BY HIS ALL-HOLINESS
AT THE CONCELEBRATION WITH
PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM, THEOPHILOS
AT THE CHURCH OF OUR LORD’S RESURRECTION
(25 May 2014)
|Your Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, and Your reverend Hierarchs, venerable clergy and devout people of the Church of Zion,|
Christ is risen!
We are here on this holy soil where the Mystery of the incarnation of Divine Dispensation for the salvation of fallen man took place. We, the New Israel, together with the Old, glorify the Risen Lord and we praise Him, singing “the triumphal hymn, for He has been glorified”.
In His love for us, the Lord of the Church has accounted us worthy, Your Beatitude and our brother, to celebrate this mystery of His brotherhood with us. The point of reference for our gathering and meeting together is the Divine Eucharist, the mystery of our unity in the mystical body of the Church. And so we glorify Him, magnifying the great and boundless mercy of God, for “He has brought us to His holy mountain”.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians that the shepherds of the rational sheep and all Christians are “co-workers with God, God’s field, God’s building”, and the preacher to the nations and teacher concludes by underlining that we are the temple of God, where the Holy Spirit abides, and His indwelling leads us to live out our calling to holiness: “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
With our hearts and minds and all the faculties of soul and body fixed upon God, our maker and refuge, and serving our unblemished Orthodox faith and Church, we have come here to the Holy City, to remember that historic moment in the life of Christ’s Church fifty years ago, when a timely meeting of love and dialogue occurred between the Orthodox Church and the Church of Rome, in the person of two historic spiritual church leaders: my predecessor, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI. We have come to meet his successor, our brother, Pope Francis, and we have come again to the Holy Land to honour the process of dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. We are here to renew our efforts but also our hope and expectation that the Risen Lord, who “wishes all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” will hear our prayers and those of all the world, and that He will bestow the good news of joy when we meet in His only Truth, which leads and directs us to the only Apostle-given Christian faith. This faith is the foundation of the renewal of the old Adam and his transformation into the new, and it is the basis of the victory over death by life, over division and war and occupation by unity.
I re-iterate that we are in the Holy Land, the place of divine struggle, the place of Golgotha, the holy Sepulchre, the Church of the Resurrection, the Mount of Olives; the place of the passion and crucifixion “unto death” of the Lord. We also, together with our brother Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic world, have come to this place in humility and gladness, and with fear and trembling, to experience a small taste of the mystery of the divine commandment “that they may be one”, the mystery of prayer and service and the journey that the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches have taken together after centuries of alienation these past fifty years, which have been a new period of dialogue for both sides. In this dialogue, we pray for divine illumination that we may not fall into error, without stumbling in word, and that we may be delivered from the errors of division, hatred, persecution, genocide, and racism.
I give glory to God, and I thank you, Your Beatitude, for hosting us here in the Holy Land on this historic occasion, and I ask everyone, Orthodox and Roman Catholics throughout the world, to pray that this may yield fruit a hundredfold and the water of faith, joy and redemption.
We are in Jerusalem, in the Church of our Lord’s Resurrection, between the holy Sepulchre and Golgotha, where the true light, the Light of Christ, shined forth. Truly we are here “together with all the saints who have been well-pleasing to You in every age”…“forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, teachers” (prayer of the Holy Oblation, Liturgy of St Basil the Great). Spiritually with us at this moment, Your Beatitude, Patriarch of Jerusalem, are the hosts of our predecessors, and with them a cloud of monastics, teachers of the desert, pastors and teachers of the whole Church, pillars of Orthodoxy, martyrs, confessors, holy men and women, who preached in word and in deed, living a blameless life of faith, and leading to peace, hope and salvation a multitude of souls. We ask them to place their hand into the side of humanity, bleeding and sore, and to transform the doubt of the soul into good faith.
This brotherhood is the treasure which the Risen Lord is bestowing upon us today, that we who “take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.” (Heb. 6:18-19)
What is this hope?
First, the preservation of the faith through the power of God and the protection of the Mother of God in the midst of weakness and sin, confusion and doubt, danger and trouble.
Second, the safeguarding of all that has been achieved, created and honoured by the Christian faith through which the holy land of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Arabia and Mesopotamia and all world has been adorned and sanctified.
Third, the safekeeping of the Christian shrines here, which testify to Jesus Christ.
Fourth, Christian witness through active love. That is to say, love for all, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, those of other faiths and of none, without discrimination. Love in Christ knows no boundaries and has no obstacles. Love surpasses passion and becomes dispassion. It overcomes fanaticism, religious hatred, fear and insecurity. We humans have and impose boundaries, but God is boundless.
Fifth, and most importantly, to uphold the divine commandment to “call all people” through the Most-holy Spirit “to unity”, leading us “into all truth”. Only in this “Spirit of truth” does the Orthodox Church approach people, “desiring all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”. In this spirit we mark this occasion here in the Holy City, placing our seal upon this new step toward boundless love and the revealed truth of Christ that we may “know the truth, and the truth will set us free”.
It is in this boundless love of Christ, Your Beatitude, that you, bishop of this Holy City of Jerusalem, the throne of James, the Lord’s Brother, and I, of the ecumenical throne of the Fanar, the City of Constantinople, “the eye of the world” and throne of the First-called Apostle Andrew, together with our brothers, Hierarchs of the One Orthodox Church, serve the truth of the gospel, the Christian faith and life; and, endowed with “unassailable strength from on high and a sure ally”, we serve the mystery of the Resurrection, “that the works of God may be revealed” in us.
It is in the service of this Mystery alone that we are assured of the “great and abundant compassion” of our God and Saviour, who endured being struck by the Jews, whose side was touched by the Apostle, and who sought those who had gone astray.
Before this Mystery of the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord, in this holy place, this Holy Zion, we pray and cry out: “Bring us to our senses”, O Lord, “as with Thomas we cry to you: our Lord and our God, glory to You!” (Doxastikon of the Vespers for Thomas Sunday). Amen.