Thousands attended the Paschal midnight service officiated by His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel Saturday night in Bucharest.
Concelebrants for the service were His Grace Varlaam of Ploiesti, assistant bishop to the patriarch, and His Grace Timotei of Prahova, assistant bishop to the Archdiocese of Bucharest.
At midnight, the patriarch distributed to the believers the Holy Fire, which was brought the same day from Jerusalem by a delegation of the Romanian Patriarchate. After the good news of Christ’s Resurrection was proclaimed, the believers chanted the Paschal hymn Christ is risen!
The service was broadcast live by the Romanian Patriarchate’s Trinitas TV station.
The Romanian Patriarch proclaimed the Easter gospel reading from the doorsteps of his patriarchal residence and addressed the thousands of believers attending the service on the greatest Christian feast day.
It gives a meaning to the whole existence
‘The feast of the Resurrection of the Lord is the Church’s heart of light and holy fire in general and the heart of Orthodoxy in particular. This feast gives a meaning to the whole existence,’ His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel said.
The patriarch pointed to the fact that ‘Holy Pascha is the greatest Christian feast, Pascha or Passover meaning the feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the crucified One, who was buried, and rose from the dead the third day.’
Transition from death to life
The patriarch recalled that the same day we secondarily commemorate ‘the redemption of the Jewish people from Egyptian captivity, its deliverance from the Pharaoh, the crossing of the Red Sea and the guidance to the Land of Promise – Canaan.’
‘This resurrection is a crossing, but not from captivity in one territory to the freedom in another territory. It is not the redemption from Egyptian captivity and the entry into the Promised Land, but the transition from death to life, and from the earth to heaven.’
The patriarch also said that resurrection refers to all humans, not only Christians, but to all nations of all times and places, and even the entire Universe. It is for this reason why the Paschal service begins outside the church building, the patriarch explained.
Patriarch Daniel reflected on the first verses from Psalm 67 that are uttered before chanting Christ is risen, ‘Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; let them also that hate him flee before him. Like as the smoke vanishes, so shalt thou drive them away; and like as wax melts at the fire, so let the ungodly perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad and rejoice.’
He said that there are three enemies to which these verses refer: the devil, death, and hell.
‘The devil is man’s enemy. He envies humans for being called to resemble God, to glory and eternal life, provided they obey God and fulfill the Lord’s commandments in their life.’
‘Death was brought into the world through the devil’s envy, through the disobedience of our first parents Adam and Eve,’ the patriarch said.
‘Hell is the state in which the devil reigns unto the end of ages. He tortures humans by drawing them far from God.’
All these three enemies have been overcome through the sacrifice of the Son of God. ‘Through obedience unto death and even death on a cross, our Saviour Jesus Christ became triumphant over the sin of disobedience, over the devil, hell, and death.’
All history is directed to the Resurrection
The Patriarch went on to reflect on the hymns chanted at the Easter service, namely on the expression ‘now all are filled with light.’
‘This means all were filled with a sense,’ His Beatitude noted. ‘All things have an ultimate sense; there is nothing occurring by chance. All humanity is directed towards the Resurrection.’
Moreover, ‘all history is directed to the Resurrection, both for those who know, and for those who do not know, for those who believe, and for those who do not believe. All humanity directs itself towards the Universal Resurrection.’
Ending his speech, Patriarch Daniel stressed the sense of Christ’s resurrection.
Pascha means victory
‘The feast of Holy Pascha means the victory of life over death, the victory of joy over sorrow, the triumph of hope over despair.’
‘The faith in Christ’s resurrection and in the universal resurrection is our living bond with the eternal living God,’ he added.
Patriarch Daniel urged the faithful to offer others peace and joy, merciful love, and ‘to show that our life does not end by the tomb and that death is just a crossing.’
Following his paschal sermon, Patriarch Daniel led the festal Divine Liturgy inside the Patriarchal Cathedral of Sts Constantine and Helen. At the end of the liturgy, the believers received Patriarch Daniel’s Easter Pastoral Letter, red eggs, and Pascha cakes.
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Photography courtesy of Robert Nicolae/Basilica.ro