Resurrection of the Lord, Renewal of our Life,
Pastoral letter of His Beatitude Teoctist,
Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church,
Holy Easter, 2006
† T E O C T I S T
Archbishop of Bucharest
Metropolitan of Muntenia and Dobrudgea
Locum Tenens of Caesarea of Cappadochia
Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church
To our beloved clergy, monks and Christian faithful, grace and peace from God-the-Father and hierarchal blessing from us
“The One who suffered crucifixion and spoiled death and rose from the dead, reconcile our life, o, Lord, as one Almighty.”
(From the Resurrection service)
Beloved spiritual sons and daughters,
Christ is Risen!
Time has come today, tells us Saint John Chrysostom, to say what blessed David said: “Who can tell all the great things He has done? Who can praise Him enough?” (Ps. 106:2). The much awaited for and saving feast, the day of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord has come: the foundation of peace, the cause of reconciliation, cessation of wars, infringing death, defeat of the devil”. “For these eternal benefits, the Son of God became God among people, explains Saint Basil the Great; for the spoilt body He made Himself body and lived among us. He was the benefactor for us, the ungrateful ones; the sun of justice for those who live in the darkness; the innocent on the cross; Life in death; the Light in the hell; the Resurrection for the fallen ones”.
The purpose of the evil angel of the darkness, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (Luke 10,18) fallen because of his pride and ungratefulness for the kindness of His Creator, had been reached: the man created to inherit eternal life through his growth in communion with God was touched by sin and due to his disobedience he fell under the punishment of endless death.
Man cannot save himself through his own power, cannot get rid of the evil and sorrow that came into the world and life over here through all the sins that overwhelm the humankind. This is a truth that only those who come back with sincerity and courage to Christ and to His Church, know. It is here, in the holy place of worship that man discovers, through the teaching of Christ, the power to defeat the evil that causes fear and suffering, called either disease, scourges, such as floods, and finally death. So, before seeing if evil is not rooted in his own being, in its true image, that is the sin, man rushes to ascribe it to whatever outside him, which he considers responsible for all his misfortunes.
Man gets this dooming inclination due to the devil’s work, as well as to his own deceit, to his estrangement from Christ. This is why Saint Paul tells us “God’s mercy is so abundant, and His love for us is so great” (Ephesians 2:4) got us out of “the grave” (Ps 71:20). This way of salvation will be always a wonder both for the heavenly and earthly hosts, as it has always been the way of divine reconciliation, mercifulness and forgiveness shared with man through the Cross of the crucifixion of the Son of God. And the glory of his Holy Cross was revealed in the joy brought to the world by the bodily Resurrection of the Lord and in our redemption through His divine sacrifice on Golgotha, which brought us back to the first beauty. While explaining the words of the Lord to his disciples before His Holy Passions “In two days, as you know, it will be the Passover Festival, and the Son of man will be handed over to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2), Saint John Chrysostom teaches that when joining the Easter to His Crucifixion, the Lord “showed us that this was a mystery, a feast and a celebration done for the salvation of the humankind, that His Passions meant getting rid of thousands and thousands of evil things”.
Saint Paul the Apostle teaches us that after Resurrection, the One who chose to save us from inside our humble moral being is “crowned with glory and honour because of the death He suffered” (Hebrews 2:9). But what was unique in His sacrifice, how could it bring “glory and honour” to Christ, our Lord, why has His cross become the praise of the Apostles (Gal. 6:14), of all the martyrs and saints, of all the true Christians? In order to change what used to be the most dreadful and degrading sign and way of suffering into a sign of power and a way to reach glory, a unique fact must have occurred through the divine sacrifice of Christ. In fact, Saint John Chrysostom tells us that the Lord Himself said in order to show the power of the cross: “when you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that ‘I Am Who I Am” (John 8:28). In other words, “when you crucify Me and think you defeated Me, you will know My power”.
So, in the Lord’s Passion on the cross there was no weakness, humble defeat, or cheat, but only the glory and power that defeated the man’s enemy for good, that is the devil. Thus, in this sense, the Apostle of the nations writes about Jesus Christ, our Lord: “freed Himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities, and made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in His victory procession” (Colossians 2:15). But all these things were possible due to the purpose of the Lord’s sacrifice, namely “through God’s grace He died for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). The One with no sin, over whom death had no right whatsoever, tasted the dreadful bitterness of the most terrible punishment for us, that is death.
We see, beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, that in the person of the Incarnated Son of God, our human nature – crucified and then brought back to life and raised to the right side of the heavenly Father – learned the complete obedience and will of God, paying the price, but also receiving the eternal reward for this obedience. In today’s world, we see it is more and more difficult to speak of obedience, of the need of obeying the word of God and the holy places of worship of the Church, although it is a well known fact that it is only by observing them that the normality of life and its good order can be ensured. And there are lots of things proving the evil effect in the good order of life: either in the personal and family life or in the social one, or lately in the scourges of the weather. For Christians, hazard and fate are not words void of meaning, as long as no sparrow “falls on the ground without your Father’s consent” (Matthew 10:29), because “God does not want us to be in disorder but in harmony and peace” (I Cor. 14:33). In creation, as well as in our life, no event can take place without God’s knowledge about it, but when disorder comes in, the events of the visible world are no longer stable. We ought to confess these truths and put all our hope in God “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life” (John 3:16). According to the Holy Scriptures, the world is always watched over by God, with His kindness, and in no case submitted to a blind hazard. This is why the entire Church prays for keeping or re-establishing the good order of life, seeing the goods of this world as the gifts and blessings of God, as we are His friends and members of His family (Ephesians 2:19). So, we ought to respect the gift of our life and our neighbours’, not to be selfish, greedy, or unconcerned about our fellow beings and nature.
Fortunately, we still see examples of love and Christian human devotion around us, but unfortunately there are also damaging cases for the mind and soul, while many things seem indifferent from a moral-spiritual point of view. “Let us remove the indifferent facts from our soul, urges us Saint John Christostom, as later on they certainly generate sins, because whatever is not a good deed, for certain, has the seed of evil and sin in it.
Having been sons of the Resurrection and reconciliation of our Church, we must be worthy of keeping the light of faith in the Risen Christ, the light found in the souls of some of our brothers even where it is still flickering or hardly lighting. And how could we prove the power of our faith in Resurrection and eternal life in a more convincing manner than by living the Gospel’s virtues: namely kindness, cleanness, mercy and especially love for our fellow beings and the new commandment given by Christ, our Lord: the love for the enemy (Matthew 5:44). Without His resurrection we could not have received the grace of the Holy Spirit, which makes possible for our inner image to take the shape of the word and commandment of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Risen from the dead after three days. It is only in this treasure of the heart that lives the immortal value of the love of all people. With this spiritual view we can see the image of the crucified Christ in every human being, as well as the light of His victorious teaching. It is with this spiritual thought in mind and way of living that we can live the joy of the Resurrection of the Lord, and hope to defeat the sorrows that come upon us. So, we shall live and fulfil the words of Jesus Christ, our Lord: “It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices” (Matthew 9:13), feeling pity for the orphans, for the old people or for those feeling the sorrow of sin. Unfortunately, the victims of this kind of suffering are just the young people, the most precious treasure of any nation, as they are very often attracted by debauchery, that estranges some of them from their parents’ home, pushing them to the bodily and especially spiritual precipice. Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, we all have the mission to save them.
It is from this treasure of the love of Christ and for coming closer to the fulfilment of the desire to be one in Him (John 17:21) that we take courage to continue the dialogue among us, as we are the faithful and servants of God, from everywhere. So, these are the values that the world, and humankind from everywhere, needs nowadays, as they should hear the words of Jesus Christ, our Lord: “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does” (John 14:27).
I tell you all this, with fatherly love, wishing you to spend the glorious feast of the Resurrection of the Lord with holy joy and peaceful mind. “May our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us unfailing courage and a firm hope in His grace, encourage and strengthen you always to do and say what is good” (II Thes. 2: 16-17).
Your spiritual father, always prayerful to the Holy Trinity, embraces you all with love and announces you all:
“Christ is Risen!”
Archbishop of Bucharest ,
Metropolitan of Muntenia and Dobrudgea,
Locum tenens of Caesarea of Cappadochia,
Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church