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EASTER EPISTLE 2019

 

ARTEMIJE

by the grace of God Orthodox Bishop

of Diocese of Ras-Prizren

in Exile

 

To all the spiritual children, monastics, clergy and the faithful of the Diocese of Ras-Prizren in Exile the ever-joyful Easter greeting:

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

 

Then, let heaven be glad,

and let the earth rejoice, let the world,

visible and invisible, celebrate;

for Christ has risen, the eternal joy.

(From Paschal Canon, Ode 1.)

What gladness and what joy can be found on this troubled planet, on which the Son of God himself is crucified? Man dies exhausted; and when he passes away, where is he (Job 14, 10), asks the righteous Job. Can there be any joy here on Earth in the sea of human fallen nature, and in consequential woe, suffering and torment, which all end with death? – This question is answered by men, fallen and disfigured by sin – There is no bliss, comfort and joy here for us. The tragedy of this response was sealed on the day when the Son of God, the Lamb of God, was nailed to the Cross and crucified. And what is the answer of God-man to this question? His answer to that, and to all the other grand questions, which from the beginning torment human spirit, is not a word, but a deed, and that is His bright and glorious Resurrection from the dead. This work is so wondrous and victorious that it can never fully fit in a human word. Any human suffering, sorrow, and wound until Christ, no matter how great they were, could stand in the word, they could spill over into a specific question, they could be muttered Job-like and sobbed through the mouths of Adam’s descendants by nature and heirs by sin. And Christ’s answer to these questions, that is, His Glorious Resurrection from the dead, with his divine and supreme exaltedness, can never be fully expressed in words, described in letters, explained by books. Therefore, the holy bishop Nikolai says with his gold-cast words: by His Resurrection, Christ overcomes sin and death, breaks the dark kingdom of Satan, releases the trapped human race, and breaks the seal of the greatest secrets of God and man. Yes, the Resurrection of Christ is the unveiling of the greatest secrets of God and man, the greatest and clearest divine answer, to the greatest and most perplexing human questions. Such an exalted work of Christ, His miraculous Resurrection, can be most closely comprehended, experienced, and understood only by deed, and not by word. By the work that consists of the swing and movement of the human heart towards the Resurrected Christ, and such work is called faith. Because what cannot be fully expressed in the word – and this is the Resurrection of Christ – cannot be fully understood nor received by the word, but only the  act of faith, that is, the active faith. That is why the active faith in Christ, in His Church, is the only way to understand, to  accept and understand the Resurrection of Christ, as St. Justin (Popovich) of Cheliye explains to us, saying: The meaning of life of every Christian is to make his person a part, organic component of the Body of the Resurrected Christ (= Church). If he does this, it is not necessary to prove to him the resurrection from the dead, for he already has the feeling in himself that he is immortal and eternal. The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of the Christian faith, which is a message to us from the same Holy Father, saying: If Christianity can be reduced to the event, then this event is the Resurrection of Christ. Nobody among us, sad and mortal people, ever gave to humanity a gift so victorious, so triumphant and so comforting, which alone can overcome every tear of the sufferer, and can calm the sigh of the dying, as Christ did, through His all-glorious Resurrection. From the Resurrection of Christ to this day, both Heaven and earth echo the most victorious and most joyful greeting: Christ is Risen! The joyful echo of this greeting, with its immortal and divine power, has drowned the sighs and moans of all human suffering, torment and trouble in this world, concluding with the suffering of all suffering, and that is death. This is the greeting of the most convincing victory ever given to humanity, the victory by which people are delivered from sin, death, and hell.

Under the burden of that difficult question – where does the suffering in this world come from and what is its meaning? –  human thought for centuries has been dipping and stumbling, the power of the human mind disappears, the capacity to comprehend vanishes, the ability to understand wilts. To this most difficult question for man, Christ answers with His Resurrection, for the Resurrection of Christ is the giving of the meaning, justification and clarification of all human suffering in this world, and this is told by Saint Justin (Popovich) of Cheliye, saying: Without Resurrection it is impossible to justify the suffering; without justifying the suffering it is impossible for a thinking man not to be an anarchist and an atheist; any ethics that does not recognise the resurrection of the dead, which does not recognise the immortality of the personality of the person, is basically anarchistic  and nihilistic, – adding – Without Christ’s Resurrection: life would be meaningless, sorrow would be unjustifiable, sufferings would be unredeemable.

That is why the Resurrection of Christ is the most beautiful spring, the spring of all the springs, for every human soul who accepts faith with Him, because Christ rescues such souls from the winters of sin, from the coldness of feeble faith and the darkness of ignorance. The resurrected Christ is the Sun under whose resurrection the souls of the faithful blosssom and smell of eternity, they are adorned with the beauty of the evangelic virtues, bringing forth the fruit that the hand of God collects into the barns of the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no stronger force than the Resurrection of Christ, because of the all-joyful greetings – Christ is Risen! – the Hades shakes, the Heaven rejoices; life blooms – and death runs away; despair disappears – and hope is born; every weakness disappears, and power returns; the doors of hades are destroyed, and the doors of paradise  open; the righteous chant, the demons shudder, and people are given eternal life. Such is the power of the Resurrection of Christ; it is infinite, because it gives endless life in the Resurrected Christ; it is overbearing and never completely expressive and manifest; thus we live by it, and the Resurrection is primarily experienced and lived in the Resurrected Christ and His Church, the very treasury of resurrection and eternal life. It is our task to live with the Resurrected Christ, here on earth, because we are the children of the Resurrection, according to the great ascetic of the last century, monk Georgije Vitković.

Living by the Resurrected Christ, upon departure from here, our life overflows and continues toward the sweet eternity of the Resurrected God-man. And how to live by the Resurrected Christ? – Only by life in the sign of the Cross of Christ. The Cross of Christ is the most unusual spiritual crossroads of the entire history of mankind, because through His Cross and His Resurrection He redirected the history of mankind from the path of death into His eternal life. That is why the Baptism of Christ is the unmistakable sign and the sign of the Resurrection of Christ, because through the Golgotha we arrive to the Resurrection.

We are resurrected from the graves of our sins and passions through the ascetic effort of our spiritual crucifixion of the old and sinful man within us, to the cross of the Gospel-led life, from day to day, from moment to moment, by the power of One which we follow, ie. by the power of Christ, and thus we are co-resurrected in Christ and with Resurrected Christ. Hence, only ascetic effort– above all fasting, prayer and repentance – is our most adequate preparation and the path of reaching and attaining, experiencing the joy of the Resurrection of Christ. This personal co-embodiment in Him is necessary for every follower of His. By the self-sacrificing ascetic undertaking of faith, man transfers himself to the Resurrected Lord Christ, and begins to live through Him, to think by Him, to act through Him – testifies the announcer of the Resurrected Christ, Saint Justin of Cheliye. That is why the recently completed Lent is the most natural and best guide and preparation for experiencing, understanding and celebrating the Holy Resurrection of Christ.

The same holy father says that there is no other way to the Resurrection of Christ and the resurrection in Christ, adding: Whoever does not survive (= lives through) the reality of the Crucified Lord, cannot survive the reality of the Resurrection. The resurrection is entered through the crucifixion. And without the resurrection – there is no salvation (Rom 10, 9). Crucifixion cannot be avoided. In order for a man to resurrect by the resurrection of Christ, he must first die with His death. The truth is that if we die with Him, we will come to life with Him (2 Tim. 2, 11). These words, this bright holiday of the Resurrection, are therefore the indispensable consolation to all who strive to peacefully bear the Cross, which the Lord assigned to everyone. We, present-day Orthodox Serbs, also bear this cross, both as individuals and as a people, crucified between the evil of the West and the mute and confused East; between God-denying communism, which  through this nation, but has not faded away, and the contemporary soul-destroying globalism; between tragic past, sad present and unclear future without much hope; between betrayal of faith by the Church and the betrayal of Kosovo and Metohija by the state leadership. The special weight of the crucifix of these times and the events that have fallen on us, besides our people in Kosovo and Metohija, is carried by us Orthodox Serbs, gathered in these spiritual refugee havens, in our catacombs, where we gather to shelter our heads, and above all our souls from all these upcoming troubles and from enemies of our faith and homeland; and not only us, Orthodox Serbs, but also our Orthodox brethren in Russia and throughout the Orthodoxy, where a crucial battle for the defence and preservation of the Orthodox faith is fought, the faith in the Resurrected Christ. Therefore, just as after the most horrible day, when the Lord was crucified, shone the most joyful day when He had Risen, so the Lord sends on this day the overwhelming consolation and joy of His Holy Resurrection to all of us, and our crosses, whether small or large, like His on which He was crucified, transform into joy, in solace, in power, in victory, in triumph of good over evil, of virtues over sin, of life over death. If ever Orthodox people feel the power of such Christ’s consolation,  it is most truly so on the day of His glorious Resurrection. This consolation is the foreboding of that universal resurrection in Christ, of all those who serve Him in this life and believe in Him; this is the consolation with which we are comforted today as well, the victory with which we in Christ also conquer and which cannot be taken away by any force opposed to Resurrected Christ, Orthodox faith, and His Church. With such joy we are rejoicing today, we celebrate that victory today, with that consolation we are comforted today and invigorated by it we will, God willing, persevere on the path of Orthodox faith, faith in Resurrected Christ, to the end of the world and time, as individuals and as Orthodox people. With that joy and that victory of Christ, we once again greet you, congratulating this bright holiday of the Resurrection, and calling with an all-joyful and all-victorious greetings:

 

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

We prayerfully remember you before the throne of the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ,

+Bishop Artemije,

Bishop in charge of Diocese of Raska and Prizren in exile;

+Chorbishop Nikolaj

of Stara Raska and Loznica

+Chorbishop Maksim

of Novo Brdo and Panonia

+Chorbishop Naum

of Hvosno and Barajevo

Easter of 2019,

Monastery of New Nicea, Lelic