By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout faithful
of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
Brother concelebrants and beloved children in the Lord,
Great Lent has trickled by once again, like a tranquil stream of water, amidst our daily routine.
It reached a pinnacle, in its own distinct style, during Holy Week and in the splendorous light of the Resurrection.
Yet we know from previous years that the joy of the Resurrection will not last long this year either. Not even for the faithful!
If it is true that the joy of the Resurrection 'evaporates' quickly and almost unnoticeably into dreary 'substitutes for joy', which bear no resemblance to the abolishment of death, this is because we have long since lost the flavour of true life.
Who would dare claim that life is merely a matter of biology and physiology, which we share with other mammals?
It is therefore timely to remind ourselves and others that LIFE and DEATH are deeply interconnected. For human beings in particular, life and death are solely dependent on whether or not there is COMMUNION with God - the only source of life and immortality.
It is not a coincidence that the most profound and sensitive Mystics throughout the history of world civilization never equated 'death' with illness, physical weakness or the final mortification of the BODY! For devout people of every time and place, true death is always seen as unbearable loneliness and the 'absence' of God.
To be 'without God' is the most tragic and concise definition of death.
Modern people would be much more familiar with 'loneliness' than their forebears in previous times. The latter, by not being deprived of the vivid presence of the other 'person', rightly described 'co-existence' and 'in-volvement' as communion. They also called this the 'unshakeable life'!
Today - even though we talk about 'the confidentiality of personal information', 'human rights' and 'crimes against humanity' and so on - we see that the sacredness of the human 'person' as the 'image' of God, is increasingly disappearing.
And it is disappearing not only in the crimes of masked thieves. Nor only through the hypocrisy of the impious. It is now disappearing 'legally' behind impersonal 'multinational companies'. It is disappearing behind digital messages that are sent in one direction only. Behind the automation of the world wide web. Behind the unspoken language of figurative and numerical slogans
Following such 'spoiling' of human life, how can all things not seem routine, since there is no longer a 'communion of persons'? This is why we have for some time celebrated Easter as a rather uninspiring and tedious formality, which in fact leads us to even greater loneliness!
And it is the greatest irony to recall that 'Pascha' literally means 'passover', 'passport' and a 'way out' of a miserable situation into a place of light and liberation. Precisely as the people of Israel travelled through their Exodus from the slavery of Egypt to the Promised Land, through all the ordeals of the wilderness, under the uncompromising guidance of Moses.
If we carefully read how St Luke the Evangelist describes the human pain of Christ (with the tenderness and nostalgia He felt during the last Easter before His Passion), perhaps we too will be enabled to rediscover its purely human dimension.
For it was through the Cross and Resurrection that Christ 're-established' the solidarity of all people, just as the Creator had pre-eternally wanted it to be.
While the other Evangelists describe Christ's Last Supper and institution of the Holy Eucharist in a manner which is strictly 'chronological', it is Luke - the Physician and Iconographer, the constant travelling companion of Paul - who uniquely underlines, on the one hand, the closeness of the specific partakers in the Supper and, on the other, the universal character of salvation, having the chosen people of course at its centre.
That is how all traditional commentators viewed the following characteristic words of Christ:
"I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer! For I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:15 onwards)
This precise interpretation is what makes the Gospel of Luke the Good News of 'compassion' and 'mercy' par excellence.
We all have a share in the mercy and compassion of the Lord who was Crucified and Resurrected for all people. So long as we accept it.
A joyful Resurrection feast!
Peace be to all!
With fervent prayers in the Risen Christ
Archbishop S T Y L I A N O S
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia