Pascha, 2002


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 Risen Lord,

The rhythm and flow of the Church's liturgical year has brought us once again, with God's help, to the awesome period of Great Lent, and especially of Holy Week to commemorate the venerable Passion and the life-giving Resurrection of the Lord.

However, in so doing, the primary objective is not of course a celebration. Not even for those who are curiously "fond of spectacle"!

As we all know today, the external celebration of divine worship can unfortunately degenerate into a "theatre", no matter how purifying the sacred symbolism of worshipful acts may be.

That which therefore stands out and sanctifies our every oral statement and gesture in the context of the "spiritual act of worship" is always the mystical self-examination and the sincere searching of our own conscience.

This reckoning at every given historical moment is an indisputable sign that judges our trustworthiness both towards the living God, as well as towards the people of God, who are fortunately no longer easily mocked.

Being spiritually vigilant, in humility, enables us - either as individuals or as a community of faithful - to discern, even amidst the distractions of the here and now, the "the signs and the wonders" that God incarnate has done through all possible means among His people.

However, precisely because all these things were created by the eternal God, they could not possibly have a "use by date", to use the pedestrian language of today's commercial vocabulary.

Holy Scripture describes all those amazing events of the daily miracles of Jesus as "signs and wonders". How much more is this double term verified when we behold it in its superlative climax - the sacrifice of Golgotha -, which decisively seals history as Divine Economy.

Indeed what is more "significant" than Christ's self-emptying love towards humanity and sacrifice, for the sake of our own perfection and deification!

Such a climax is unsurpassable, both for the human person and for God. This is truly the icon which "is not made by hands". Moreover, it is the icon which has "two sides" - the Cross and the Resurrection!

This Icon emphatically perpetuates the Christology of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon namely that the divine and human natures of Christ are united "without confusion" and "without division". Those who praise and honour the unfalsified declaration about this inexpressible mystery in an Orthodox and wholehearted manner, do so through doctrine, but also through worship.

It is the triumph of this mystery that we celebrate, again and again, with 'purified minds', as we mystically participate in the venerable Passion of Christ, and taste the resurrection with thanks giving. Yet the redeeming triumph mentioned here -"the Pascha of the faithful"- is not limited to the distant past, purely as a "once only" event of history. Nor is it limited to its appearance "once a year" in the Church calendar.

The "undivided" relationship between the divine and the human natures of Christ ensures for the faithful the grace that springs forth from the tomb. It does not simply "again and again", but rather continually and endlessly, regardless of time or place.

So long as our Eucharist (Thanksgiving) is offered in the spirit of continual self-emptying, according to the words of Him who gave Himself up to death "as a ransom for many".

For as many times as you eat this bread And drink of this cup, You declare my death And confess my Resurrection.

However by confessing all the above in security and comfort, we sometimes give the impression that we speak merely rhetorically. For this reason, let us not forget during these Holy days, that in Jerusalem where Christ suffered and Rose - there is unfortunately no Easter Resurrection this year. The sacred city of Jerusalem and the entire surrounding area has for many years been overshadowed by death.

Death which is without measure, balance or consolation. Once again, the agonising weeping and lamentation of those who suffer injustice can be heard. The tears and curses of the weak and poor. "Rachel, is weeping for her children; she refuses to he comforted for her children, because they are no more" (Jer: 31, 15).

What an irony of history this is! What a disappointment for all of us from Israel, which taught humanity endurance, through it's sufferings! How quickly it forgot the Holocaust and the pogroms, in order to transform the gift of the Passion through the barbaric logic of conquests and bloodshed.

May the Lord Jesus, a Hebrew by birth, who died and Rose for all people, grant all of us peace, justice and mercy.

To Him be glory and power to all ages. Amen.

With warm Easter greetings
And deep love in the Risen Christ.

With fervent prayers for all of you.

Archbishop STYLIANOS
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia

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