Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

Moscow Patriarchate

EASTER MESSAGE, Archbishop Gabriel of Comana, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch

Those whom Hades held captive in his chains
were witnesses of his infinite love;
towards thy light, O Christ, they went with joyful footsteps,
celebrating Pascha in eternity.

(Matins Canon for Pascha, Ode 5)

Dear brothers and sisters,

Christ is risen!

It is with this beautiful acclamation that I have the joy of announcing to you the holy Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. I am passing this good news on to you, just as I passed on the Holy Light of Easter at the beginning of the paschal vigil in our cathedral. In an instant the shadows disappeared to make room for an extraordinary brilliance that spread not only over the nave, but above all into the heart of each person, on this day of the Lord when an ‘unutterable and exalted joy’ (1 Peter 1:8) has settled on us: the joy and the glory of Christ’s victory over the darkness of corruption and death.

Yes, indeed, may your joy be complete in this day of the Resurrection!

What is, then, for each of us, the significance of this experience of the Resurrection? It is God’s salvation, which comes to us and creates in us a new world. The relationship with the Creator that was lost by Adam is given to us afresh by an act of pure love on the part of our Lord and God.

It is for this reason that we should greatly rejoice today, for, by the Resurrection of Christ, we know that sin can no longer hold us: whatever the situation of weakness in which we find ourselves, we know that it is enough to turn to God to discover that the arms that he opened wide on the Cross close now around us, in a surge of love which our intellect alone cannot grasp. We are longer under the Law, which provides punishment as the only cure for all human failure. Today we are the beneficiaries of God’s love, in which mercy and justice are united: ‘The cool hand of the Saviour is placed on the burning forehead of our sins’ – the divine balm will soothe and heal the grievous hurt of our wounded heart.

God’s compassion, surrounding us, allows us to live our daily life with a totally renewed vision: henceforth, we will no longer seek simply to exist, but to be! By this I want to tell you that we can – and must – abandon every way of life that is merely a poor copy of love, and instead be fulfilled, by grace, in the progressive realisation of our being. In this way, the saying of the holy Fathers is fulfilled: ‘God became Man that Man might become God’ – that is, Christ lowered himself down to the weakness of our existence in order to lead us into the fullness of Being. It is in this that the love of our Creator consists. This is how we profit from the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, ‘so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom 5:21).

How magnificent are the consequences for us! Henceforth, we will no longer be reduced to conforming to an ethical system, the fruit of necessary sociological rules, but – however inadequate, and however often we are the battleground of comfortable temptations – we are invited to live, and to allow the spiritual life, which is no other than life in God, to flow in us. Thus we receive the creative power of the Lord, in which we are invited to participate. We were dead – we will come alive again!

I would like to share this promise and this joy with you, in the love that I bear you. I wish to encourage you to live in this divine communion and to let your entire being be nourished and grow through the acquisition of the grace of the Lord’s Resurrection, through receiving his merciful Love. It is in this way that we will no longer be chained by our weaknesses, but bound to Christ by bonds of indestructible liberty, by standing upright to the end in the light of the risen Christ. Each one of us, by living this indescribable experience and becoming aware of his or her ontological link with the whole of the human race, will then be able, in the humble practice of love, to bring every person on this earth with us towards salvation.

On this blessed day of the Resurrection of Christ, I send you this message of confidence and hope that was given by our Lord himself to the Myrrh-bearing Women, and by them to all his disciples: ‘Fear not!’ (Mt 28:10). Indeed, have no fear. Have no fear of life. Life is of infinite beauty, for it is a reflection of the unspeakable beauty of God. It is like the icon in which we contemplate Christ victorious, who seizes our fallen ancestors, Adam and Eve, by the hand and drags them up from hell – and this means our own hell as well – to give them the Life that becomes their life and ours. For ‘such is the promise that the Lord himself has made to us: eternal life’ (1 Jn 2:25).

Christ is risen!

Indeed he is risen!

+ Archbishop Gabriel of Comana

Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch

Cathedral of St Alexander Nevsky

12, rue Daru, Paris 75008

14/27 April 2008