of lightening fire was exactly the radiant Light of the unfading Light, the Logos of God. Having crossed the Red Sea, those who until then had been slaves entered into freedom, exclaiming to the Lord: “…Gloriously has he been glorified; a horse and a rider he threw into the sea!” This was the Passover (Pascha) of God’s chosen people, that seed of Abraham’s faith. And the Passover (Pascha) which we celebrate today is the Passover of the Lord – truly the Passing Over of Him Who led the Jewish people from slavery into freedom. So this is His Pascha, which has a universal character. This is why the church hymnographer calls upon all people from every nation and time, and not just one nation, to celebrate the Pascha of the Lord, that is, Christ’s Passover from death and the tomb into the Resurrection, so that we all may pass with Him from slavery to sin and death into the freedom of life.
Seeing this dimension of the feast of Christ’s Resurrection, dear spiritual children, let us lay aside all earthly cares, and together with the angels of heaven and the choirs of the saints, let us live this new reality of divine life in Christ Jesus, let us sing and praise the Cause of our salvation! Our song is victorious because death has been destroyed by death! The death-dealing poison of sin has lost its power to kill. How? Through the love and goodness of the God-Man Christ, for He as a blameless Lamb took the sins of the world upon Himself and gave Himself to be crucified. Sin and death are no longer the alpha and omega of life. The Resurrected Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of our sanctification. With divine virtues and ascetic efforts, let us hasten into a new, virtuous life in the Resurrected Jesus Christ!
Living in time and space, we Christians measure everything and everybody with Christ’s values. We do not disregard this world and life, nor do we despise them. On the contrary, we sanctify them with the all-sanctifying grace of God. This world can be transformed by the energies of the Resurrected God-Man Christ. This is why our Lord unambiguously said to Christians: “You are light of the world.” This means: only with you and through you can this world be transformed and saved. The Savior said this as well: in this world you will have many tribulations! You will be persecuted as I was persecuted and crucified; the cup from which I have drunk, you also will drink! But do not be afraid, for I have conquered the world. And despite all the suffering which the Church of Christ has experienced throughout the centuries, and is going through even today, Christians remain “the light to the world”, just as He Himself was the only Light of the world to shine in the darkness that covered Jerusalem on Great and Holy Friday.
Just as at that time the whole Jewish Sanhedrin (the chief priests and leaders of the people) was against Christ the Savior and aroused many people against Christ, so in our time, the “new Sanhedrin” fights against Christ and His Church. This new Sanhedrin fights against Good in this world. It is doing everything it can to make this world its sinful fiefdom and to conquer everything under its authority, by any and all methods and means. This is why it is imperative that all Christians carry on a spiritual warfare for this world and for the dominion of Good in it. The Good that the God-Man has brought and granted to the world by His Resurrection will not be conquered. “Do not fear!” said the Savior. Let us therefore rejoice and be glad as did the chosen people after they crossed the Red Sea exclaiming: Christ is Risen – Gloriously has the Lord been glorified!
Unfortunately, we are witnesses of great sins being committed daily in the world. From conception, the innocent child in its mother’s womb fears for its life. Millions of ordinary people are victims of poverty and hunger, while a few live in unlimited riches and carnal pleasures. Many nations are defending their freedom, earned with blood and suffering, from the aggression of globalization. In the name of false freedom and democracy, preplanned solutions (packaged in advanced) are being imposed. We are witnesses of the newest drama — again, the drama of us Orthodox Serbs — in Kosovo and Metohija. Our people are also afflicted with many tribulations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Croatia, and sadly, in Montenegro.
We cannot go without mentioning this Pascha the Golgotha and Great Friday of our Kosovo and Metohija; and the darkened conscience of all those who give themselves the right, trampling upon the world’s legal order, to cold-bloodedly pass sentence not only on imposed changes in the status of Kosovo and Metohija, but upon our whole history and culture, and the sovereignty of Serbia! In Kosovo and Metohija the Golgotha of the Serbian people has been taking place for centuries. This is seen by all and known by all except by those who are blind to seeing the truth and deaf for hearing justice. We hear “blacksmiths” speedily forging new nails and new spears with the intention to repeat and prolong the Golgotha of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija. All this they do with the ‘blessing’ of those who swear upon justice, freedom, and democracy, but only for themselves! However, we still believe in the conscience of objective mankind, which was recently confirmed by the international Tribunal of Justice in the Hague. Even though the highest Court of justice decided this after having reviewed all the documents for and against, the shouts can still be heard: crucify, crucify the Serbian people!
But we, dear spiritual children, cannot give up, cannot fear, because of injustice. Rather, let us commend our whole life to Christ our God! Christ did not commit sin, nor was there deceit in His mouth, and yet He was condemned and crucified. But, He also gloriously resurrected. If, God forbid, the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija undergo one more crucifixion, more terrible than the others, let us remain with Christ: do not slander, do not think evil; rather let us pray, and from the Cross let us witness to God’s love for all and everybody. Let us witness to Christ, the Victor over death, sin and all injustice. Those who do evil to others, do even worse to themselves. Sooner or later, if they do not repent, they will weep bitterly.
Celebrating the Resurrection of Christ with all the world’s Christians, today we rejoice and are glad with them and with all of God’s creation, and joyously exclaim to one and all:
Christ Is Risen!
Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade at Pascha 2007.
Your prayerful intercessors before the Crucified and Resurrected Lord:
Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and
Serbian Patriarch PAVLE