In two lines, Saint Mark the Ascetic encapsulates the history of our salvation, the story of God’s love:

Christ is Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of His incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and through His own Blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to those who believe in Him He has given His grace.

Indeed, the created world and all of humanity were dead in sin because of the original transgression of the first-created. Every generation that followed was trapped in this state of death. Death is the tragedy of being cut off from life — not only in the hour of death when our soul is separated from our body, but, more essentially, death is estrangement from the source of being, that is, a state of separation from God Himself.

Christ, our Lord and God, took it upon Himself to rectify this estrangement, to heal this state of separation. He “came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man,” so that He could walk among us, preach to us, teach us, heal us, and lovingly prepare us for reunion with His heavenly Father. His sacrifice on the Cross saved the world by vanquishing death — not with mighty legions of angels or armies with swords, not by decree or through force, but by humbly receiving unjust blows and enduring mockery, and, finally, through the shedding of His own blood. His sacrifice transformed a terrifying instrument of death into the eternal sign of hope, salvation, and forgiveness. His death set the universe aright because it was impossible for Him who is the Author of life to remain a captive of death. And when He arose, He raised up our nature with Himself, so that through death, we are now liberated from death. Christ not only reunited what had been divided, but also recreated humankind in His Resurrected image and likeness. This mystical Passover changed the course of history and inaugurated a new reality of eternal life. As Saint John Chrysostom writes in his Paschal Catechetical Homily, “For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first fruits of those who sleep.”

So, beloved people of God, the days of fasting have come to an end, and we enter into the joy, splendour, and light of the glorious Resurrection of Christ. The door to salvation is open and all are invited to step forward without fear in their hearts, “Therefore, all of you enter into the joy of our Lord: first and last, enjoy your reward. Rich and poor dance together. Sober and slothful honour the day. Fasters and non-fasters be glad together.” The Resurrected Christ invites all of us into the embrace of His outstretched arms, so that He might speak the promise of His New Covenant into our hearts in a still small voice, “You are forgiven and I offer you eternal life.” The joyful message of our Saviour is extended to every person, and it will take root and bear fruit in the fertile soil of every willing and humble heart, no matter his or her past, no matter his or her life. “Let no one bewail their faults: for forgiveness has risen from the tomb, for this is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

As adopted children of God through the grace of His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ, as recipients of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who seals the members of the Body of the Church with redemption and empowers us to live in faith and goodness, we affirm the good news of the Resurrection, confessing and proclaiming that He is our Lord and our God. And let those who doubt consider the “good disbelief” of Thomas the disciple, whose scepticism was welcomed by our Lord. Christ did not chastise Thomas, but invited him to place his hand on the scars of His wounds. Even those of us who profess the Resurrection, should we have any kind of doubt lurking in our innermost hearts, can expect the same welcoming answer from our Lord, who Himself is gentle and lowly in heart.

Let us now put all else to the side and together proclaim the joyous message — “CHRIST IS RISEN – TRULY – HE IS RISEN”. Let the world know that there is a community, a people, that still believes and confesses the great love of God, Who so loves the world that He gave us His Only Begotten Son, so that we might have eternal life.

With paternal love and blessings in the Risen Lord,

Holy and Great Pascha 2024

✠ Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira
and Great Britain

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