By Metropolitan Jonah
The West’s Absolute Misunderstanding of Russia
Soon we enter into the Paschal mystery, accompanying Jesus to His Passion, the Cross, death, tomb, His harrowing of Hell, and Resurrection. This is the core of the Christian year, the celebration of the essence of the Christian Faith. We accompany Jesus to His Passion, as He accompanies us through our suffering and death, and resurrects us in Himself on the awesome Day of His Coming. We celebrate not only Jesus’ resurrection, but our own; not just His triumph over death, but our own in Him.
Nowhere in the Christian world is the Resurrection of Christ, the Paschal Mystery, celebrated as grandly as in Russia. The hours long solemn and usually sober services become a dance to the syncopated beat of the chant, the people swaying and even dancing in joy at Christ’s Resurrection. The festive greeting Christ is Risen! is shouted from the altar and answered by thousands of people not only in but surrounding the temples, Truly He is Risen! Even at football games, half the stadium, as if on cue, will shout Christ is Risen! and the other half, Truly He is Risen. Churches and houses, businesses and stores, even government buildings and public squares proclaim the Paschal joy of Christ’s Resurrection. Festal processions of tens of thousands of people, led by hundreds of vested clergy, wind through the streets of Moscow, Red Square and the Kremlin, singing the Paschal hymns, as all the bells in all the churches and bell towers, from the Kremlin to the countryside, toll in joy.
This was unimaginable thirty years ago. It is still unimaginable to many in the West, and outrageously politically incorrect. Who could permit the faithful Christians to process from their churches, some at the heart of the center of the government buildings, with Christ is Risen! hung on the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the White House? It might offend someone! Choirs of students gathering in the quads and halls of the State Universities to sing the Paschal hymns and shout Christ is Risen! Call the Police! The CIA! The NSA… Homeland Security!
Russia rejoices so completely in Christ’s resurrection because it was crucified and has been raised from the dead. The blood of twenty million martyrs for Christ and the suffering of tens of millions that had been imprisoned in the gulags cry out the Paschal greeting Christ is Risen! because it is their life and experience.