|Prot. No. 310|
BY THE MERCY OF GOD
ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE,
NEW ROME AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
TO THE FULLNESS OF THE CHURCH GRACE, JOY, PEACE AND MERCY FROM HIM WHO WAS RISEN IN GLORY, CHRIST OUR SAVIOUR
Beloved Concelebrants and pious and God-loving children of the Church,
CHRIST HAS RISEN!
Once again we hear this joyful Christian greeting within our Christian Communities. But many of these prosperous Communities disregard the question and very real issue of death, and live as though death did not exist and the resurrection was without meaning. However, “Fearful is the mystery of death”, as the hymnographer says and our daily reality reiterates. The fear of death, which is most acute in those who confront problems of health or old age, even when it is alleviated in a variety of ways, consumes our peace of mind, fills the soul with irrational anxiety and often leads to suicide, for the relentless insecurity becomes unbearable.
The Resurrection of Christ put an end to this insecurity. Death is no longer the ruler of life; it is not the unavoidable end of our existence. Our tomb stones do not overshadow our existence for ever with an everlasting silence. The stone which shut the tomb of Christ was rolled away, and Christ came forth triumphant, master over death, unscathed by its sting, the firstborn of the dead. From that moment, the door of the tomb remained open behind Him for all.
The fear of death has vanished for all who wish to follow in the footsteps of Christ. All things have been filled with joy and hope. “Where, Death, is your sting? Where, Hell, is your victory?, asked my predecessor Saint John Chrysostom in triumph.
To many, our words still sound like “an idle tale” [Luke 24:11]. The Athenians in Pnyx, hearing the Apostle Paul speaking of the Resurrection of the dead, ridiculed him and left, telling him sarcastically, “We’ll hear you again some time!” Even the Apostles, who had heard from the Lord that He would rise on the third day, hesitated to accept the proclamation of the Myrrh-bearing women that the Lord had risen.
However, brethren and beloved children in the Lord, we live the ever-present death and continuous Resurrection of the Lord, not only in the sacrifice of Golgotha that we see portrayed in our churches, but also in the lives of the saints, ancient and contemporary. The Lord rose and granted life. But He also continues to grant resurrection and life. Death is now a gate of passage to a new state of life. It has ceased to be a prison for souls, a dead end, a state without hope. The boundaries of death’s stronghold were broken down, its gates shattered, and everyone who follows Christ is able to return to life with Christ.
Believe, brethren and children, and have hope! Be free from the fear of death and life’s anxieties, because for the Faithful, like yourselves, death is no more. Only, cleanse your souls and bodies and enrol as followers of Christ, Who is also your own Resurrection. Christ has risen and you are all potentially risen. The glad and joyful message of the Resurrection is a message for you. It is not something foreign or irrelevant to you. Your mouths should be filled with joy when you say, “Christ has risen!” For “Truly He has risen!” and we are raised with Him.
May His life-giving Grace, “which heals what is infirm and makes up what is lacking”, be with you all. Amen.
Holy Pascha 2007
+ Archbishop of Constantinople Bartholomew
Fervent Intercessor to The Risen Christ for you all