Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston - Paschal Encyclical
- A PASCHAL ENCYCLICALofHis Eminence, Metropolitan Ephraim of BostonMy beloved brethren and children in Christ
Christ is risen!
Let us who have beheld the Resurrection of Christ worship our holy Lord Jesus, who is alone without sin. We worship Thy Cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Thy holy Resurrection....
These cherished words are repeated many times during Paschal Week and also in every Sunday Matins service. They express the very essence of our Christian faith: the Cross and the Resurrection. Indeed, one might say that in the words of this beautiful troparion, every element of our life in Christ is proclaimed for the entire world to hear. For one thing, we find here the confession of our faith:
For Thou art our God, and we know none other beside Thee, and we call upon Thy Name.
After this, we are instructed about the true purpose of our Saviour’s crucifixion, and, at the same time, we learn why we, as Christians, are called upon to take up our cross and follow Christ:
Here we see clearly that the purpose of the Cross was not to bring a “satisfaction” demanded by an angry God the Father, as the heterodox teach. It was not to assuage God the Father’s wrath, because His divine justice could not begin to operate until “the infinite offense” perpetrated by mankind had been “atoned for,” as the Scholastics and Reformers of the Western denominations tell us. Rather, its purpose was to deliver us from corruption and death, to set us free from Satan’s tyranny and the bonds of Hades, and thereby to bring joy to the whole world.
Wherefore, in inexpressible jubilation and leaps of joy, every Orthodox Christian celebrates Christ’s triumph in this radiant feast and exclaims:
For ever blessing the Lord, we praise His Resurrection.
Then, this anthem to our Redeemer’s victory over death ends with the words:
He endured the Cross for us, and by death destroyed death.
I recall reading many years ago a biography of the saintly Metropolitan Anastasy (Gribanovsky), the second hierarch to lead the Russian faithful who had been scattered abroad by the murderous and atheistic ideology that swept their nation. Just as every Christian must take up and endure the Cross that is given him, and, by this spiritual death to the world, must destroy the dominion of death in himself, Metropolitan Anastasy, while yet a lad of fifteen years, understood that this is the path that all Christians must take when they ponder their earthly mortality and the eternity that awaits us. Thus, at that very young age, he completely surrendered himself to God. As he said in his own words:
I felt especially the insignificance of all that is earthly.... I became pensive and cool toward not only all the joys of life, but also toward life itself, considering that all was as nothing when compared to eternity. By dying to this world, we destroy death in our mortal flesh, and we arise eternally in God. This is one of the great mysteries and triumphs of the Christian Faith. By laying down our life, we regain it again eternally. This is the Cross and the Resurrection.
In addressing another aspect of this holy feast, Saint John Chrysostom has the following to say regarding certain sectarians who do not believe in the Resurrection of the body:
But why did He raise Lazarus again, if it would have been better to rise without a body?.... Be not deceived by the heretics, therefore; for there is a Resurrection and there is a Judgment, but they who deny these things desire not to give an account of their actions.Some say,There is a Resurrection, but not of the body.” Do they not hear Paul saying, “This corruptible must put on incorruption” (I Cor. 15:53 )? He is not speaking about the soul, for the soul does not suffer corruption. Moreover, “resurrection” is a term used for something that fell, and that which fell was the body. But why would you have it that there is no resurrection of the body? Is it not possible with God? But this is foolishness. Is it unseemly? Why is it unseemly that the corruptible which shared mankind’s toil and death should share also the crowns? But if the body is unseemly, it would not have been created in the first place and Christ would not have taken the flesh again [in His Resurrection]. But to show that He took it again and raised it up, listen to what He says: “Bring hither thy finger” (John 20:27 ); and also, “Behold, a spirit hath not flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39).(On the Gospel of Saint John , Homily 66)
The physical Resurrection of our Saviour is precisely what makes our Saviour’s victory so marvellous and so complete. Death is utterly destroyed, and we are thereby set free from our oppressor, the final enemy of mankind.
Wherefore, my beloved, “for ever blessing the Lord” for our liberation, let us “praise His Resurrection!” Amen. So be it.
Christ is risen!
Truly He is risen!
Your fervent suppliant unto God,
X Ephraim, Metropolitan of Boston
Protocol number 2219