This is why such great joy, faith, expectation, and hope overfill our celebration of the radiant resurrection of Christ. This is why every seventh day of the week is dedicated by the Church to the fullness of the Pascal joy. Our entire faith, our entire worship is founded on this joy„from the day of Christ's resurrection from the dead even till now. It is precisely this Pascal faith, this Pascal joy which sounded from the lips of the first Christian martyr, the Apostle and Archdeacon Stephen, when from under the hail of stones thrown on him by the hands of his murderers, "he looked up to heaven and saw God's glory, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55)
Without faith in Christ's resurrection, holiness is impossible. Impossible is true Christian witness, impossible is martyrdom for Christ. That martyrdom on whose blood the Church of Christ was built from the earliest centuries of Christianity to the very recent victories of the Church of Russia in the last decades of its now millennial existence.
"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death." Already for centuries this victorious hymn, the hymn of triumph and victory of life over death, has sounded beneath the domes of our churches. It thunders under the domes of our cathedrals, it victoriously rings out in our parish churches and in modest village churches. It sounds in the hearts of the faithful as it sounded in the catacombs of the Roman empire in the early days of Christian martyrdom, so it sounded in a subdued way in the contemporary catacombs of a persecuted faith: in the jails, in the camps, in the solitary cells. It was never silenced and as always, it sounded most victoriously in the believing human heart.
"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life." "O death, where is your sting? O hell where is your victory?" This challenge was thrown to death and hell by the great father of the church St. John Chrysostom in the fourth century. The words that we hear every Easter night read in all churches, are the words of his Paschal sermon. Whatever progress a mind deprived of God may announce, whatever kingdoms of freedom, equality and brotherhood it may promise in the future of humanity, the logical end result of all these promises is a constantly strengthened hell on earth. And personal existence ends with the one inescapable fact of our life, senseless and completely unjustifiable death. Death which can find its justification only in this "trampling death by death." In the death of Christ, "giving life to those in the tombs." In the death of Christ which opens to all those who believe the gates to the Kingdom of God„"whose kingdom shall have no end."
Christ is risen, dear friends. May the light of His resurrection shine in your hearts, remain in your life, and bring you freedom and new life in our Holy Church.
Broadcast in Russian to Russia over Radio Liberty, Easter 1988, Year of the Millenium of the Baptism of Russia