by God’s grace
of the Diocese of Raska-Prizren
To All the Spiritual Children
Monks, Nuns, Priests and Faithful People
of the Diocese of Raska-Prizren
we proclaim the all-powerful Easter greeting:
CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
Today is the springtime for our souls, for Christ, like the sun, shone forth from the grave …
(Antipascha Sunday, 1 Ode of the Canon)
My dearly beloved spiritual children! By bringing branches to Church on Palm Sunday, we celebrated the victory over death that God gave to every man. And tonight, a night overflowing with light, we joyfully declared this victory. The warmth of the springtime sun made the green branches blossom into a symbol of Christ’s victory over death, and so we wore them as a sign of His victory with the arrival of spring, that triumphs over death’s kingdom of winter. For as our Holy Father Saint Justin once said, until the Resurrection of Christ took place, sin, death and the devil were the black sun on the terrible night of sin and death within which the human race existed. But today, we are called to celebrate and rejoice in the day that God has given us. Today we are celebrating the arrival of springtime within our souls, for Christ rose from the grave and shone for us like the sun, dispelling the dark storm of our sins. Christ the victor over sin, death and Satan, has prepared a new Passover for us, leading us from death to life and from earth to heaven.
By taking human nature upon Himself, so as to break open the gates of Hell and enter therein, the Saviour Christ gives freedom to the prisoners of death and bestows upon the entire human race, the power over death. He gives us His victory to make us children of eternity, so that we can rejoice in the unending day of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is now up to us to assimilate this victory, to make it ours. And this can only happen in such a way that we will walk in the light of Christ’s Resurrection as a result of our obedience to His will. By fulfilling the Gospel’s Commandments, we are filled with the Gospel’s virtues that revive us and make of us, fertile spiritual olive trees, planted in the new Eden.
The Lamb of God took away the sins of the whole world and sacrificed Himself for us. Wherefore Brothers and Sisters, we in our own turn, must give ourselves and our whole life unto Christ Our God, for these priceless gifts He granted us with His Resurrection. We need only hearken unto the Holy Apostle Paul, who calls upon us as God’s Chosen People, to clothe ourselves in mercy, kindness, humility of mind, meekness and patience, enduring each other and forgiving each other, in the image of Christ, who also forgave us. And above all we must clothe ourselves with love, that binds these virtues all together, in perfect unity (Col 3: 12-14).
This, my dear spiritual children, is especially needed today, in this time of crisis, because we have been pre-occupied with ourselves for far too long. We have isolated ourselves from others, even from those people within our own household. By limiting our concerns to ourselves alone, we have crowned ourselves with selfishness, and we have become insensitive to the needs of others, and to the needs of all those unfortunate people who are very many among us. Only now, when driven into isolation ourselves amidst numerous restrictions, do we remember those whom we have long forgotten. We recall our brothers from Kosovo and Metohija and all Serbian lands, who have been living in enclaves for years in isolation, possessing limited or no human rights, purely because they are Serbs. Their unwavering persistence in preserving their Serbian identity, is what „spoils the air“ for others, and for this reason, they have been deprived of human freedom and dignity for over two decades. That is why from today, when we can feel the burden of their situation even to a small extent, let us promise to never forget about them again. Let us show them love, always trying to do our best to ease their lives in their enclaves and in their loneliness. We are obliged to do this by the sacrifice of Golgotha, given us by Christ. Because our sins were redeemed on Golgotha by Christ, in Whom there was no sin. For this reason, let us now take up the Cross of responsibility for ourselves and for our fellow men. Let us finally break out from this enchanted circle, in which we only seek our own rights. Let us give up our comfort zone, and renounce it at least for a moment, because love does not seek its own, but endures all things and suffers all things for its neighbour (1 Cor 13, 4-7).
In addition to the officially announced pandemic, Brothers and Sisters, another unofficial pandemic has been ravaging the world for many years now. And not only does this pandemic not subside, but is constantly growing in strength, especially in times of crisis, such as the times in which we now live. This is a pandemic of information. We are flooded with information every day, both real and false. Thanks to modern technologies, billions of people possess a window on the world in the palm of their hands. Through this window, we can not only observe the world, hearing and seeing what others are saying, but through it, we can also speak something that will be heard by a multitude of others. And unfortunately, this is a trap that many of us fall into today. Because in just one single day, we are flooded with so much information from every part of the world, that even a whole lifetime would not suffice to comprehend it even briefly. Our Holy Fathers, like St Basil the Great, warned us not to be occupied with the news that comes to us every day. Because there is so much news flowing around us today, that if we immerse ourselves in this river carrying all sorts of debris, it will carry us away and we will become like this debris ourselves. We have a commandment first and foremost, to take care of our soul, and that will not be possible if every day we only listen to what everybody else is saying, and look at what is happening and where. An abundance of unnecessary information will weaken the immune system of our soul, and we will no longer be able to think reasonably and properly. Then, we will be held captive by fear, we will fall into uncertainty, and we will easily lose our soul. Instead, let our attention be focused on the most important news – that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Incarnate Logos, suffered for our sins and was resurrected. We should spread this Good News throughout the world. But for our efforts to be successful, we must first of all rise from the graves of our sins, as did all our Holy Fathers before us. For when they were cleansed, they proclaimed chastity, and when they were enlightened by the blessed Holy Spirit, they enlightened others. This is the sacred task that lies before us all, for which we do not have unlimited time. And because this world is immersed in sin and iniquity, it desperately needs a Risen Christ like never before.
Let us not forget, dear brothers and sisters, that during His first meeting with His Apostles, the Risen Christ, first and foremost, gave them peace. Peace is what we all need. First of all, peace in our souls, which is achieved through living the evangelical commandments, and living in Christ. Peace is also needed for our Serbian people, which is why we should remember the words of the Psalmist David – the Lord will give strength to his people, the Lord will bless his people in peace (Ps 28: 11). That is why we always pray that the light of Christ’s Resurrection will warm the hearts of as many of our countrymen as possible, and that springtime will also reach into their souls, that we may say we are truly God’s people. And when that happens, then God will give us strength to endure in all the trials that fall on us and bless us with peace. Our first priority is to preserve the soul of our nation, Kosovo and Metohija, from where the Resurrection always shines forth for us Serbs. With all this before our eyes, let us remain faithful to the testimony of Tsar Lazar, and trust our ancestors in the Risen Christ, as we actively await the Resurrection, and the Life in the age to come.
Sharing such thoughts and prayerful hopes, we wish you all the best on this Feast of Feasts, The Passover of Our Lord, as together we proclaim the words of victory that have conquered the world:
CHRIST IS RISEN – HE IS RISEN INDEED!
Prayerfully remembering you all before the Throne of Our 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
Pascha of the year 2020,
in the Monastery of Nova Nikea, Lelić.