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His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church : Holy Easter Pastoral Letter 2015

Jesus Christ’s Resurrection – The Light of Eternal Joy

 

Christ Is Risen!

 

Highly Devoted and Pious Fathers,

 

Dear Christian believers,

 

For the Orthodox world, the celebration of the Holy Easter is an icon of light of eternal joy in the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, this joy springs from Jesus Christ who was crucified and who resurrection, the Defeater of Sin, Hell and Death. (…)

The liturgical beauties and the sacred meanings of the Holy Easter celebration rise our minds and hearts to the undying light and glory of God’s Kingdom, where the Right ones and the Saints will live after the Community Resurrection. (according to Apocalypse 21, 23).

Here are a few of the sacred meanings of the Resurrection Mass and of the Christian Easter tradition:

In the night of the Holy Easter, the darkness, created by putting out the light and the candles in the church as place of worship, precisely at midnight, symbolizes the “outer darkness” (Matthew 25, 30) of death and hell, where Jesus Christ has descended with His human soul (according to 1 Peter 3, 18 – 19). Moreover, the living godly soul of Christ descended into hell is symbolized by the sole votive light kept burning in the church, which is the votive light on the Sacred Table, in the Sacred Shrine, because the Sacred Table symbolizes Our Lord Jesus Christ’s tomb, of which he had resurrected. When the leader (the bishop or priest) sets the Easter candle alight in the icon lamp on the Sacred Table, he exits the shrine and lifts the candle for everyone to see, which signifies the mystery of Christ’s rising or resurrection from the death (in Greek, resurrection is reflected by the word “anastasis” which means rising. Then, from this sole candle held by the priest, all candles of clergy and believers are lighted, and by this liturgical act, they symbolically share the truth that The Sacred Son of God Jesus Christ is “the firstfruits (of the resurrection, editor’s note) of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20), “the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians, 1:18), “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8, 29), “the first to proclaim light both to Jewish people and to the Gentles (Acts 26: 23). Therefore, we understand that the resurrection of God is the beginning and the base of the resurrection of all people, of the resurrection of the community. Out of this reason, the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection is made outside the edifice of the Church, for all people to hear and see, because resurrection and victory upon death is God’s gift to all people.

The joy of Resurrection is a greater joy than suffering and death, because it is not a joy produced by the world enslaved in sins and death, but it is a joy springing from Resurrected Christ, the Defeater of Sin and Death. The joy of resurrection is the joy of a man entering the glory and happiness of God’s eternal Kingopm. Out of this reason, just like souls cleansed and renewed through fasting and prayers, through repentance and eucharistic communion, liturgical Easter clothes are white like light, and Orthodox believers are wearing new and beautiful clothes, after having painted and decorated their homes, so that they would be filled by light and beauty.

Easter candles symbolize the light of resurrected Christ shared to people. And the red or decorated Easter eggs represent beautiful life lived in humble and sacred love, a life stronger than sin and death. The cross united with the Resurrection candle shows the victory of crucified and resurrected Christ above the evilness of the demons (according to Colossians 2:15), but also the victory of His crucified love upon the hatred, envy and violence of people who crucified Him.

The Troparion of Resurrection: „Christ has resurrected from the death / stepping with death upon death / and to those from graves / He gave life”, sang in the fifth voice, is a song of victory and joy that also becomes the confession and spiritual breathing of the church for 40 days, starting on Easter Night and until the celebration of Our Lord’s Ascension. This troparion brings joy and light in our souls, both by simplicity of form and richness of content. It concentrates the entire Gospel or the Good News of God’s endless and merciful love to the world, but also the entire faith and hope of the Orthodox Church, and feeds itself out of the joy of Christ’s Resurrection.

The short version of the troparion of resurrection is the Easter greeting: “Christ Has Risen!” “He truly has risen!” we address one another at this time. The Easter greeting we address one another at this time of the year is a confession of faith, that shows that truth of Christ’s resurrection was received by us in order to send it forward to the world. Therefore, each Orthodox Christian becomes a herald of God’s resurrection, following the example of the Myrrh-bearers and of the Holy Apostles, who had met resurrected Christ.

 

Dear spiritual sons and daughters,

 

The celebration of the Holy Easter shows us the love of God for people and for the entire universe. The Light of God’s Resurrection grants meaning to daily Christian life because Christ resurrected due to His Holiness is mysteriously present and active in His Church until the end of centuries: “Here, I am with you every day, until the end of centuries” (Matthew 28:20). The light and joy of Christ’s resurrection grant meaning to the universal history of humanity, because they lead it to universal (community) resurrection and to universal judgment, more precisely towards the spiritual evaluation of the life of all people of all times and all places, according to the criterion of merciful love to the needy (as shown in Matthew 25: 31 – 46). The Light of Christ’s Resurrection gives meaning to the entire creation, the entire universe or cosmos, because it straightens the present universe that is getting old, to “a new sky and a new earth”, where “death will be no longer”. (Apocalypse 21: 1 and 4). Therefore, the Orthodox Church is singing in the Easter night: “Now, everything is filled with light, the sky, the earth and things under the earth.” Which means that now, everything was filled with meaning and hope, because the human existence and the entire creation will be freed and healed of the absurdity and perishableness of death (according to 1 Corinthians 15, 51 – 58). (…)

 

Beloved brothers and sisters,

 

In a world filled with instability and insecurity, violent conflicts and disagreements between nations, many people are saddened and hopeless. This is why we have to seek more intensely the joy brought by the meeting with Christ the Resurrected, Who defeated sin and death, and to share this joy with saddened people, by praying, granting help to the needy and showing solidarity.

The joy of the presence of Christ the Resurrected’s merciful love in the hearts of Christians inspires philanthropy or merciful and generous love that softens the sadness of people who feel unloved by people they once met, but who are loved by merciful God.

Therefore, each of us are called to be witnesses and servants of peace and the joy of Resurrected Christ, especially in hospitals, orphanages, prisons, asylums for the elderly and homes of people who endure suffering, poverty sadness and solitude.

Let us show around us light from the light of Christ’s Resurrection, let us see the face of each man in the light of Christ’s Resurrection, as a Holy Easter candle lighted in the world by Christ’s love of humans.

Let us say a prayer for all Romanians far away from their country, among strangers, to keep their ancient Orthodox Christian faith and to cultivate the love for our Romanian spiritual and cultural values.

May the peace and joy brought by Christ Our Lord to apostles and myrrhbearers in the Day of His Resurrection fill the hearts and homes of each of you, so that together we will hail the richness of Our Lord’s love and mercy for people, by our good words and good deeds.

We pray to God that the Holy Easter Holidays would bring you long, peaceful and happy lives, health and redemption, and we also address you the Easter greeting: “Christ Has Risen!”

Yours, praying to Our Lord Jesus,

+Daniel

Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church

 

(Excertps)

 

 

 

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