Who is a true Member of Christ's Church?
In view of the sorrowful news of the departure from this world of the most venerable servant of God, His Beatitude, the Most Reverend Ilarion, Metropolitan of Winnipeg and all Canada, Primate of the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada, we publish in place of an editorial an Archpastoral Letter by His Beatitude, which appeared in VISNYK, issue Number 8, 1960. In it he emphasizes two very important factors in spiritual life: the Glorious Resurrection of our Lord and the Holy Mystery of Communion in which one unites with the Risen Christ, whose triumph then becomes one's own as well. The letter is a timely Easter message. In future issues we plan to publish in English translation for the first time, other writings of the great theologian, Biblical scholar, linguist, poet and spiritual leader, whose Flock misses him most keenly.
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
Today we celebrate a great, 'holy and most joyous Mystery.
For many ages we awaited our Saviour: for many ages the whole world awaited its Salvation, and finally the Son of God came to our earth, was born of the Virgin Mary and became Man.
He lived on earth for 33 years as Man, teaching us God's Truth. And by His saving Teaching the Son of God shows us the right Road, and how one should live in this world in order to be fortunate on earth and prepare for Eternal Blessedness.
Christ's Teaching was new and unheard of until that time and, therefore, immediately won men over expecially the poor and unfortunate.
Christ, as Son of God and God Himself, called loudly to the whole world: "Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest!" (Matthew 11:28). This call of Christ's was heard by the unfortunate and they came to Him.
But the mighty of this earth armed themselves against Christ, for His teaching was against them. They marched against Christ and condemned Him to the Cross.
But Christ, being God, arose from the dead on the third day as had been foreseen.
The Incarnation on earth of the Son of God and His glorious Resurrection are the greatest Mysteries of our Holy Faith. The greatest and most glorious! The greatest and most joyous!
Christ, having completed His mission on earth (as established before the ages), did not leave us as orphans. He ascended to Heaven and sat on the right hand of the Father, and will return in time to judge the living and the resurrected dead.
The Son of God did not leave His world as an orphan—in His place He left His Holy Church on earth and He dwells in it eternally as its Head.
The Church is Christ's representative on earth. The Church continues the teaching of Christ.
The Church shows mankind the one road to take to achieve true fortune on earth and eternal Salvation beyond the grave.
Furthermore, Christ descended from Heaven to earth and drew the earth nearer to Heaven. The Son of God, our Lord, Jesus Christ, will remain with us forever in the Church and will unite with us eternally in the Mystery of Most Sacred Communion. By partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, each person is divinized because he unites with His Lord God.
Truly, what a great and glorious saving work of God: His most precious Incarnation, His Divine Resurrection and His saving Mysteries for us— the Church of Salvation and Most Sacred Communion!
Our Church is Sobornal (ed.—universal in a communital sense), that is it is common to us all, and therefore we should all participate in it. Let us all make haste to the Church for it holds all our earthly happiness; our Eternal Salvation lies within it.
But let us not forget that we all, as sons of Christ, must live virtuously—in love, in harmony and in unity.
We must all be Christians not only in name but also in deed!
And we must all be practicing Orthodox, everywhere—in Church, in our home, and outside of them—we should all fulfill everything commanded us by the Lord God in Holy Scripture, and we should partake of those Mysteries which He left us for our Salvation.
And we must all profoundly accept in our heart and soul that Holy Communion is our chief Salvation. Holy Communion is the greatest Mystery in the Church—it is the Mystery of Mysteries; without Holy Communion man is empty.
Therefore let us make haste to accept Holy Communion, let us all prepare for it by our sincere and saving Confession. The Orthodox Church as a Protecting Mother established individual Confession in order to allow the believer to speak freely about the troubles of his heart and soul.
He who takes Communion is a true Christian. He who takes Communion is a true member of Christ's Church.
He who does not take Communion does not belong to Christ's Church and for him Christ has not risen!
And he who does not take Holy Communion may not be in the leadership neither of the Parish nor of the Council nor of any Church institution. For if he does not take Holy Communion he does not belong to the Church!
Christ rose (from the dead) and ascended into Heaven, but He did not leave us on the earth as orphans. He commanded us to partake of Holy Communion that by it we might fully and continually unite with Him!
Christ is risen let us also arise to a full, new spiritual life. And it will come about when we piously, with Faith and Love, partake of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Without Christ's Resurrection there would be no Christian Faith, and without Holy Communion there would be no Church.
Written by Metropolitan Ilarion