Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

On Rejoicing in the Desert

Paschal Epistle of His Eminence
Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

Emi­nent Broth­er Arch­pas­tors, Rev­erend Fathers, Dear Broth­ers and Sisters:

Christ is Risen!

With the joy of God’s King­dom, as we are “divine­ly glad, for Christ is risen,”1 I offer my Paschal greet­ing to all: both to those who have suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed the reclu­sion of their quar­an­tine, cel­e­brat­ing now in the church­es and com­muning of Christ’s Holy Mys­ter­ies; and also to those who yet abide in the desert of soli­tude and var­i­ous restric­tions, ded­i­cat­ing the bet­ter por­tion of their time to pri­vate prayer, spir­i­tu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial read­ing, and inter­ac­tion with loved ones. May the for­mer and the lat­ter both, in the words of St John Chrysos­tom, “hon­or the day,”2 receiv­ing in their hearts the rich­es of God’s goodness!

As I began to com­pose my greet­ing and sought pre-Paschal inspi­ra­tion in the works of the ever-mem­o­rable Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­ta­sy (Grib­anovsky), who reposed 55 years ago, I opened a com­pendi­um of his writ­ings and found the fol­low­ing words: “In the silence of the desert, your Paschal joy can be fuller, brighter, and more com­plete than ours, for it is not stolen away by the bril­liant tumult with which we fill the Feast, rather than spend­ing it in qui­et and thought­ful con­tem­pla­tion of the great Paschal mys­tery and in serene and imper­turbable peace.”

These instruc­tive words of His Beat­i­tude, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­ta­sy remind us that, on the holy Paschal night, every­one is called to become an ani­mate tem­ple, in the depths of which he can and must feel the joy and tri­umph of the heav­ens, which glo­ri­fy Christ the Giv­er of Life.

More than once, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­ta­sy him­self, as well as many of his con­tem­po­raries, greet­ed Pascha in the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions of life in those days. In gen­er­al, the lot giv­en to the founders of the Russ­ian Church Abroad was one of many tri­als: the events of the rev­o­lu­tion and civ­il war, the begin­ning of god­less per­se­cu­tions, two world wars and their after­math, the migra­tion of the Russ­ian exiles, and in for­eign lands bear­ing the wit­ness of the mar­tyrs of the Russ­ian Church, of the suf­fer­ings of Her con­fes­sors, and of the pious paths trod­den by Holy Russia.

In the years of World War II, the por­tion of the Moth­er Church in the dias­po­ra was head­quar­tered with­in the con­fines of the hos­pitable Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church, which at that time was being harassed by Nazi Ger­many. The lat­ter harassed our eccle­si­as­ti­cal hier­ar­chy, as well, though in truth to a much less­er degree. The depart­ed Ser­bian Patri­arch Gabriel V would lat­er say of this, that “Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­ta­sy com­port­ed him­self with great wis­dom and tact dur­ing the Ger­man occu­pa­tion, [though he] was always loy­al to the Serbs, as a result of which he was dis­trust­ed by the Ger­mans, and sev­er­al times sub­ject­ed to humil­i­at­ing search­es.” 3 In the post-war years, Vla­dy­ka Anas­ta­sy took care for the sal­va­tion of his spir­i­tu­al chil­dren, whom the West­ern Allies were hand­ing over to bloody reprisals by the god­less author­i­ties. In some camps, the cler­gy were able to avert the han­dover of Russ­ian peo­ple, while in oth­ers, they stood, cross­es in hand, between their flock and the tanks point­ed toward the crowd. By the begin­ning of the 1950’s, thanks to the activ­i­ty and per­sis­tent peti­tions of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­ta­sy and his assis­tants, most of the Russ­ian emi­gres were able to leave Europe and set­tle over­seas in coun­tries that opened their doors in compassion.

Soon they were also joined by the for­mi­da­ble émi­gré com­mu­ni­ty from the Far East, among whom was the flock of the Holy Hier­ar­ch John (Max­i­movitch). After so many tri­als, His Beat­i­tude, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­ta­sy, now fatigued by old age, came to Amer­i­ca and began “to gath­er stones togeth­er” (Eccle­si­astes 3:5), work­ing to increase the pas­toral nour­ish­ment of the Russ­ian Dias­po­ra and grow its church life.

Dear fathers, broth­ers, and sis­ters! On this Pascha, med­i­tat­ing on the dif­fi­cul­ties of our days and on the approach­ing momen­tous dates of the 725th anniver­sary of the Kursk Root Icon of the Moth­er of God “of the Sign” and the 100th anniver­sary of the ser­vice of the Russ­ian Church Abroad, let us recall the deep faith, the great­ness of heart, the height of ful­fill­ing their duties, the wis­dom, patience, and courage of our fore­bears, and let us con­tem­plate the per­son­al­i­ties of these spir­i­tu­al giants!

Light­ing our can­dles today, let us light our hearts from the lamp of their burn­ing faith.

From my whole heart, I wish for you all to spend these all-joy­ous days in good health and cheer­ful dis­po­si­tion, per­ceiv­ing the vic­to­ri­ous pow­er of God and the illu­mi­na­tion of the Light of His Res­ur­rec­tion on the Third Day, so that in the future, when it seems to us that “Hades doth reign,” we might remem­ber that its reign over us is “not for­ev­er,” as we read in the canon of Great Sat­ur­day, and that we might find in that the strength to over­come any tri­als in this life! Amen.

With Paschal joy in the Risen Christ and ask­ing your holy prayers,

Met­ro­pol­i­tan of East­ern Amer­i­ca and New York
First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Church Out­side of Russia.

Pascha of the Lord, 2020 AD