Paschal Epistle of His Eminence HILARION, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad
Eminent Brother Archpastors, Honorable Fathers, Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Christ is Risen!
With a sense of jubilation in the Lord, the Victor over evil, hell and death, I greet you all on this luminous night of the Matins and Liturgy of the Pascha of Christ, this “feast of faith” which the great Chrysostom exhorts us to relish! Congratulations with the Bright Resurrection of Christ!
The grace-filled power of Great Lent and Holy Pascha unites us all, elevates, illumines, softens and broadens our souls, which during these holy days are revealed in their finest degrees. Still, no matter how much we have strived to seclude ourselves within the cells of our hearts, mindfully heeding the touching hymns sung during Great Lent and Passion Week, that which is unfolding in the land of Kievan Rus’ – a land so dear to us – forcefully encroaches into our lives. We, as Orthodox Christians, cannot remain indifferent when members of one and the same Local Church gaze at each other through the sights of automatic weapons; we cannot remain indifferent when our brothers and sisters, deprived of shelter, become refugees, as once were the founders of our own Russian Church Abroad.
Our inability to remain indifferent is expressed first and foremost in our fervent prayers for the restoration of peace, lifted up during the Divine Services in the parishes of our Russian Church Abroad. And at this moment, as we worship Christ the Giver of Life, we turn towards His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the archpastors, pastors, and the multitude of the flock of the persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and fervently implore that they, and all those who with wearied hearts are tormented by the present tragedy, may experience that which is hymned in the Paschal nighttime, as we sing out: “O Pascha, thou art the ransom from sorrow!” May “this chosen and holy day” be a consolation and joy, an outpouring of mercy, aid, and Divine strength for all!
O God, our God, grant that the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) may reign among our Orthodox peoples, that we, not falling into despair, may overcome all tribulations, discord and conflicts “through Him that loved us” (Romans 8:37), so that “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23) may be restored among us anew.
Now, as hostility, anger and hatred destroy the concord and brotherhood between nations and bring our sinful world to the threshold of hell, it is not the place of the Church to render political verdicts or take upon ourselves the task of seeking out those responsible for what is happening in the Ukrainian land. It is the work of the Church to join the suffering — not only in prayer, but in deed. Of this, our Lord the Chief Pastor instructed us plainly in the Gospel reading of the Sunday of the Dread Judgment (cf. Matthew 25:31–46).
This is why, beginning already in 2014, we have been offering help to those suffering in southeastern Ukraine; and since February of this year, when the new hostilities began, the dioceses and parishes of the Russian Church Abroad, our Fund for Assistance, and our other ecclesiastical-social organizations have been responding with kind hearts, vigorously and generously, to this terrible catastrophe. May the Lord save you all for your sacrificial labors! Such concrete help prevents us from becoming “salt that has lost its flavor” (Matthew 5:13), and shows that we can and must become more involved in the conciliar work of building the Church. We, as God’s people, scattered throughout the entire world, have many gifts and talents with which we can serve not only Him, Who with His Most-Pure Blood perfected our salvation, but can also serve His Holy Church and our neighbor. So let us not grow weak in spirit or fall into despair, but “let us commit ourselves and one another and all our life unto Christ our God!”
May Pascha, wondrous and sweetly fragrant, warm cold hearts and unite us all! May the exclamation “Christ is Risen,” which forever evokes trepidation among those who have departed from the Father’s house, remind us that we, as Orthodox Christians, are children of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who Rose on the third day and with Whom and in Whom we shall also be resurrected for the life of the age to come. Amen.
With love in the Resurrected Christ, I ask for your holy prayers,
+ HILARION, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia