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2024 Patriarchal Encyclical for Holy Pascha



Prot. No. 244

+ B A R T H O L O M E W 






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Most honorable brother Hierarchs and beloved children in the Lord,

By the pleasure and grace of God, the giver of all gifts, having run the race of Holy  and Great Lent and spent with compunction the Week of our Lord’s Passion, behold we  delight in the celebration of His splendid Resurrection, through which we were redeemed  from the tyranny of Hades.

The glorious Resurrection of the Lord Christ from the dead is a shared resurrection  of the entire race of mortals and a foretaste of the perfection of all, as well as of the  fulfilment of the Divine Oikonomia in the heavenly Kingdom. We participate in the  ineffable mystery of the Resurrection in the Church, being sanctified in its sacraments  and experiencing Pascha, “which has opened to us the gates of Paradise,” not as a  recollection of an event in the past, but as the quintessence of ecclesiastical life, as the  presence of Christ ever among us, closer to us than we to ourselves. On Pascha, the  Orthodox faithful discover their true selves as being in Christ; they are integrated into  the movement of all things to the End Times, “with inexpressible and glorious joy” (1  Peter 1.8), as “children of light . . . and children of day” (1 Thess. 5.5).

The central feature of Orthodox life is its Resurrectional pulse. Philosophers have  wrongly described Orthodox spirituality as “sullen” and “autumnal.” By contrast,  Westerners rightly praise the refined perceptiveness of the Orthodox in relation to the  meaning and depth of the paschal experience. Yet this faith never forgets that the way to  the Resurrection passes through the Cross. Orthodox spirituality does not recognize the  utopianism of a Resurrection without Crucifixion, nor the pessimism of the Cross without  the Resurrection. For this reason, in the Orthodox experience, evil does not have the final  word in history, while faith in the Resurrection serves as the motivation for the struggle  against the presence of evil and its consequences in the world, acting as a powerful  transformative force. In the Orthodox self-consciousness, there is no place for surrender to evil or for indifference toward the development of human affairs. On the contrary, its  contribution to the transformation of history has theological basis and existential  grounding and it unfolds without running the risk of identifying the Church with the  world. The Orthodox believer is conscious of the antithesis between worldly reality and  eschatological perfection. And so he or she cannot remain idle before any negative  dimensions of the world. For this reason, the Orthodox Church has never considered the  struggle for transforming the world as a meaningless matter. Our faith in the  Resurrection has preserved the Church both from introversion and indifference for the  world, as well as from secularization.

For us Orthodox, the entire mystery and existential treasure of our piety is  condensed into Pascha. When we hear that the Myrrh-bearers “were astonished” upon  “entering the tomb and seeing a young man dressed in bright clothes” (Mark 16.5), this  characterizes the vastness and essence of our experience of faith as the experience of  existential wonder. When we hear that “they were astonished,” this means that we find  ourselves before a mystery that becomes deeper the more we approach it, in accordance  with what has been said, that our faith “is not a journey from mystery to knowledge, but  from knowledge to mystery.”

While the denial of mystery existentially reduces human nature, the respect of  mystery opens to us the gates of heaven. Faith in the Resurrection is the deepest and  clearest expression of our freedom; or rather, it is the birth of freedom as a voluntary  acceptance of the supreme divine gift, namely of deification by grace. As “experienced  Resurrection,” the Orthodox Church is the space of “authentic freedom” that for the  Christian life is the foundation, way, and destiny. The Resurrection of Christ is the good  news of freedom, the gift of freedom, and the guarantee of “shared freedom” in the  “eternal life” of the Kingdom of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

With these sentiments, most precious brothers and beloved children, filled with  the complete joy of participating in “the feast that is shared by all,” having received light  from the unwaning light and given glory to Christ risen from the dead and brought life  to all – even as we remember during this all-festal “chosen and holy day” all of our  brothers and sisters in difficult circumstances – we pray to our Lord “who trampled down  death by death,” the God of peace, that He might bring peace to the world and guide our  steps toward every deed that is good and pleasing to Him, proclaiming the all-joyous  hymn “Christ is Risen!”

At the Phanar, Holy Pascha 2024

+ Bartholomew of Constantinople

Fervent supplicant for you all  to the Risen Lord

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