June 24, 2024

True Orthodox Diocese of Western Europe

Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC)

1967 PASCHAL ENCYCLICAL OF OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS, PHILARET, METROPOLITAN OF NEW YORK

5 min read
Bright Monday


Christ is risen! 


By God’s mercy we have again reached Holy Pascha and we celebrate the great and joyful Feast of the Radiant Resurrection of Christ. Blessed is our God, Who has vouchsafed us to live once more to this joy – to that joyful day of which even in deep, pre-Christian antiquity the holy Psalmist and Prophet King David said, “This is the day the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
Preparing us for a worthy welcome of Holy Pascha, the Church during the holy forty days of lent offers us in the lenten services many extracts from Holy Scripture for the most part from the Old Testament, in which Christ the Saviour is spoken of. Sometimes, these are prophetic foretellings about Him, and sometimes – the so-called foresigns, when, in ancient events and happenings of the Old Testament Holy Scripture reveals for us some features or cirmumstances in which we see an undoubtable, foretold correspondence with the happenings and events of the New Testament, and also, for the most part – with the happenings and events from the earthly life of the Founder and Accomplisher of Salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ.
One such sublime foresign the Church reveals for us in the reading from the Book of Genesis which is read at vespers of Friday of the Fifth Week of the Great Fast (on the eve of the feast of “The Praise of the All-Holy Mother of God”). In this reading is related how the Lord God commanded the righteous forefather Abraham to offer in sacrifice his son Isaac. The Book of Genesis quotes the command of God, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of…”
We will not quote this stunning account in all its details. Every Christian should know it, and he who does not know it should attentively and reverently read it through. For that offering by the Father of his son as a sacrifice to God, which is related here – is namely a sublime foresign of another supreme otherworldly, and saving Sacrifice, of which the holy Apostle Paul says, “(God) That spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us of all things?..”
Other “wise men of this age,” having read this Biblical narrative, start in, not hesitating to express their doubts and even indignation, “What is this? Can this be? Why would God give such a brutal command? What could such a fearsome sacrifice be needed for, such torture and torment for the father, and death for an altogether innocent son?..” And others simply blaspheme, saying, “This couldn’t have been; all this is a Biblical fairy tale for children and the illiterate…” – And “other foolish words…”
But if this Biblical account “is foolishness for the perishing,” then for us, believing in the Word of God, it is “the power of God,” according to the words of that same First and Supreme Apostle. It tells us first of all of the extraordinary greatness of spirit of that great righteous man and forefather, whom the Apostle frankly called father of the faithful. Here shone forth the potent faith of Abraham, his total obedience and trust in the Providence of God and will of God – most wise, all good, and saving, and likewise – faith and total obedience and trust in his father’s will also in the young Isaac…


But if Isaac remained alive, and the sacrifice was not accomplished in fact, for an Angel held back the father’s hand, already lifting the knife over his son for the death blow still in Abraham’s will, in his soul, the sacrifice had been accomplished, i.e. to the end obedient to God’s will, he did not permit even a thought that God’s command could not be fulfilled by him. In Isaac was concentrated all his love as a father, and all hopes in the fulfillment of the sublime promises given him by God. But all this, to the end, without remainder the great “father of the faithful” brought in sacrifice to God in the sacrifice of obedience to God’s will… Isaac was already dead in his father’s heart – and, undoubtedly, without any exaggeration, the joy of the father’s heart at the sight of his beloved son, alive and unharmed, was fully in the likeness of that joy experienced by the parents and relatives of those deceased, who were before their eyes resurrected by the Saviour of the world…
The joy of Forefather Abraham, for whom his son was literally resurrected from the dead – was a foresign of that joy of the resurrection of Christ, which dawned upon the whole world… It was this radiant joy, prophetically contemplated, which Prophet and King David exclaimed, and the Holy Church so triumphantly, so many times repeats these words on the day of Holy Pascha, “This is the day the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! …”
Rejoice, then, Christian soul! In our sorrowful, difficult days, when nearly the whole world has already in many ways apostatised from Christ and His Righteousness, when it is near to the last and conclusive apostasy, when there draws near the fulfillment of the terrible prophecy of Christ, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” – on this day take courage, Christian – and let your heart be strong. Let the world, gone mad, slide down the decline into the abyss of its fall. This is sorrowful and grievous, but it is inescapable, for it has been foretold by the Saviour and His holy Apostles. But for those for whom “it is good to be with God,” to whom Divine Truth is dear, and who remain faithful to Her in the day of apostasy from Her and reviling of Her – for these the Sun of Righteousness shines as before, and the joy of Christ’s resurrection fills their soul and heart. This joy, this victorious triumph and light of the Great Feast, the Feast of the Victory of Christ the Life-Giver over hades and death – shines ever brighter as the darkness of its apostasy thickens more and more over the world… “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” – said the Lord to His faithful, going out to His saving sufferings. And this is the victory of which the Apostle of love said, this victory, conquering the world – our faith – is, before all and greater than all, the victorious joy of the Radiant Resurrection of Christ, in which Life conquered death, Good triumphed over Evil, and Truth shines forth in all its power and glory. May the risen Lord grant this joy to every soul which endeavors to be faithful to Him.
Beloved fathers, and brothers, and all faithful children of the Holy Orthodox Church – Christ is risen!
+ Metropolitan Philaret.

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