Great and Holy Pascha, enlightenment of the faithful

Sermon of His Eminence, Bishop Parthenius of Antania, Abbot and Elder of the Bigorski Monastery, delivered on The Great and Holy Pasha, 2021 year of our Lord.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ the Resurrected, we have been privileged by the Divine human-loving Providence to celebrate the Holy Pascha even in these hard and unpleasant times. We celebrate the Passover ‘from death to life and from the Earth to Heaven”[1]. Christ is our Pascha in whom “we, faithful, rejoice, having the fulfillment of our hope” [2], He is the foundation, “the corner stone”, rejected by the builders, but celebrated by God – not just of the Christian, but also of the entire human life in general. “It is from God and it is wonderful for our eyes”[3].

Come and accept the light from the unsetting Light, and give thanks to Christ, Who has risen from the dead.

Today, in this bright nychthemeron, in the unsetting Eight day of the Kingdom, the Church invites us to joy and enlightenment. In the first chant of the Resurrection Canon, we are about to chant triumphantly: “It is the day of Resurrection…” The One who has risen from the grave, has prepared a meal of joy and enlightenment for us. Nowhere else we could find this incorruptible treasure, except in Christ our Lord, in His authentic Resurrection, which remains even today and forever the greatest truth, greater than any reality and more truthful than any historical event. This is because the Resurrection of our Savior is a fact which covers all the historical periods of human existence, surpassing time itself. It fulfills the past, thrills the present, enters the future; what is more, the Resurrection cannot be put in any frames of space and time: “in the tomb with your body, my dear Christ, in hades with your soul as God, in Heaven with the reasonable thief and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit, fulfilling everything, beyond any word”[4]. Unfortunately, the world did not recognize the Light that came in it and did not rejoice with it, because ” light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”[5] . Therefore, the world slowly drowns into hopelessness, in a dead end. People look for a way out of the melancholy and hopelessness but in the fake things, search for solutions of their problems but in the wrong place. Longing for freedom, they submit themselves to the most bitter slavery. People become slaves of their most humiliating desires, but also of dead objects. We are astonished to see how people of our time slowly become slaves of technology and technical appliances. And this slavery goes even to idolatry. The internet platforms and social networks have turned into a space for exposure and exploitation of human passions, of the dark side of fallen man. Instead of association and friendship, their functioning comes down to, destruction of human relations, dysfunction of marital connections, disappearance of the essential warmth and closeness between the parents and children and vice versa. Just how many children’s souls have become victims of the abuse of technology. Our Church is not against the technological progress and the use of the God given resources of the Earth, but we are against the unhealthy misuse which leads to slavery and self-destruction. “I have been allowed everything”, says the Church through the mouth of Apostle Paul, “but not everything is useful for me. I have been allowed everything, but I won’t let anything take over me”[6]. Today we constantly hear the suggestions of this world for a better life and many people give into the life of material luxury and all kinds of pleasure. We are familiar with many of them who have chosen the path of pursuit for material treasures, but who are satisfied with it only for a very short time. Because life, without the true meaning, which is Christ, leads inevitably towards terrible despair. Therefore, my dear ones, we have the Church of Christ which invites us to a new, real life, a life close to our neighbor, a life in the God-made Man Christ, Who remains forever the example of an authentic and real human being.

This temptation with the pandemic, which fell upon us in the past two years, has shown us clearly that life can suddenly change out of nothing. It gave us the lesson that everything we hope for in this world can suddenly disappear. Only the reality of Christ’s Resurrection can never be gone, because it is eternal. Tonight we will listen to wonderful chants about the unmaterial Pascha, about Christ who was resurrected and brought eternal joy [7], about the Pascha which forever opened the gates of Heaven to us [8]. Now everyone of us is invited to enter this wonderful enlightenment in the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection and live the eternal joy even while still here on Earth. In fact, every Holy Liturgy is re-experiencing of Pascha for the faithful and a reminder of the heavenly Kingdom. My dear ones, the past year and this one too, many of our neighbors left this world suddenly, due to the dangerous disease which has shaken the world.  Let us pray for their souls, so the rays of the glorious Resurrection could enlighten them too in the Kingdom of our Lord. Death is a sad parting and a grief, but it is not so terrible anymore, it doesn’t have the tyrannical power which it had before the resurrection of Christ. With His glorious Resurrection, the wall between life and death was broken and the eternal life came to us all. Let us pray in this hour even for those in the hospitals, lying weak in their beds, so that God could soon give them health and recovery. As for all of us, may the Resurrected Christ give us the real enlightenment so that we could be real people. Not like those who wonder in the deserts of this world, trapped in the self-enchanted circle without exit. I say self-enchanted because man is self-deceived by the empty hopes in this world. So let us, therefore, hear, my dear ones, “the Divine, most kind, sweetest voice” [9] of the Resurrected Lord who is inviting us out of this blind alley. This is the exit, this is the Passover, this is our Pascha – Christ our Savior, who gave us immense joy from the empty tomb. I wish you from the bottom of my heart that today’s joyful chant of the Church is made true in regards to you: The day of Resurrection…. But in order to open the door of the Paschal enlightenment, we need a key: that key is our good will. We have to be willing, just like the thief on the cross, who wanted to be with Christ. Although in the horrific drama of Golgotha, he was justly convicted, along with the other thief from the left side, still in all that terrible turmoil and agony he acted reasonably, God-lovingly and found the right way. He recognized Christ, who was crucified next to Him, confessed him as a God and asked him for eternal life. My dear ones, amids this turmoil we are in during this period, surrounded by the false hopes and vain pursuit for luxury, let us ask for Christ the Crucified God and just like the reasonable thief cry to Him: “Remember me Christ, My Lord, in the Kingdom of Yours. Enlighten me and bless me!” And He won’t leave us because He is our God who has willingly chosen to suffer for our sake, to be crucified and to rise again. He is not the tyrant who wants to rule over us by force. He Himself gave us our free will and has full respect for it, patiently awaiting us to willingly choose Him and call to Him: “I love you Christ, my Lord, come to my heart and enlighten me!”

I would like to ask you, my dear ones, all of you who have been gathered here tonight, in honor of the Resurrected One. When you leave bring with you this immaterial Paschal joy and fulfill your lives with it. Don’t let it die as soon as the candles go out and abandon Him as soon as you live the Church. Don’t leave Him behind, but rather “go to Galilea” of your heart, to your love, to the Kingdom within you [10] – there you will see Him as He has told you [11].

Christ is risen!

[1] Paschal Canon canticle 1. [2] Paschal Canon canticle 9. [3] Sp. Matthew 21,24. [4] Pentacostar Troparion. [5] John 3,19. [6] 1. Cor. 6,12. [7] Paschal Canon canticle 1 and 9. [8] Paschal Stichera Tone 5. [9] Paschal Canon canticle 9. [10] Luke 17,21. [11] Мark 16,7.