WESTERN EUROPEAN DIOCESE: April 22, 2020
Paschal Epistle of His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe
To the Venerable Clergy, God-Loving Monastics and Piously Faithful Children of the Diocese of Great Britain and Western Europe
Dear in Christ, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters:
Christ is risen!
Once again the world rises at dawn to discover the empty tomb of its Saviour. The Lord’s Church completes her Lenten preparations as she has done for so many centuries, and travels to the cave with the Myrrh-bearing women and the Holy Apostles to discover the Risen Christ. Once again we sing our festal hymns and rejoice as the hope of all the ages stands in glory before us, crushing death and fear and sorrow beneath His feet.
And yet, this year so much has been different for the flock of Christ’s Church precisely in this Lenten, and now Paschal, period. As disease and sickness have spread across our lands, so much of the regular course of our lives has had to be modified. Thanks to God’s tender mercies we have ensured that nothing hinders the ministration of the Divine Services or the provision of the Holy Mysteries to you in need. Still, much is different and strange, though these challenges are but for a moment; and I know that many of your hearts have grieved for this. I know, too, that many are afraid, even upset — for worldly temptations always stir the passions.
But today above all days, my beloved Fathers, brethren and children, I urge you not to permit fear or sorrow to occupy your hearts. There is no disease powerful enough to tear the confident joy of Pascha from our lives. Remember that this world, marred by our sin, has long known disease and even pandemics; but Christ is risen, and sickness and sorrow are ultimately defeated! Remember that there have been periods before, when circumstances have prevented the normal progress of our life for a time, within the Church and outside it: but Christ is risen, and in these days He has given us all many causes for joy: amongst them, that our Priests have struggled under difficult conditions to ensure that the Divine Services have not ceased to be offered according to God’s command — even in this trying moment, the holy prayers and ordained oblations are being offered for you, and for all the world, in the face of every obstacle; and the Holy Mysteries have not for one moment been removed from your grasp. The love of Christ, the embrace of His Church, is not thwarted by any worldly circumstance! I beseech you all in this Paschal moment to pray especially, therefore, for all our clergy, who labour so tirelessly on your behalf, and to rejoice in their pastoral love for you.
Above all, rejoice that our man-loving Saviour today destroys death itself! Truly, there is no worldly fear that can possibly have a place in our hearts in the light of this awesome truth. So I entreat you from my own heart: rejoice today without any sorrow or fear. Rejoice today in the love of God and His sweet grace, of which you have not in any way been deprived. Rejoice in the trials presently upon us — yes, even in these! — for through trials the Lord forges stronger hearts and deeper faith. Through trials He expunges our weakness and replaces it with fortitude. It was only through trials that the Apostles arrived at His empty tomb. It was only through trials that the holy women met the risen Christ. So let us not be cowardly or complaining or weak in our patient faith when the Lord sees fit to permit our trials now: rather let us embrace them with confident joy — for through them Christ draws us to meet Him today, Risen in glory, bestowing life and blessing upon the whole world.
Assuring you of my fervent prayers in this season of the Feast of Feasts, I proclaim to you once again: Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen!
Bishop of London and Western Europe, Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Pascha AD 2020