Paschal Epistle of Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe, 2021. | Пасхальное Послание преосвященнейшего епископа Иринея Лондонского и Западно-Европейского, 2021 г. | Épître pascale de l’évêque Irénée de Londres et d’Europe occidentale, 2021.
1 May, 2021 | Communications from the Diocesan Bishop
To the Venerable Clergy, God-Loving Monastics and Venerable Faithful, Children of the Diocese of Great Britain and Western Europe
Dear in Christ, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!
Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen!
With profound gratitude before Almighty God, we have reached the day for which every Christian heart longs: the day of glory and brightness, of the only true and abiding joy that never fades. We have reached the Day of Resurrection, the Pascha of our Lord, the first day of the new creation He works in our lives and in His world.
How fitting that we arrive at the brightness of this day through the path of the night. Such has been the ordering of our cosmos since God first fashioned it, as the Divine Scriptures say, there was evening and there was morning: the first day (Genesis 1.5). It is first though the nighttime that we must walk, in order to see the brightness of the rising sun, just as before God created the light, darkness was upon the face of the deep (Genesis 1.2). This physical reality from the beginnings of creation is a revelation of a spiritual truth in which we live always. It is through the darkness that light is born: through suffering, we come to joy. We do not venerate Christ’s empty tomb without first bowing before His precious and life-giving Cross, for He Whom we adore did not see fit to rise from that tomb without first accepting the Cross, offering Himself upon it, that we might behold how Love transforms death into life.
And so we arrive at this bright day, through the night that has brought us here — times of struggle, moments of spiritual temptation, the experience of the weakness of the flesh and of the spirit — all of which we offer to Him Who turns sorrow into joy and night into day. And how fitting, that we meet His Resurrection in the depth of night! It is in the darkness of the unlit temple that we light the three-branched candlestick of Pascha; it is in the darkness of night that we take lamps and candles in our hands and go to find the empty tomb. As our great forebear in the Faith, St John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, for many years the Ruling Bishop of this God-preserved Diocese, once said to his flock in Shanghai during the dark period of persecution leading up to their expulsion from that place less than a year later, ‘The present night is no ordinary night! Brighter than the day, it illumines our souls! The rays of the Sun of the world illumine us and the whole universe, enlightening all who come unto His light. The warmth poured out in His rays penetrates all our members, filling our souls with deep peace and even healing our bodily infirmities. Our sorrows are melted away by their warmth, and our passions are burned away as if by fire. … The whole world becomes different in this holy and unequalled night!’ (St John the Wonderworker, Paschal Homily, 1940).
Thus do we stand, beloved brethren and sisters, at the threshold of a new creation. God in His mercy has seen fit to grant us once again the experience of His Resurrection, that, beholding night transformed into day and sin utterly defeated, we might joyfully take courage from our Lord’s defeat of hades, gaining the resolve to combat with new vigour the darkness that remains in us. Christ is risen! Let us therefore fight against our passions with the strength of His victory, overcoming the poisons of fear, or despair, or doubt, or anger. Christ is risen! Rejoice each time you utter these words, for they are the victory-cry of truth over lies, light over darkness, and life over death. And be resolved solemnly to walk behind our Saviour, following His guidance and will, fearing nothing, for we are the children of the resurrected and living God.
May the joy of this Paschal night, and of our New Day, strengthen each of you in the love of our Risen Saviour.
Coveting your prayers,
Bishop of London and Western Europe, Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia