K S E N O F O N T
By the grace of God
Diocese of Raska and Prizren
To all our spiritual children, monastics, clergy and faithful,
An All-Joyful Christian Greeting
CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
The Angels in heaven praise thy Resurrection, O Christ our Saviour.
Make us here on earth also worthy to glorify Thee in purity of heart!
Dear brothers and sisters, our spiritual children all. How wonderful are these words, which we sing in sacred processions throughout our humble catacombs, on this miraculous and joyful night of Christ’s Resurrection, when following the priest’s invitation to receive „light from the unfading light“, we lit our own lanterns, and together with the Wise Maidens of the Parable in our thoughts, we illumined the lanterns of our minds and the spirit within our souls. Because we sing this celebration of Christ’s Resurrection at the same moment that angelic forces sing it in the heavens, we are united as one sacred instrument of the Church both Militant and Triumphant, glorifying the Risen Christ with one mouth and one pure heart. And now, Hades together with all the unclean powers and spirits of darkness in the under-heavens, trembles at the thunderously jubilant sound of the concise but all-sacred hymn: “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs He has given life!” While only the day before, the Church together with the Most Holy Mother of God, chanted with equal joy and sorrow: “O Jesus, my sweet light of salvation, how didst Thou hide in the dark grave? O unspoken and unspeakable suffering!” And you yourself, beautiful Saviour, cried from the Cross to those foolish people with stubborn and uncircumcised hearts: „My people, what have I done to you, or how have I troubled you? I gave sight
+ to your blind, I cleansed your lepers, I raised the man who was lying ill on his bed. My people, what did I do to you, that you should repay me thus? Instead of manna you gave me bile, instead of water you gave me vinegar, and instead of loving me you nailed me to the cross. “
The hearts of the most faithful disciples are broken, and the pure heart of the Mother of God is especially pierced through by the sword of pain and sorrow; and as she looks upon the gentle lifegiving Master, first hanging lifeless on the Cross, thereafter to lie in a cold dark grave,
she weeps: “How will joy shine forth from the Cross, how will Life flow forth from the tomb, when the tomb brings only sorrow, decay and death? “ But, as the Lord prophesied to His disciples on that terrible day before His immeasurable sufferings: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20).
That is why the Holy Church sings these verses with hope on the morning of Good Friday: „Thou art alive, O God, even though Thou dost hang lifeless on the tree, as both naked corpse and living Word of God!” We perceive the sacred supernatural mystery taking place before our eyes, where the flaming sword of the cherubim draws back from the Gates of Heaven allowing the Wise Thief to enter therein; and since we are taught by the Apostle Paul to speak not mournfully like those who have no hope, we rejoice instead, saying: The entrance of Eden is unlocked by the key of Good Thief’s words “Remember me”! (Verses of the Synaxarion from the Matins of Good Friday). Indeed, as we proclaim on the morning of Holy Saturday: “You guard the grave in vain, so guard! Because the grave cannot hold onto Life! ” And while Christ the Man rests bodily in the grave, as God He descends to Hell with His soul; from Hell he brings out all the souls of the righteous dwelling there since Adam and Eve; into Paradise He enters with the Repentant Thief; and with the Father on the Throne as One Who is Uncircumscribable, He abides as God. Hell and its demons tremble together as its locks and its gates are broken asunder. Christ is resurrected from the grave, granting us all eternal life. The Myrrh-Bearers rejoice in sacred fear at the appearance of angels arriving at the empty tomb. And with their lamentation ended, the Apostles exult, the whole creation glorifies, and we all sing the joyful proclamation: Christ is Risen! There is no greater mystery or happier news, in all ages and in all places, other than that Christ was resurrected, dear brothers and sisters. Because from that single mystery alone, from then to now and unto the end of time, every sad, every sick and every dead person who is cast into the soil of the earth and into the depths of Hades below, can draw their only strength and their only hope. For apart from the Risen Christ, there is nothing new under the sun. There is nothing else that heals, nothing else that lives and nothing else that gives life. Through the mystery of the Resurrection – that of Christ and of our own – we are and we remain what we are called to be, namely, the crown of creation, eternally alive in communion with each other and with God, eternal, imperishable and unchangeable. From the very beginning, the Church of the East has zealously and consistently preserved this Mystery of Faith. She believed it and maintained it, and she loudly preached and taught it to everyone as the greatest mystery of the entire universe, the only mystery that saves a tragic man from his own tragedy and ruin, the quintessence of the very Gospel and the final fulfilment of what began with the words of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself: „Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!“ Unfortunately, many of those who go by the name of Christian and who say that they profess Christian teaching and even declare themselves as the Christian Church, have completely abandoned these
words, forgetting and discarding them as an immaterial and incidental affair mentioned in the Holy Gospels. The entire West, with its distorted and de-christianized Christianity, rejected the faith in the Resurrection of Christ which is the dogma of all dogmas, and placed man on the pedestal of the Risen God-Man instead, making him a Man-God, as the great Father of the Church, the Venerable Justin of Chelije, together with Dostoevsky, wisely teaches us. Thus, instead of joining man together with God and with the Resurrection of Christ so as to discover the solution of all solutions, they actually identified man with the devil, not understanding and not having understood that every problem of man, as Fr. Justin says, is in fact intertwined with the problem of the devil, and that the only solution for man is in Christ, the God-Man’s all-sacred immutability, made manifest in the all-sacred Mystery of His Resurrection. And that is why every feast of the Passover of Christ, the Resurrection of Christ, is a new reminder providing us with a new impetus, where the Lord encourages us that we should not despair in the debilitating afflictions of this world, saying: „Do not be afraid, for I have conquered the world!“ (John 16:33). Whatever time and external circumstances may bring, it is important to measure all things by the measure of the God-Man and His Church, the measure of the Resurrection of Christ, the measure of our love for God and neighbour, upon which hang all of the Law and the Prophets.
Let us remember this commandment of the Lord in these days when, among other tragic statistics, we are repeatedly bombarded with information announcing that there are 820 million hungry people in the world today, and that hunger is one of the greatest and most terrible causes of death. Let us not allow our neighbour to go hungry, by contemptuously ignoring his hunger, torment and suffering. Let us not allow ourselves to fall under the same condemnation as the foolish, nameless Rich Man of the Gospel Parable, dressed in scarlet and silk and intoxicated by sensual indulgence, whilst the poor Lazarus lay at his door hungry and sick. Let us therefore meet our neighbours, not as the foolish Rich Man, but as the merciful Samaritan, remembering the words of the Lord, „blessed are the merciful, for they shall be given mercy.“ In this world in which there is so little mercy, so little compassion, so little faith, hope and love, we can see, dear brothers and sisters, that people everywhere over the past two years have been suffering under terrible stress, anxiety and the fear of illness and dying, due to the deliberate overload of information, half-information, and most often, misinformation present. Today, these same people are frantically trembling once again in fear of hunger and poverty, many of them ravaging shops and gathering treasures upon this earth, not trusting in the omniscient Will of God which is above us all. Everywhere there is fear, fear, and more fear; fear and panic which are targeted against us and
purposefully sown amongst us to expel and destroy in our souls every trace of Christian joy, Christian faith, Christian hope and Christian love. And instead of becoming human persons enlivened and empowered by the God-Man, many have become not only half-humans, but sub-humans, humanslaves, complacent and content enough to be living within a cage, which is the greatest enemy of Truth and Freedom.
Let us fear not, therefore, brothers and sisters, our dear spiritual children, about wars and rumours of wars, diseases, famines, poverty, or any earthly power, because none of these separate man from God as does sin and heresy. That is why, in these troubled times, it is important for us above all things, to continue to keep the word of the Cross and Resurrection in our hearts, to preach it in the squares and from the rooftops, and as the Gospel teaches us, to never allow our hearts to fear those who can kill the body, but only to fear that which can throw both body and soul into the fires of Hell. By the blessing and vows of our holy Elder, prayer leader and guide, the blessed and ever memorable Bishop Artemije, this God-preserved Diocese of Raska and Prizren in Exile and all of us clergy and faithful people within it, are obliged to protect the Orthodox Faith from every innovation, reformation and corruption, first and foremost by the testimony of our life, and then by the sacred word of our Confession. Wherefore we invite you, our spiritual children, to stand firm and keep that confessional orientation, to guard the Church, which is the pillar and the fortress of Truth, so that She may protect and preserve us, as she has preserved the Serbian nation throughout all these centuries. Let us guard Her just as our nation of holy heroes following Christ Himself guarded Her, and laid down His life for Her, so that today we too may celebrate and glorify and joyfully exclaim: Christ is Risen! Let us follow this great victor of death without confusion or fear, even in these times when the greatest warmongers are presented as great peacemakers, and when those who create unrest call for peace, forgetting the only Lord of peace Who said to his disciples: “My peace I leave with you; I do not give it
to you as the world gives it.“ (John 14:27). We therefore pray for peace among our Orthodox brothers in Ukraine, as we remember that in Kiev, the mother of Russian cities, and throughout Ukraine, the suffering of the Orthodox people did not begin yesterday or this year, but has been raging unsparingly for years now, before the eyes of the whole world which all along looked upon this suffering in silence. We call on Christ, the Lord and Bringer of Peace to bestow His peace to all, that we may fight under his banner and insignia for peace
and against injustice, and against every other banner and every other ‘peace’ that does not come from the Lord and Father of Light. May the light of the Resurrection of Christ illuminate every Orthodox soul with the evangelical light with which Russian Prince Vladimir baptized the Russian people in Kiev and brought them through the baptismal font in the Orthodox Church, to the knowledge of the Resurrection of Christ. We greet all of them who are passing through the fire of torments and suffering and war, with the generous and life-giving greeting: Christ is Risen! We do not forget the sufferers and martyrs of our Kosovo-Metohija, who peacefully carry their Cross in occupied Kosovo and Metohija, in fervent expectation of an Easter of Kosovo and of All-Serbia, worthy of the Holy-Tsar Martyr Lazar himself, an Easter for which all our souls also longingly await with divine-yearning. We ourselves, who were banished from there by the powers of this world, greet them prayerfully and affectionately, with the desire to gather in spiritual and physical freedom once more, around our hearths and shrines of Kosovo and Metohija, with the wonderful and joyful greeting: Christ is Risen!
And we joyfully greet all Serbs throughout the Serbian lands, wishing them to keep the Cross with the constancy of faith and perseverance depicted in Simo Matavulj’s great patriotic work of Orthodox literature, Pilipenda, „The Serbian Christ“, as you celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, not giving in to discouragement and despair, in the redemptive knowledge that: Christ is Risen! And all of you, dear spiritual children, we joyfully greet once again, wishing you spiritual and physical joys and vigour, so that you do not languish whilst walking upon this sublime and wonderful path of suffering and festivity manifested in Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. Let us not be afraid of any earthly power, for it also trembles as Hell itself trembles, at the sound of this wonderful greeting:
Christ is Risen! – He is Risen indeed!
Prayerfully yours before Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ:
+ Bishop of Raska and Prizren in exile – KSENOFONT
+ Chorbishop of Stara Raška and Loznica – NIKOLAJ
+ Chorbishop of Novo Brdo and Pannonia – MAKSIM
+ Chorbishop of Hvostno and Barajevo – NAUM
At the monastery of the Most Holy Mother of God Trojerucica in Musvete