May 3, 2013 (ROCOR-Berlin) - Paschal Epistle of Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany
Christ is Risen, Dear-in-the-Lord Brothers and Sisters!
Every year, on the bright Paschal night, we sing triumphantly to Christ of the Angels who sing praises in heaven for His Resurrection, and we ask that the Resurrected Lord allows us here on earth to see Him and glorify Him with pure hearts.
But is it possible in this life to see God? Will this not only become possible in the future age?
If we were not able to see God in our earthly life, we would not sing during every Paschal divine service: “Having seen the Resurrection of Christ, let us bow down to the Lord Jesus…” Where and how can we behold the Resurrection of Christ? Not externally, not with our fleshly vision, not in our ponderings and imagination, which paints false pictures for us, like clips from an animated movie, and not even in an icon of the Resurrection, for an icon is merely an image of the internal mysteries of existence. There is only one place in the entire universe where we can meet the Lord Christ, and that is within our own hearts. There, in the depths of our hearts, the Lord descends within the mysteries of the Church, in order to bring us out of the hellish prison of our souls (Psalms 141:7), in order to bring us who have been deadened by sin back to life. This is the story of the icon of the Resurrection of Christ, the other name of which is “Descent into Hell.”
The blessedness of seeing the Divine is promised to mankind by the God-Man Himself: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). But this is not promised to everyone, but only to those of pure heart who preserve the commandments of the Lord. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). This promise bears witness to the possibility of seeing the Lord here on earth, for where His commandments are fulfilled, there He shall appear to all those who purify their hearts.
The grace of the Holy Spirit cleanses the heart when we strive wholeheartedly to live for Christ and within Christ. This is especially necessary during the Paschal period. It is dangerous to give oneself over solely to external celebrations, especially noisy, temporal rejoicing. If we forget the Cross of Christ, the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ can easily be transformed from spiritual celebration to fleshly distraction. In order that our joy does not become senseless and sinful, we should, with a purified heart, empathize and remember all that which preceded the Resurrection: the unjust trial of the Savior, the slander, beatings, mockery, His voluntary sufferings on the Cross for our sake, His death and entombment. It is impossible to experience genuine joy over the Resurrection of Christ without dying and without being resurrected together with Christ, without experiencing all His sufferings of the way of the Cross, which He had undertaken for our sakes. It is impossible to evaluate the experience of Christ without being prepared to suffer ourselves, without being ready to spiritually assume for ourselves Gethsemane, Golgotha, the Cross and the descent into Hell. For as Holy Apostle Paul says, if we are planted together with Him in the likeness of His death, then we must be bound also in the Resurrection (Romans 6:5), and if we are children of God, then also we are heirs of God, joint heirs to Christ also, if we only suffer with Him, to be glorified too with Him (Romans 8:17).
May God grant for us who unite with Christ during the Holy Great Lent in the likeness of His death, unite with the resurrected Christ in His likeness in these holy Paschal days, but in all the days of our lives; to triumph and celebrate with His holy Angels, with all the prophets. The Apostles, martyrs and confessors, the holy monastics and the righteous, who cleansed their hearts in order to see God. And may God grant that we, too, those of us who have cleansed and preserved our hearts, be fulfilled with the promise of the desired meeting, the promise of this uncorruptible meeting, unceasing in inseparable joy, granted by the Lord to His holy disciples and all of their followers: “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22).
Indeed Christ is Risen!
Archbishop of Berlin and Germany and the brethren.
Munich/Berlin, Pascha of the Lord 2013