Paschal letter 2021
By the mercy of God Almighty
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
My brothers, Shepherds of the Holy Church of Antioch
My sons and daughters, everywhere across this Apostolic See
Let heavens rejoice in a worthy manner, the earth be glad, and the whole world, visible and the invisible, keep the Feast. For Christ our eternal joy has risen!
Saint John of Damascus used these words to describe the joy of the present feast. The heavens rejoice and the earth makes merry in a worthy manner. The world keeps the feast because the Resurrected Christ is the eternal joy for all creation that has fallen with Adam the first human and then resurrected with Christ the New Man.
Joy is closely related to the Resurrection. It is born from the hope that the Lord Jesus Christ planted in us against all odds. The Feast of the Resurrection is the manifestation of joy in our hearts, despite all the sorrows that surround us, for all of these sorrows melt away before the Cross of Christ and fade out at the threshold of his empty tomb.
The joy of the Resurrection is the joy of the kingdom that we live as believers in every moment, including the present day, in which the Church sheds tears for the Buried Christ on Holy Friday. Her tears on this most holy day are expressions of glorification and gratitude to the Lord God whose dignity was nailed to the Cross of glory. He did so to lift and honor all those who share the suffering of the cross and the shimmer of the Resurrection. The tears on this day are mixed, even molded with the glow of the Resurrection and the radiance of the empty tomb. The Church’s present tears will be wiped off from the face of those who believe in Him, the face of every afflicted person in this world who places all hope in Christ Jesus, Lord, God, and Savior.
The joy of the Resurrection is the antidote to our troubles. It is a joy from on high that God places in the heart of each one of us to tell us that the Cross is the beginning of the path to the Resurrection. The joy of the Resurrection is a consolation and a balm that God uses to heal our hearts, which already invoke Him by the tongue of the righteous women: “Who will roll the stone for us from the door of the tomb? Then God answers with actions as related by the Evangelist: “Then they looked up and saw the stone had been rolled because it was so great.”
Today we are called each to look at the Day of Resurrection and contemplate it as an exalted day of joy, despite all the surrounding circumstances and the horrors that befall us. The joy of the Resurrection echoes and fulfills the joy of Nativity that was announced by the angel to humankind awaiting salvation, saying: "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all the people ...". And this same great joy is Jesus Christ, Who will roll away from the door of his tomb and the gates of our souls every "great stone" and distress and bring back on our faces “the smile of joy" in his Resurrection.
Today we remember all those who are in distress and pray to the God of joy and peace to "wipe out every tear from the eyes." We pray for the kidnapped, including our brothers the Metropolitans of Aleppo, John Ibrahim and Paul Yazji, who were kidnapped eight years ago, amidst a suspicious and condemned international silence. Together with you, we pray God to lift the present pandemic away from the world, beseeching Divine mercy and the heavenly kingdom for our brothers and beloved ones who reposed in the hope of Resurrection and eternal life in God’s holy light.
We sent you a paschal greeting of peace, dear brethren and children, asking for God’s mercies and chanting:
“Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!”
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.
From our Patriarchate in Damascus
April 30, 2021