The Easter Epistle
Of the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi
And Metropolitan of Bitchvinta and Tskhum-Apkhazeti, Ilia II
Eminent Hierarchs, Reverend Priests, Deacons, Monastics, Governing Bodies, all Members of the Holy Orthodox Church of Georgia and our Compatriots living abroad,
“We declare to you…that eternal life
Which was with the Father and was manifested to us”
(1 John 1: 2).
The promise given by the Lord to Adam and Eve while in Paradise has been fulfilled! Death has been overpowered!
Christ is Risen!
The Bonds of darkness are shattered and the souls of the righteous are delivered from it!
The bosom of Abraham rejoices; David the Prophet rejoices in his Son, Lord of All beings, the Holy Virgin and all the heavenly powers are relieved!
The victorious and glorious Day is dawning, the day, which vanquished death and obliterated the curse of many millennia.
The Satan fell into deception when he received in his world the Lord with human soul, like a mere man, the Lord who is free of any sin, complete love, goodness, wisdom and Truth, Who, while descending into hell, destroyed the kingdom of evil, malice and deception.
Christ is Risen!
“O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?”(1 Corinthians 15:55).
The Resurrected from the dead Victorious Jesus calls upon us and graciously grants us the greatest gift of all – partaking of in divine glory, bestowing upon us eternal life and being with Him.
Jesus rose from the dead in the incorruptible body that Adam had in paradise. In the similar manner, after His Second Coming He grants us the possibility to take the same spiritual body.
It is a most significant phenomenon since the corruption, which became an attribute of our fallen nature because of the Original Sin, cannot inherit immortality.
Those who are in communion with Christ through baptism and live according to His Commandments, all have share in blessed eternal life through their unity with Him Who Himself is Life and Giver of Life. It is for this reason that the Apostle writes: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)l; “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son”(1 John 5:11).
To attain the only way of survival for us, the Saviour endured the greatest humiliation, slander and suffering and redeemed us from the slavery of hell through His self-sacrifice. Although by Christ’s Resurrection the evil was destroyed, the process of the purification and liberation from the impurity of sin needs to be achieved through spiritual feat and virtuous enduring of numerous tribulations by each of us, personally – within our power, we need to renew the image and likeness of the Creator in us (that is, we need to inwardly manage to restore the man the Lord created us). This primarily means fighting our egotistical mentality and passions.
This is an unavoidable war with ourselves, which will need to be fought by those who identify themselves as Christian.
This war cannot be won without the help of God, without the faith in the Lord who trampled death because this world and its temptations do not tend to leave man alone easily and lay many a snare in the name of freedom. Earthly life and its transient goods entice our fallen nature and easily push many into the whirlpool of sin.
The life of the faithful is quite different in that it means constant upstream march, through the narrow road of faith and truth; and those who shall win the battle against themselves shall overcome the world (1 John 5:4).
However, the majority of people do not tend to fight a war with themselves but rather with their neighbour, trying through rivalry and confrontation to attain their egotistical aims.
Wars between countries bring much misery as they claim the lives of thousands of people, trampling all kinds of laws, morality and values underfoot and causing destruction and material and cultural damage, sowing brutality and universal hatred, all of which naturally result in a spiritually unbearable environment as well.
Under such circumstances, it is important and essential to demonstrate compassion and kindness towards war victims (the wounded, captives, the deprived, children, women, the elderly, the sick and others) in order to overcome the evil.
The ongoing wars in the world are cause of great heartache, especially the war in our neighbourhood, which Russia has unleashed in Ukraine where appalling facts of grave cruelty are taking place. Therefore, we all need special prayers and efforts for peace.
The current situation is such that nobody knows what tomorrow will bring and how the events will unfold; the developments may end shortly or may grow into long-term confrontation, or we may find ourselves faced with global catastrophe, which, naturally, gives rise to universal apprehension.
Nevertheless, we should not forget that God has saved humankind from many hardships. Most importantly, even in the gravest of circumstances we should not lose our human virtues, our faith and hope in the Lord.
In general, fear as an instinct of survival, has always been a companion of man and fear of death is the strongest fear of all which is our natural state because it is linked with the separation of the soul from the body and split of their unity.
However, believers in Christ know that the interment of the body in the ground and its dissolution into elements does not constitute an end to our existence but the process is necessary for the resurrection of the body in its renewed image.
Sometimes it is hard for some people to believe this. Apostle Paul puts it briefly and clearly that “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” (1 Corinthians 15:36). The same is true of the resurrection of the dead… “ It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians, 15:44), and those who doubt this are also doubtful of the Resurrection of Christ, “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.” (1 Corinthians 15:16) – Such views constitute greatest blasphemy for the faithful and are spiritually pernicious for true believers.
The Resurrected Saviour was seen on numerous occasions by the myrrh-bearing women, apostles, and over 500 men and others. For 40 days, He taught and enlightened His apostles whom He granted, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, the ability to work miracles; later Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven in front of everyone and promised us the following: “lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20) and also “Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed." (John 20:29)
The Kingdom of Christ remains unattainable for those who do not have fear and love of God and also love of the neighbour which is the result of our faith and labour.
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27). It is the beginning of spiritual wisdom for only those who possess this gift shall be given the ability to discern the good from the evil, the ability to take reasonable steps and be peacemakers, to love their neighbours and sacrifice themselves for them.
The fear of God also liberates man of other fears and makes it easy to overcome difficulties of life because it regards tribulation and sorrow to be bitter yet a necessary healing medicine and so man is only afraid of the threat of spiritual death (Matthew 10:18)
Fear of God is strengthened by closeness to God and in a more superior spiritual state it gives way to perfect love, as St. John the Theologian says: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,... The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
Prayer is of utmost importance for attaining perfect love. All Church services imply prayer to the Lord: “Lord, have mercy on me and fill me with Your grace. Protect me, O Lord, through Your grace.”
The Apostle instructs us “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which is not an easy thing to do but there is a simple prayer which, if said with faith, will greatly benefit man.
This prayer is called “Lord, have mercy on me”.
As well as saying your daily prayers, keep repeating them in your heart everywhere and at all times wherever you may be.
These words bear profound meaning; through them we admit that we entrust ourselves to the Lord and ask for His protection, that we are sinners but hope for His mercy; we also admit that without Him we shall not be able to gain spiritual wisdom or overcome the evil.
So, keep praying “Lord, have mercy on me” and remember always that “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God…”
Therefore, honour God with your bodies and your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians, 6:19-20); Labour to make sure that your sojourn in the world serves as a precondition for your unceasing presence in the Kingdom of God, live for the sake of eternal life, live for the sake of Christ!
Christ is risen!
May the Resurrected Christ bless you and strengthen you in your faith and love.
Rejoice in both worlds!
A fervent prayer for you,
Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi
and Mitropolitan of Bitchvinta and Tskhum-Apkhazeti