Little by Little

Change Comes Little By Little

Abbot Tryphon

“We often become frustrated with ourselves, wanting to change bad behavior, but seemingly incapable of making the changes we desire. Each week we confess the same sins over and over. We know the priest has heard the same confession, week after week, and we’re aware that he could probably say our confession for us, having heard it that often. What we don’t seem to know is that there is a simple reason for our repetition. These bad behaviors only seem to be unchangeable because we don’t really struggle with the passions in a way that will bring about successful change.”

This is from Abbot Tryphon‘s daily blog, read the rest of the article here

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Are you Justified??

Romans 5:1-10

“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God…”  I recently had a conversation with some people who followed a protestant Christian tradition.  They wanted to know about this “justification” and how it fit into our Orthodox faith.  The difficulty with this conversation is that they had already decided what this meant and so tried to interpret the Orthodox faith in their own context and by doing so found that it did not fit their criteria of truth.  For them, “justification” was all about being pardoned of “original sin” and being excused of the guilt of Adam’s sin.  This, however, is a narrow definition of “justification” and therefore only applies if one accepts the whole legalistic notion of redemption. But there is so much more to our salvation than just being found “innocent”.

While this notion of being pardoned, and no longer carrying the guilt of sin, has a place within our salvation, it is only a small part of a much larger picture.  Justification has a wider meaning that opens many more spiritual doors for us.  Let us therefore look at this idea of justification from a much wider perspective. 

We’ve talked about this in the past, Justification does not simply mean having some reasonable excuse for our actions – it speaks more basically to being properly adjusted to a fixed point or to some anchor.  For example when we write, we are accustomed to justifying our words according to a fixed left margin.  Lined writing paper often has a vertical line printed down the left side that defines the margin and we always use that line as a starting point for our writing.  While the right side of the paper has some variation in length where the lines end, every line always begins in the same place on the left side.  We say that our writing is “justified” on the left margin. On a computer it is simple to change justification to the right side so that every line begins in a different place on the left side, but they always end in the same place on the right side – this is being justified on the right margin. 

 One can also justify on the center of the paper so that each line is the same length on either side of the middle of the paper – it is “centered” so to speak.  These examples of “justification” that are familiar to us all point out the common feature – there is always a single fixed point and the words are arranged in a specific relation to that fixed point. 

They are oriented to that fixed point and aligned with it in a particular way. We can apply this idea to our spiritual lives as well.

The Apostle says that we are “justified by faith” and that as a result of this we are “at peace with God”.  Faith then is the agent by which we are “justified” – just as the computer program moves our letters around to make them properly oriented to the edge or center of the paper, so faith is what moves us to be properly oriented.  To what then are we oriented? What is the “fixed point” to which we are “justified”?  That fixed point is God and so when we have the true faith, we are correctly oriented towards God – we are “justified”.  This justification brings us into a place of “peace with God” – that is, rather than being out of harmony with God or being at odds with the will of God, we are now properly aligned with God.

What then is the benefit of this alignment – this “justification”?  The Apostle goes on to say that since we are “justified by faith” we now have “access by faith into this grace wherein we stand”.  It is the application of grace to our being that saves us.  Grace is the energy of God which is poured out upon us and which, when properly applied, works to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  By grace, we are saved and it is our justification, our proper orientation to God, which gives us access to this grace. 

Where before we were surrounded by grace (for it is by the power of God that the existence of creation itself is maintained), because of our sins we were not properly oriented or justified, to make use of the grace for our salvation.  When we turn from, as in REPENTANCE, from our sinful ways and submit to God’s love then we are led by faith in God – that is by totally believing all that God has said. 

Since then it is our faith that “justifies” us – that is, orients us towards God – it is obviously necessary that our faith is correct and true.  Otherwise we will be improperly aligned and no longer “justified” in relation to God, thereby cutting off our access to grace.

How is it then that having access to grace is beneficial to us?  The Apostle continues saying that because of this grace, to which we are now properly oriented, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God

This we see clearly, for now, as grace begins to work in us for our salvation, we can see that we are headed towards sharing in the glory of God. 

The Apostle further says that we also “glory in tribulations” which seems to be somewhat at odds with our justification.  If we are in the proper alignment with God, and if grace is now working in us, why do we have to face tribulation, suffering, and difficulty?  Everything should be just fine now that we are with God, so where does tribulation fit in? Our justification is only the beginning of our salvation.  Having set us so, that we have access to the grace in which we stand, now that grace begins to work in us in a number of ways, reforming and reshaping us into the likeness of Christ.  One of the tools by which grace reshapes us is that of tribulation, suffering, or difficult.  Tribulation is only to be expected when we turn away from the mainstream of the world, and realign ourselves with God.  However, as we are no longer contrary to God, we are now contrary to the world and it is this that produces “tribulation”. The fallen and sinful world flows one way and seeks to drag everything else along with it.  When we no longer “go with the flow”, so to speak, we are now subject to coming up against the forces of the world which surround us.  These conflicts with the world are the source of the tribulation, ssuffering, and difficult that we encounter.

But we rejoice in these tribulations,suffering, or difficulties for God, in His infinite wisdom and love, in order to use them to our benefit.  Tribulations produce patience, which in turn produces experience, which produces hope, and so we learn to see our tribulations as part of the process of our salvation.  When we, with faith, trust God and His wisdom, then we learn not to jump to fix things ourselves, but rather to wait patiently and see what He will do.  Once we see how He has overcome the world – and in particular, the tribulations, suffering, or difficulties that come to us from the world – and not only how He has overcome the world, but how He turns it to our benefit, then we gain experience upon which to base our hope that God will not abandon us, and that He is working in us constantly to transform us into His image and likeness.  This is how tribulation brings patience which brings experience which results in our increased hope.  This hope born of experience now reinforces and strengthens the hope brought by our faith and trust in God and we know that we will share in His glory.

By our faith – that is, by our correct belief and trust in God – we are “justified” – that is, we are properly reoriented and realigned in our relationship with God.  This justification gives us access now to the grace of God that has always surrounded us, since our Baptism, but which, while we were yet sinners, was unable to affect us.  Having access to that grace we place our hope in God and that hope is reinforced and fortified and amplified by our experience of the working of grace in us.  That working of grace takes even the tribulations and difficulties of this life, and transforms them into the tools by which we ourselves are transformed into the image and likeness of God.  In each and every moment, our hope in God increases, and we know with ever greater certainty, that we will share in the glory of God and participate in the life of His heavenly kingdom.  Amen!

Thank you Fr David

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Phone and email and text messages

From: Russian Orthodox Church Cardiff : Kazan Icon of the Mother of God

“I am always slightly dumb-founded when members of the community try to call on the telephone before Liturgy on Sunday mornings, and can only come to the conclusion that they have no idea what happens before the beginning of the Hours.

As parish priest, my day in church often begins three hours before the last of the community arrive – that is those who neglect the Hours and only arrive just in time for the beginning of Liturgy.

The lamps and candles need to be lit, which takes time in a building the size of the University Church and the laying of the Zhertvenik / preparation-table needs completing before the entrance prayers and vesting prayers, for the vestments are not simply put on like clothes.

The entrance prayers that you see our bishop and the clergy recite before Liturgy mirror those said by the clergy before every Liturgy.

After this, special prayers are said when the clergy vest, then during the washing of hands. It is only then that the clergy begin to celebrate the rite of preparation of the Holy Gifts: the proskomedia.

During this rite, the priest takes portions from five prosphora (loaves of offering).

The first portion, from the first loaf, is the Lamb, which will be consecrated, and by the operation of the Holy Spirit will become the Body of Christ.

The second portion, placed to the right of the Lamb (our left), commemorates the Theotokos. ‘The Queen didst stand at Thy right hand…’

From the third loaf, the priest removes particles to remember the ranks of saints: the Forerunner, the prophets, the apostles, holy hierarchs, martyrs, monastics, unmercenary healers, the ancestors of Christ, Joachim and Anna, together with the patrons of the temple and the saints particularly  significant to our local Church (Saints Cyril and Methodius, Saints Vladimir and Olga etc), and finally the saint whose Liturgy is being celebrated. These are placed to the left of the Lamb (our right).

From the fourth loaf, the priest takes two triangular potions to commemorate the hierarchy and clergy, and those in authority, and places them in front of the Lamb. He then commemorates the living whose names are offered in commemoration lists and books. Particles are removed and offered during these intercessions and placed on the diskos, next to the triangular portions.

From the fifth loaf the priest takes a triangular portion in remembrance departed hierarchs of the Church, departed Orthodox rulers and the founders of the temple. This is placed beneath the particles for the living. Turning to the commemoration lists and books, the departed are remembered by name, and particles in their memory are placed on the diskos

After communion, all of these particles representing both the living and departed are placed into the chalice with the prayer: ‘Wash away, by Thy precious Blood, O Lord, the sins of those here commemorated, through the prayers of all Thy saints.’

So, during this rite of preparation, an icon of the Church is created on the diskos, from five loaves of bread: Christ the Lamb, flanked by His Most-Holy Mother on one side and the choir of the saints on the other, with the living and departed before Him. You and I are part of this icon. Those whom you remember in your commemoration lists and pomianiky are part of this icon; those alive now, and generations of the departed reaching back through the centuries.

The next time you consider telephoning the priest before Liturgy, put the telephone away! The priest is already busy, preparing the Offering: praying for the Church and the world, and remembering the faithful – living and departed – name by name.

You have a part in this: to remember your Orthodox loved ones, and brothers and sisters in Faith, living and departed. By having them commemorated in the proskomedia, they become part of this icon of the Church as they are remembered in prayer in the preparation of the Holy Gifts.

The particles taken in memory of them surround Christ’s Holy Body, as He truly becomes present among us and calls us to Himself, to share in His Mystical Supper.”

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Eternal Life

Eternal Life:  John 17:1-13

A really interesting Gospel lesson Fr Nektary read earlier, however, it’s not like there is anything uninteresting in the Gospel.

The reading in the Gospel of John, is a prayer of Jesus to God, to God the Father to be exact.

This prayer, that Christ offers, is often called the High Priestly Prayer, because it contains the 4 basic elements of prayer, a priest in the Old Testament would offer to God when a sacrifice is about to be made:

  1. Glorification“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. 4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
  2. Remembrance of God’s works“…since You have given Him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.” & “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me…”
  3. Intercession of behalf of others – ” 9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them
  • And finally, a declaration of the offering itself – “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:” & “5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was…”

Notice that the Lord says, “5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was…” which tells us: Eternal life is knowledge of God, that He is only and true, and that God the Father sent His Son for our salvation. 

​Simple, right? To Know God. Archbishop Averky tells us:

“And the light shines in the darkness”—the Word Who gives mankind the light of true knowledge, does not cease to guide mankind even in the darkness of sin, but the darkness did not apprehend it, that is, people who stubbornly continue in sin prefer to remain in the darkness of spiritual blindness (“and the darkness did not comprehend it.)”

What is there not to know? God is God – supreme, almighty, everywhere-present, listens to our prayers and does exactly as we ask Him to do. I wish I was joking, but very often our fabrication of God is exactly that – a vending machine of our wishes, or at least we hope He would be. This is partly due to our consumeristic culture – we provide the demand, the market spits out supply, all are happy. 

Thankfully this is not the case with God. To really know God means to live in Him, according to His commands, to live with Him in His Church. It may sound a bit harsh, but it is impossible to know God outside of His Church. And I don’t mean just the church you go to, like your parish, like here at Holy Myrrhbearers, but the Universal Church, to which every Orthodox parish belongs, The Body of Christ!

Christians were meant to live together, as a community – one big Community made up of a bunch of small local communities. Our faith is personal, but it is lived communally, as family.

Jesus continues on, in the Gospel of John, this Sunday’s lesson with, ” 13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

Jesus said this prayer and gave us a lot of His teachings, both recorded in the Gospels and unrecorded but preserved in the Church, Holy Tradition, aloud. Everything He said was meant for us to have His joy made complete. 

​How or what is the joy of God? We don’t know and we can’t know in this world, there is simply too much corruption and lust and decay. We do get some taste of this joy communally. We worship together, when we share things together (for example, sharing the Gospel of Christ) or a meal, when we learn to love each other, as family, in the Body of Christ.

Why? Because that’s exactly what we will be doing in the Kingdom of God, in Eternal life – worshipping the One True God, sharing in His grace, and remaining in His Love.

If we can’t do these things in this temporary life, how can we expect to do them for all eternity?

Of course we could remain ignorant and say that there is no such thing as the Kingdom of heaven or eternal life. In which case, this life, as temporary as it is, make no sense.

Us Orthodox Christians simply refuse to believe that this earthly life is all that there is to our existence.  God is the One True God, and we are members of His Family, of His Body!

Before we end, let me address Christ’s last statement in today’s Gospel: verse 12, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”

In light of the Scriptures, we must conclude that Judas was never a true believer in Christ, John 6:64, states 64but there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.

And that Judas was possessed by Satan as per John 13:27After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.” and though he regretted his betrayal of Jesus, the Lord said that it would have been better if he had never been born, in Matthew 26:24, we are told,24The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born” and in Mark 14:21, “21The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had never been born.” 

Therefore, we conclude that Judas ended up outside of salvation, in hell.  There is no other meaning or justification.  Let us not be like him!

Let us find the Joy of Christ Almighty, which He will give to each and every one of us, as members of His Family, in the Body of Christ.  If and only if, we believe and follow Him, who created us.

Glory to God!

Thank you Fr David

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Jurisdictions Come Together

His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) reposed in the Lord on May 16 at the age of 74.

The services at the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign brought together hierarchs from various jurisdictions. His Eminence Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Germany, the ROCOR Locum Tenens, presided over the service, joined by Archbishops Kyrill of San Francisco, Gabriel of Montreal, and Peter of Chicago, and Bishops Nicholas of Manhattan and Irenei of London of ROCOR, as well as Metropolitan Joseph of New York of the Antiochian Archdiocese, Archbishop Michael of New York of the Orthodox Church in America, Bishop Gideon of Makarovka of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and a multitude of clerics from ROCOR and other jurisdictions, reports the ROCOR Eastern American Diocese.

To read the entire article, click HERE!!

And here is another article from the Eastern American Diocese of ROCOR

And from Holy Trinity Monastery

For just as coal engenders a flame, or a flame lights a candle, so will God, who from our baptism dwells in our heart, kindle our mind to contemplation when He finds it free from the winds of evil and protected by the guarding of the intellect.

St. Hesychius the Theologian of Jerusalem, disciple of St. Gregory the Theologian

Philokalia, Vol. 1 p.180

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Christianity is Life!

On Tuesday, May 4/17, the 15th anniversary of the restoration of the fullness of ecclesiastical unity within the Russian Orthodox Church, and the eve of the anniversary of the enthronement of His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, a session of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR was held, presided over by His Eminence Mark, Metropolitan of Berlin & Germany.

The members of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad announced with great sorrow that on May 3/16, the feast day of Venerable Theodosius, Abbot of the Kiev Caves, His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, reposed in the Lord.

For more click here-

Christianity is a life rooted in Christ’s own. Its charge is not to live for self but to live for Christ; and its goal is not satisfaction but transformation. The Christian is called to become, to enter into a newness of life that is another’s— that is Christ’s. He is to discover the “self” of his current exis­tence, precisely so that he can work to change it into a life not de­fined by his will, but defined and made real by another—by God Himself.

Bishop Irenei Steenberg

The Beginnings of a Life of Prayer p.18

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The Sacrifice of Worship

May 16, 2022 · Fr. Stephen Freeman

“When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22), there was no questioning on Abraham’s part about what was intended. He understood precisely what was involved in such a thing. There was wood to be gathered, an altar of stones to be constructed, the victim to be bound, and then the slitting of its throat with the gushing forth of blood, all consummated in the burning fires of the now-completed offering. What Abraham did was repeated in a variety of forms throughout the ancient world. Homer writes about Poseidon being absent from the Hellenic scene in order to attend a massive sacrifice in Libya. Sacrifice itself was part of the universal language of ancient religion. What differed was what/whom was being sacrificed and to Whom/What the sacrifice was being made. This was worship.

Today, “sacrifice” has passed into more generalized cultural metaphors that have nothing to do with worship. “Worship” itself has become a vague concept, generally associated with prayer/praise and hymn-singing. As such it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish what many contemporary Christians describe as “worship” from the treatment of various Rock, Sport and Entertainment stars (or patriotism and ideological fetishes).”…

“Christ bids us to come to Him. He bids us to eat His flesh and drink His blood and to have no other gods but Him.”

Fr Stephen writings are excellent! To read the entire article click here!!

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Say YES!!

“And there is another step beyond. It is possible to say Yes repeatedly throughout the day. The simple phrase, “I say Yes to God,” carries a great deal of power. I have learned to make it a frequent confession in my day. I say Yes to God. I say Yes to my life. I say Yes to this problem. I say Yes to the mistakes I have made. It is a means of affirming that God is working all things together for my good – even my mistakes.

Say Yes.”

Fr. Stephen Freeman

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2022/05/03/say-yes-2/
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The Struggle for Virtue

The opposing virtues must be immediately planted in place of eradicated passions. The Holy Fathers enumerate these virtues in the following order: (1) abstinence is opposed to gluttony, (2) chastity is opposed to fornication, (3) non-acquisitiveness is opposed to avarice, (4) meekness is opposed to anger, (5) blessed tears about one’s sins are opposed to despair, (6) sobriety is opposed to sorrow, (7) humility is opposed to vanity, and (8) love is opposed to pride.

Archbishop Averky (Taushev)

The Struggle for Virtue: Asceticism in a Modern Secular Society p.135


Archbishop Averky’s book, the Struggle for Virtue, is an excellent book to read and re-read often. He addresses head on the question, “What is asceticism?” The Archbishop counters the many false understandings that exist and shows that the practice of authentic asceticism is integral to the spiritual life and the path to blessed communion with God.

Archbishop Averky (Taushev) taught and served in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Germany before being assigned in to teach at the Holy Trinity Seminary in New York. In 1960 became the abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery and was heavily involved in the formation of the seminary curriculum and the daily life of the seminarians and monks.

“Archbishop Averky was one of the last giants of 20th-century Orthodoxy . . . . [He] was an Orthodox scholar in the unbroken tradition of patristic thought which has come down to us from the ancient Fathers to our own days.”  —Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), author, The Orthodox Word

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CHRIST IS RISEN

Paschal Epistle of His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad

Eminent brother archpastors, reverend fathers, dear brothers and sisters:

CHRIST IS RISEN!

With a sense of jubilation in the Lord, the Victor over evil, hell, and death, I greet you all on this luminous night of the Lord’s Matins and Paschal Liturgy, this “feast of faith,” which the great Chrysostom exhorts us to relish! Greetings on the Glorious Resurrection of Christ!

The grace-filled power of Great Lent and Holy Pascha unites us all, elevates, illumines, softens, and broadens our souls, which during these holy days are revealed in their finest degrees. Still, no matter how much we have strived to seclude ourselves within the cells of our hearts, mindfully heeding the touching hymns sung during Great Lent and Passion Week, that which is unfolding in the land of Kievan Rus’ – a land so dear to us – forcefully encroaches into our lives. We, as Orthodox Christians, cannot remain indifferent when members of one and the same Local Church gaze at each other through the scopes of automatic weapons; we cannot remain indifferent when our brothers and sisters, deprived of shelter, become refugees, as once were the founders of our own Russian Church Abroad.

Our inability to remain indifferent is expressed first and foremost in our fervent prayers for the restoration of peace, lifted up during the divine services in the parishes of our Russian Church Abroad. And at this moment, as we worship Christ the Giver of Life, we fervently implore for His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev & All Ukraine, the archpastors, pastors, and the multitude of the flock of the persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox Church, that they and all those who with wearied hearts are tormented by the present tragedy, may experience that which is hymned in the Paschal night, as we sing out: “O Pascha, ransom from sorrow!” May “this chosen and holy day” be a consolation and joy, an outpouring of mercy, aid, and Divine strength for all!

O God, our God, grant that the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) may reign among our Orthodox peoples, that we, not falling into despair, may overcome all tribulations, discord, and conflicts “through Him that loved us” (Romans 8:37), so that “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23) may be restored among us anew.

Now, as hostility, anger, and hatred destroy the concord and brotherhood between nations and bring our sinful world to the threshold of hell, it is not the place of the Church to render political verdicts or take upon ourselves the task of seeking out those responsible for what is happening in the Ukrainian land. It is the work of the Church to join the suffering – not only in prayer, but in deed. Of this, our Lord the Chief Shepherd instructed us plainly in the Gospel reading of the Sunday of the Dread Judgement (cf. Matthew 25:31-46).

This is why, beginning already in 2014, we have been offering help to those suffering in southeastern Ukraine; and since February of this year, when the new hostilities began, the dioceses and parishes of the Russian Church Abroad, our Fund for Assistance, and our other ecclesiastical and social organizations have been responding with kind hearts, vigorously and generously, to this terrible catastrophe. May the Lord save you all for your sacrificial labors! Such concrete help prevents us from becoming “salt that hath lost his savour” (Matthew 5:13), and shows that we can and must become more involved in the conciliar work of building the Church. We, as God’s people, scattered throughout the entire world, have many gifts and talents with which we can serve not only Him, Who with His most-pure Blood perfected our salvation, but can also serve His Holy Church and our neighbor. So, let us not grow weak in spirit or fall into despair, but “let us commit ourselves and one another and all our life unto Christ our God!”

May Pascha, wondrous and sweetly fragrant, warm cold hearts and unite us all! May the exclamation “Christ is Risen!”, which forever evokes trepidation even among those who have departed from the Father’s house, remind us that we, as Orthodox Christians, are children of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who rose on the third day and with Whom and in Whom we shall also be resurrected for the life of the age to come. Amen.

With love in the Risen Christ and asking your holy prayers,

+HILARION
Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Pascha of the Lord 2022

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