Metropolitan Leonid of Klin sent Easter message to the clergy, monastics and laity of the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa and the Diocese of Yerevan and Armenia.
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Dear in the Lord Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,
I extend to you my heartfelt felicitations on the greatest feast of the Pascha of the Lord!
Following His third-day Resurrection, Christ repeatedly appeared to the holy apostles and myrrh-bearing women to let them see for themselves that He had indeed risen from the dead. Yet, not at once did they believe, and not all them, for that incredible event was in complete contrast with human life experience and logic. Besides, even the Saviour’s physical appearance was so altered after His Resurrection that many people did not recognise Him. It was only the Holy Spirit on Pentecost that by descending upon the apostles once and for all established them in the faith in the Resurrection of Christ and gave them strength to bring this faith, now devoid of any doubts and hesitations, to the world and enlighten humankind.
A mystery of Christianity is that we come to Christ not yet seeing Him. It happens because we start believing. In the Gospel we hear the words of life and gradually the Risen Lord comes into our view. We move on from subconscious to reasonable faith, and the Saviour reveals Himself to us.
The only way to embrace Christianity is to love our Lord Jesus, Who died and rose again. It is impossible to become a Christian merely under the influence of Christ’s moral teaching or out of respect for His word. But the love for the Son of God may help a person find faith which is inexpressible, inasmuch as it is beyond any earthly sight. No one saw Christ coming out of the tomb, yet each of us is certain that He is risen indeed. This certitude is confirmed every time we partake of the Holy Mysteries and find within us the Risen Saviour – the One Who once appeared to His disciples.
The Evangelist Luke recounts how the travellers walking to Emmaus at first did not recognise Christ but the more time they spent with Him the more they felt that there was something very familiar about Him – things they knew from their experience of conversing with Him. This is the same certitude we find in experiencing His Resurrection, when we die with the Saviour on Holy Week to rise with Him on Easter night.
On these Paschal days the knowledge of the Risen Lord is being given to us in a special way and we have to be worthy of this experience, to be what Christ’s disciples became after He said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22). Prior to that they had seen Jesus but failed to recognise Him as God Incarnate, but now they could say, “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ”.
Through the church Sacraments, we too receive the Holy Spirit. Therefore, each of us has the same responsibility and mission as were once entrusted to the apostles, that is, to preach Christ. Having enjoyed the affinity with the Risen Saviour at Easter, we should not hide His light in our innermost treasury. The Paschal experience is being given to us so that we might bring this joy to those near and those far off – to the world that the Lord wants to enlighten through us by His Resurrection.
Doubts and faith intertwined have pursued Christians for centuries. Some worshipped Christ as God and Saviour; others questioned the truth of His Resurrection. Some were working to build up the Church of God, laying down their lives for the Gospel; others came up with their own teachings, would fall into schisms and join sects, for they had doubts about the Resurrection of Christ and whether He is the true God. Such attempts will continue but we, who believe in Jesus the Messiah, know that He is our Lord Who rose on the third day. Our knowledge is rooted in the entire history of the Church and our own experience of living in her bosom, which prove that Christ rose from the dead because He is the Incarnate God and in order to open the way towards resurrection for everyone.
In this Easter season let us once again meditate on the purpose of our earthly life as the time given to us so that we might prepare for eternity and already in this world behold with our spiritual eyes the Risen Saviour, casting away all doubts and professing our faith like the Apostle Thomas, saying, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28) – with all the heart and with all the soul.
Today, on the feast of the Radiant Resurrection of Christ, I extend greetings to all faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church living on the African continent and in the Republic of Armenia. In my prayers I wish you all spiritual joy in the Risen Saviour, further growth in faith and piety, generous help from God in your work and endeavours, good health, peace and longevity!
INDEED, CHRIST IS RISEN!
+LEONID, Metropolitan of Klin, Patriarchal Exarch of Africa