By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Reverend Clergy and devout faithful
of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
Brother Concelebrants and beloved children in the Risen Lord,
The angels Praise in the heavens
Your Resurrection, Christ our Saviour
Make us on earth also worthy
To glorify You with a pure heart!
Clergy and lay people together chant this festive hymn each year holding burning candles as we gather outside the doors of the Church and proclaim the Gospel Of the Resurrection. It is not only the most appropriate melody of the Easter feast in the midst of the night. It is at the same time an exceptional example of Christian realism, which distinguishes between what is above and what is below. Between the heavenly and the earthly. Between the holy angels and sinful human beings.
The angels rightfully praise the Resurrection in the heavens. For it is they who, as 'liturgical spirits', have always ministered also upon earth in resurrectional moments and initiatives.
According to the teaching of the Church, the angels are fixed (that is to say, stable and unchanging) in that which is good. This is why they are able to continually serve only the light. And they are messengers of the light, which is the Resurrection and life. Never darkness or death.
Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about people. We human beings have a fallen nature which must be lifted up, or in other words re-surrected. We have fallen and continue to fall. For this reason, the Resurrection must, by definition, inspire every moment of our lives.
No matter how much we may have been illumined during certain mystical or privileged moments, we know that much darkness still surrounds us in this world.
It is not by chance that the Saints of the Desert repeatedly called upon God with the words:
"Enlighten my darkness!
Enlighten my darkness!"
They did so while praying in their heart "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me". It appears that, without this invocation, the darkness does not recede. And if the darkness does not recede, it follows that the light will not come, as Resurrection, which is true life.
Light and darkness were always the tragic dilemma of the human person. Who could save us from being crushed by these terrible, but also invisible, Rocks of the 'Symplegades'? Only God Who became man could do that!
The Apostle John, who is the Evangelist of Light in particular, confesses that it is Christ alone who is "the true light which gives light to everyone who comes into the world' (John 1:9) However, he does not leave this as a vague notion. St John immediately defines it and, characterises it. Indeed, he identifies the light with life itself. "In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people" (John 1:4).
Despite all this, the reassurance which the Apostle guarantees us would neither be convincing nor sincere if it over-looked darkness. For we know that darkness exists. It exists among us. It exists within us. It exists and will continue to exist around us, for as long as afflictions of the present world continue.
Therefore St John does not forget the darkness, nor does he ignore it. On the contrary, he names it. He reveals at the same time that it has essentially been abolished. In other words, although it is still around, it no longer has power once the light has come: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it" (John 1:5).
Yet we could not have believed or even imagined this ultimate defeat of darkness, and death which it symbolises. This is simply because life itself strongly contradicts it on a daily basis, as does our experience in a world where darkness is a dominant tone.
Who can deny the enormous extent of darkness and death that we are all experiencing, even at this tragic hour of barbaric globalisation on the world scene?. And we are unable to influence this situation, in spite all our protests and denouncements on behalf of the innocent victims and humanity as a whole!
We are nonetheless called once more to celebrate Easter with splendour and the ringing of bells in the Churches, together with red eggs and the Paschal lambs in our homes. Such a festive celebration should be described - at least by Christians - as cruel insensitivity, if not shameless hypocrisy.
At this particular time, nothing could perhaps release us from that public self-humiliation except at least the sense of our collective unworthiness. Yet we cannot unfortunately guarantee even this by ourselves! That is precisely why we entreat this as well, as a further 'gift' of the only sinless Lord.
Make us on earth also worthy
to glorify You with a pure heart!
To the Lord who died and rose for all people be the glory and honour to all ages. Amen.
With fervent prayers,
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia
[Translation from the Greek original]