Yesterday I was buried with You O Christ,
Today I rise with You as you arise.
Yesterday I was crucified with You;
Glorify me, O Savior, in Your Kingdom.
(Paschal Matins, Resurrection Canon, Ode 3)
Beloved in Christ,
In the midst of this year’s challenges and uncertainty, Pascha, “the day which the Lord has made” (Ps 117:24), is for us a day of inexpressible joy and hope. On the brightest feast of Christ’s Resurrection, our Holy Church celebrates the mystery of opposites reconciled: burial and resurrection, death and life, crucifixion and glory, sorrow and joy. This is the great Paschal Mystery – that the very Son of God becomes one of us, dies, as we do, so that we can rise up, as He has done. Christ undertakes his way of the Cross in our name and for our sake, granting us a share in His glorious resurrection and new life in God. Thus, the cross and resurrection are inseparable. They touch not only the person of Christ: in a mystical manner they touch all humankind, they touch each one of us. The event, which took place in the life of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, has gathered unto itself the entire span of human history, all suffering from the past and the future, and transfigures it into a new life, a new joy. The Risen Lord reaches into the core of our personal history. He, we can say, experiences our suffering and degradation, while at the same time we are co-crucified and co-condemned with Him. Indeed, yesterday we were buried with Him, today we rise with Him resurrected
Yesterday I was buried with You O Christ … Yesterday I was crucified with You.
Jesus Christ by the power and action of the Holy Spirit is present in the history of our Church and our nation. His and our way of the cross we know well. It was not that long ago, that our Church and our people were tortured and crucified, we were subject to false accusations, were shot at and thrown in prison. However, we lived through it all and, thanks be to God, were reborn into a new life as a community of Christ’s disciples. Indeed, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the legalization and rebirth of our Church on its native land. Therefore, let us send up prayers to the Almighty, thanking Him for the grace and strength, which helped our people withstand terrible trials and suffering. This victory is a sign of the active presence of the risen Savior among us in the distant and not so distant past, but it is also a pledge for the future of our people and their indomitable nature.
Today once again they threaten us with weapons and frighten us with a breakup of the country and the seizure of churches. But Christ is with us also today! He receives our pain as if the injuries were given to Him personally. It was He who was harmed when the youth were attacked on the Maidan. It was He who became destitute when the wealth of the people was pilfered by a corrupt leadership. It was He who was imprisoned and unjustly convicted, who was exposed naked in the freezing cold, kidnapped and tortured. He was the first victim of the Heavenly Hundred. His words on the cross resonate in the conscience of all people of faith in Ukraine: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing!” (Lk 23:34). These words are directed first of all towards those civil and church leaders, our own and of our neighbors, who incite people to blind aggression and hate: “Crucify, crucify him!” (Lk 23:21). However, the power of human malice, falsehood and aggression is nothing when compared to the power of God’s truth and love. It is Christ who raises us up, both as Church and as a people. As in the Resurrection good overcomes evil, so in our history love will defeat malice and hate, peace overcome all threats of war.
Today I rise with You as You arise.
The power of weapons disappears before the glory of the Risen One, for “today I arise with You as You arise.” We all sense this, both in our native Ukraine, as well as abroad. The power of Christ’s resurrection today is our hope in our ecclesial, social and personal life. We have no help that is more secure or powerful – neither international diplomacy, nor the strength of military powers or human agreements, which seem ready to sell out the One who is Priceless for thirty pieces of silver. In His resurrection, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ brings together as one people those, who once stood against one another: “There is neither Jew nor Greek … there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)
May our openness, renewed through God’s love, to all people without exception be a sign of our “rising” with the Risen Savior, who raises us from the “tomb” of sin. Let us love and embrace all who are near, in our village, town, city, region, and throughout our Land. Let us learn to respect and love those who are different from us: who think differently, hold different customs or speak another language – for that is the glory of the Risen One. To all people, even those who have malice in their heart and accuse us unjustly, today we proclaim the joyful news of the resurrection. For overcoming evil and hate through God’s love and mercy is a sign of the resurrection.
Glorify me, O Savior, in your Kingdom.
According to ancient church tradition, St. Andrew, standing on the hills of Kyiv foresaw God’s great glory for our nation: “You see these hills? Upon them the grace of God will shine, here there will be a great city, and God will raise many churches.” The brilliance of grace of which our apostle speaks is the light of Christ’s resurrection, which never ceased to shine upon our land, even in the darkest periods of national and church life. In us are fulfilled the words of the Gospel, which we hear during the Easter Liturgy, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). Our patriarchal Cathedral-Sobor of the Resurrection of Christ, which we consecrated last year, is a reflection of the heavenly glory of the Risen Savior. It is for us a loving witness to Christ’s victory, a pledge to the immortal character of our people and a sign of unity among all the children of our Church – in Ukraine and abroad.
Today, on this joyful feast of Christ’s Resurrection, let us ask our Savior that the light of His resurrection shine upon our land with renewed strength, that it conquer the darkness of sin, discord, fear and despair, and strengthen all of us by the power of the Holy Spirit to build up a truly free and God-blessed nation. And may our spiritual unity allow us to restore and renew our state structures according to divine truths and divine law. Wherever we may be – in Ukraine or abroad – let us remember the vocation which flows from our Christian and national experience, that is: to witness to the unconquerable power of Christ’s resurrection, to the inevitable victory of truth over falsehood, love over hate, good over evil, life over death.
With these thoughts I am united with you in prayer and Paschal joy, love and hope, wishing each of you a peaceful and blessed Resurrection of our Lord. I embrace you all with the Paschal greeting! On this day, may the sad rejoice, may the frightened experience the sureness of Christian hope. In prayer I reach out to the wounded and suffering, to the imprisoned and those exiled from their homes, to our soldiers and those who stand on guard for the dignity of the human person in Ukraine. To all of you I wish an abundance of Paschal gifts, which our Lord provides.
The grace of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Christ is risen! – Truly, He is risen!
Given in Kyiv
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Mother of God,
7 April (25 March), 2014 A.D.