ON HOLY PASCHA 2004
+ B A R T H O L O M E W
BY THE GRACE OF GOD ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE,
NEW ROME, AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH,
TO THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH, GRACE, PEACE AND MERCY
FROM CHRIST THE SAVIOUR, RISEN IN GLORY.
Brother concelebrants and pious, God-loving children of the Church,
Christ is Risen!
As we greet you, dear beloved, with this Paschal exclamation, we reminisce about the philanthropic action of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Logos of God, through Whom everything was created, to offer life to mankind. We also think of the cruel pursuit of the devil, and of the people who have been misled by the devil, having become his instruments in trying to deprive humankind of the great and sacred gift of life.
The sacred gift of life is intended by God to bring joy. The mouth of the Myrrh bearers was filled with joy as they cried, "Christ is Risen!", says the sacred hymnist. Ever since, thousands of people cried "Christ is Risen", and the hearts of innumerable devout Christians fill with joy in repeating the announcement "Christ is risen", for all of us value life as one of God's greatest gifts to humanity. It is a valuable gift though which we can enjoy all of the other divine gifts, for without the gift of life we cannot have any awareness of the other gifts God offered to us.
The source of life and joy is Christ, beloved brothers and children and He invites us all to become participants of His divine gifts. He does invite not only us, the Orthodox Christians, but also every single person. Every human being is invited to partake in the fullness of a joyful life. God created human beings so that they might live joyfully; He intended for us to constitute adornments of the material and spiritual universe. He gave each person the opportunity to enjoy all creation; that would become possible, of course, if people shoe=wed respect for one another, and, moreover, if they love God and the other beings. The observance of this commandment leads to a harmonious society of people, which is surrounded by the whole creation, in service of humanity, and is based on freedom, which is the foundation of love. Our feeling of this love, which is based on our free will, reveals the ineffable beauty of the face of the Lord, the most desired one, as the holy Church Fathers say, and also, the face of the beloved human person. The human face reflects and depicts the divine and supreme beauty of God's face, for it was created in His image and likeness.
The faithful Christian, and every human being, must himself feel the opportunity to experience and cherish life, and recognize this right in all others, as well. Unfortunately, though, the devil hated human life and turned murderous, and implanted the idea of homicide in the human race. The devil persuaded Cain in killing his brother and becoming the first fratricide. Since then, many fellow human beings hate, by imitation of the devil, the life of others. As a result, throughout the history of humankind, myriads of human beings have been deprived of the blessings of life and joy, due to murderous and invidious acts committed by other human beings. This goes on until today.
But, Christ was risen to offer us life and abundance of life. Therefore, it is inconceivable for a Christian or anyone else who loves his own life and respects God, to want or commit a murder or to cause pain to others. The killing of people, and moreover the indiscriminate killing of innocent people, non-participating in war conflicts, is an inhuman, condemnable and non-heroic act. likewise, every selfish act that causes pain to some people in order to satisfy others is also condemnable.
As has always been the case, this year's celebration of the Resurrection of Christ follows the same predicament; it is clouded by a multitude of grave incidents. We hear about many group homicides and other hurtful acts committed by people against people. Christ, Who is the Way and the Resurrection and Life and Who lived an earthly life of doing good and healing, shows to all people the way of love and giving, of justice and respect of life and joy of others, as the single way, which leads humanity to true joy and fullness of life. Christ resisted His persecution and death trough forgiveness, love, good deeds, sacrifice and resurrection. He proved that the power of evil, despite its fierce aspiration to kill the leader of life, failed. And He persuades us that in our days the powers of evil defeated by the greater power of love, which is the only way leading to resurrection.
Thus, brothers and children in the Lord, we should not fear in the face of evil that seems to prevail. At the end, our Risen Lord Jesus Christ will be the victorious winner along with the people who believe in His Resurrection. But our win will not be against our fellow human beings, but against evil, for we Christians want all people to partake in this victory so that none will be defeated by evil or lose the earthly, and most importantly, the eternal life.
Thus, we greet all of you, beloved, with the Paschal greeting "Christ is Risen", and pray that you will travel the road of Holy Pascha in the joy of Resurrection. We pray also that through your pious life you will contribute to the propagation of the spirit of altruism and will inspire others to respect the life and the joy of their fellow human beings, so that good will prevail over evil and the leader of life, our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, will reign in your hearts. Amen.
Holy Pascha 2004
+ B A T H O L O M E W S
Patriarch of Constantinople
fervent intercessor of all before The Risen Christ.
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HOLY PASCHA 2003
By the Mercy of God, Archbishop of Constantinople,
New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Entire Body of the Church
Grace, Peace, and Mercy
From Christ the Savior Who Rose in Glory
Brethren and concelebrants, faithful and God-loving sons and daughters of
CHRIST IS RISEN!
"You healed the brokenness of humanity, O Lord, having restored it by Your divine blood," sings St. John Damascene, addressing our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified, suffered, and rose from the dead. And another hymnographer exclaims, "You were captured, I am not ashamed of it; You were lashed, I do not deny it; You were nailed to the Cross, I do not hide it; I boast of Your resurrection; for Your death is life to me, O Almighty and philanthropic God; Glory to You" (Sticheron of the Sabbath, Grave Tone).
In the passage of time humanity has repeatedly prepared its own brokenness. Indeed, every time it adopts pride and the mindset of Babel, i.e., the usurpation of divine might and substitution of the law of God by human desires and ambitions, it returns to the confusion of Babel, to discords, disagreements, conflicts, and ruins. There have been many who destroyed prosperous empires in their desire to make them greater; many who became self-destructive in setting before them aims of conceited pride; many who were humiliated in raising their own stature against God's moral law; many who destroyed others in their desire to lord and dominate over them; who realized in the end that the damage which they incurred on themselves was far greater than that which they caused.
In contrast to those who through haughtiness, or pride, or ambition, or any such egocentric impulse caused the brokenness of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ accepted with an excess of humility to undergo all those things that the leader of this world and his emissaries wished to impose on him in order to turn him into naught and to secure for themselves the domination of the world. He was captured as a conspirator, He who was the peacemaker; He was flogged as an evildoer, He who was a benefactor and healer; and, ultimately, He was crucified as a criminal, He who was innocent and the model of all goodness.
And what was the result?
When all the opponents of humility and peace thought that the gravestone covered forever Him who preached sermons that overturned their convictions as to what was right and expedient, He rose again, incorruptible out of the tomb, the healer of the brokenness of the world. Since then He continues to heal any brokenness of humanity, because He has the power to reconstruct it, to renew it, to offer it regeneration.
There are many ruins of humanity that we encounter in our time. Ruins of buildings and other such works, ruins of human bodies and parts, ruins of the natural environment, and above all, ruins of moral values that pertain to civilization. All these are destroyed by haughtiness, which is accompanied by acquisition of power. The only way for the healing and for the therapy of these ruins is He who humbly received upon Himself human brokenness and was made worthy of the resurrection in His humanity.
In the midst of so many deaths and the hearing of new violent deaths, the message of the resurrection sounds as the greatest paradox! And yet, it is the only message that brings hope and the truth. It is the greatest message, beyond any other, since life is a far greater reality than any attempt made to extinguish it. This is because life is the effluence and manifestation of the creative activity of God that love undertakes, and no deadly power that militates against life can successfully prevail over this divine activity.
Foretelling his death to his disciples, the Lord offered them this admonition, "Have courage; I have overcome the world!" He won by reversing human values, by accepting humility that was hateful to many as being of superior value, at a time when everybody sought after glory and honor, as many continue to do today. It is this same admonition that we too offer to you today as a father to his beloved children in the Lord. Take courage and rejoice because Christ's victory over the world -a victory that is spiritual and unrelated to worldly domination- is offered to all who desire and accept the value of humility through which this victory is acquired.
Let all flesh that speaks contrary to this be silent. Behold the King of Glory comes out of the grave!
Christ is Risen, demonstrating the infinite might of humility and peace. Nothing else can conquer death.
May the Risen Lord heal all brokenness of contemporary humanity and grant peace and life to all human beings, removing all hatred and bloodshed, and exchanging them with peaceful cooperation for the good of all. Amen.
Holy Pascha, A.D. 2003
+Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before the Risen Christ
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