Pascha 1998

STYLIANOS

By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout People of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

Dear brother Concelebrants and beloved children in Christ who is Risen,

Great Lent has this year, as in all previous years, left us, after the climax of the awesome Passion of Holy Week, like small helpless children looking forward to the Resurrection. The words of the Service of Holy Thursday which we direct to the Crucified Lord are indicative of this:

"We venerate your Passion O Christ
Show us also Your glorious Resurrection".

In just one and a half years, it will be the beginning of the third Christian millennium. Christians all over the world are preparing Church services and other events in order to greet the landmark signified by the 2000 years since the Incarnation of Christ the Saviour.

Yet, the central issue always remains open. And that is, to what extent, after 2000 years of Christian catechism and life, have we as Christians finally realised what life is and what death is.

If we do not clarify both these boundaries of reality -namely life and death- in our conscience with the enlightenment of the word of God, we shall forever remain in darkness. What is worse is that we will speak of life, but really mean death. We will be speaking about death without knowing its true characteristics, and so we will confuse it with life.

In so doing, however, we will not only ignore the truth, the only truth which can lead us from darkness and death, but we will also transmit this delusion from generation to generation.

Christ came into the world, then, so that the ignorance and falsehood which were established by the offence of disobedience would not be perpetuated. He came to teach with His life, and confirm with His death, what true life is:

"Far this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth" (John 18:37)

He said to Pilate who was judging Him. Pilate therefore justifiably asked: "what is truth?" (John 18:38), Since he still lived in the "shadow of the law" and could not imagine the power of "grace".

Yet precisely because the truth which Christ brought was not an external teaching or objective information, but rather a way of life, a struggle of "flesh and blood", it had to be paid for by death.

In order for the distance to be covered which was created by the apostasy of the first Adam, it had to be lived out step by step as a journey of return with the example of the new Adam, who is Christ.

It was the "self-love" of the first ancestors, namely idolisation of the self, which cruelly cut off the communion of life between God and their fellow human beings. The only antidote was for the new Adam to oppose it with "obedience unto death, even death on the cross" (Phil. 2:8),

In so doing, Christ confirmed both with His life and death that He indeed "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mat. 20:28).

However the death of one could not "redeem" the many if that one person was not "the only sinless One", just as the Prophets had foretold:

"He had committed no sin and there was no deceit in his mouth" (Is. 53:9).

From this unprecedented "logic" of the Cross, which sounds like "foolishness" to the world, the consolation of the Resurrection clearly becomes apparent. A consolation which we await as a natural consequence of our Baptism, if we of course respect our Baptism.

For, Christian Baptism is not simply the "washing away of stains". It is the "water of regeneration", which means that in the waters of Baptism we forever bury the old and worn out person of sin, so that from this time onwards "we should walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4). The Apostle Paul is crystal clear on this point also:

"For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His Resurrection" {Rom 6:5).

Life and Resurrection were thus identified in the person of Christ who is both God and man. Therefore, true life does not exist for the human being, except in Christ. And this requires the ultimate death of sin, as accomplished by the only sinless One.

It follows that we should recognise and admit that, for the Christian, death is not the physical or biological end of this life. This in any case will end as a temporary test and trial, which will be fulfilled in the transfiguration of the final things.

The death which Christ destroyed "by death trampling upon death" is sin, which is separation from God. This is the power, the "dominion" of death. And Christ defeats him who first taught it, namely the devil, whom the Apostle Paul correctly calls "the one who has the dominion of death", that is the ruler of death.

Consequently, when we say that "I expect the resurrection of the dead", it would be a tragic utopia to expect to return to this world. Of course, our bodies will be resurrected. Yet without the physical and biological needs which they had originally. There where there are no longer "passions" and "desires". In the kingdom of heaven, people are "like angels of God" (Mat 22:30). So our true life has not yet appeared. Nor has our final glory. It is hidden in Christ and shall be revealed with Him "on that day". Again, the Apostle Paul says directly:

"...when Christ who is our life appears, then you,also will appear with Him In glory" (Col 3:4).

In this way we can better understand the words which we express liturgically to the Crucified One, of which we spoke in the beginning. In venerating His sacred Passion and requesting the next stage by saying "Show us Your glorious Resurrection", we do not simply mean that we should be made worthy to celebrate His Resurrection three days later. That would be the least of all, and perhaps even without particular significance. Besides, as it is a matter of only three more days, we would have already reached it once again.

That is why our true thirst is much deeper. And much further. And much more substantial: "Show us Your glorious Resurrection" therefore means:

Grant, O Christ, to show our corruptible bodies also Your Resurrection. For we are Your body. We are Your people. We are Your inheritance.

To Him Who suffered for us and rose from the dead be glory, honour and worship to all ages. Amen.

With fervent prayers for all of you

Archbishop STYLIANOS
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia


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