Paschal Message 2018

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Brother concelebrants and children in Christ,

“Come let us drink a new drink,
not one marvellously brought forth
from a barren rock. … “

This exhortation of the Paschal canon is not merely a rhetorical figure of speech. It is a prescription of life and a concrete possibility of salvation. It is also a confession of gratitude to Christ, who came forth form the Tomb and abolished the pains of Hades and of Death.

“Come, let us drink a new drink.” We, people, thirst for justice and joy. We thirst for forgiveness, light and love. We thirst for life, immortality and eternity. Perhaps, there is no other creature of God that is so demanding and so unsatisfied, as is the human person. Moreover, there is also no other creature of God that feels so intensely its needs and deprivations, as does the human person. It is for this reason that God has made people the centre of His interest and providence.

After His Incarnation, Christ is crucified and is risen, so that He might secure for humanity deliverance and blessedness.

The whole mystery of the Divine Economy points to the Cup of Life. The condescension of the Incarnation culminates in the glory of the Divine Eucharist. Therefore, we, the faithful, are called to drink from the blood” of the slain lamb” of the Book of Revelation.

If the blood was not of the New Testament, it would still be the blood of “calves and goats”, and the drink would not be “new”. And if it was not the blood of the One who alone is sinless, it would not have been able to grant remission of sins, “shed for us and for many”. However, we must especially note, that, in order to receive “remission of sins and eternal life”, there is no talk about “eating”, but rather about “drinking” .

Namely, that which is characteristically emphasised is the new “drink”, and not the” food”. One might ask, what is the deeper symbolic significance of this characteristic detail? Whilst we know that the nourishment of people generally includes both “food and drink”, yet we all know that it is “drink” which constitutes the basic food of the infant.

Therefore, the symbolism here is that, if we are to taste the new drink, we must “become infants with respect to evil”. We must become like the child. We must believe like children, who consider nothing impossible, when they know that they have a father.

In other words, we are called to be born again, rendering void all our past sinful life through repentance, precisely as Christ epigrammatically asked the same thing from Nicodemus.

May God also show His mercy on us, so that we may overcome whatever obstacles in this painful journey against the current. In this way, tasting the new drink, we shall be able to chant in the presence of all deaths and above all graves, “Christ is Risen”!

To Him be glory and power unto the ages of ages. Amen.
With fervent prayers in the Risen Christ

Brother Concelebrants and Beloved Children in the Lord,

Christ is Risen!

Having crossed the sea of Holy and Great Lent once again this year, we are all invited, as illumined children of the Church, to receive Christ from the tomb as the Bridegroom.

No matter how great the powers of evil in the world, which darken and tarnish the human person, we are not permitted to show weakness of faith before life itself, since in finality life is redeemed by the Giver of life. The Paschal lamb of God awaits those who have fasted and those who have not, provided that the lethargic receive the Supper as do the pious.

Humanity and the world are the inheritance of God, which the power of death cannot destroy. Whenever we feel that our powers may be failing us in our everyday struggle, we need to remember that beyond all human strength, the power of God remains inexhaustible.

In the language of our ancestors, in the immortal epics of Homer, the words “light” and “human person” are synonymous words. Let us therefore believe, sisters and brothers, in the Light. Let us strive for the Light, so that our works might be accomplished in Light.

Come receive the light from the light which never sets! Peace be with you! Peace be with all!

To Him belong glory and power to the ages of ages. Amen!

With fervent prayers in the Risen Christ

Brother Concelebrants and beloved children in the Lord,

C h r i s t   i s   R i s e n!

The period of mourning and cleansing in Great Lent has culminated, as every year, with Holy Week and the sacred Passion of Jesus Christ. Following this purification, then, we have prepared ourselves to listen, and to understand correctly, the exhortation of the Church towards a reclassification of the values in our lives:

“Come let us drink a new drink, not one from a barren rock, worked by a miracle”!

This, in summary, is the recommendation of the Church for renewal:

To greet and accept life, not as we know it in its biological dimensions, but rather as Christ has transformed it through the trial of the tomb and death.

Of course, the tomb and life, death and resurrection, are concepts that are opposite and contradictory. And it is only natural for one to think in this manner, when using the criteria of the world and the things of this world, rather than the Omnipotence, Freedom and Love
of God, which predate the existence of the world and man himself.

The world, as a creation of God, is the object of absolute Love, because it was the product of absolute freedom. Therefore, who can place limits and barriers on Love which is absolute, which is free, and which is indeed the Love of God? What is our experience and our logic compared to the abyss of the Love of God?

This Love became incarnate so that we could touch it.

This Love was crucified so that we might commune with it as a “ransom for many.”

In light of this unprecedented cosmogony of Love, no matter how much darkness may still accompany our lives, the Church emphasises the most harmonious hymn:

“Now all things are filled with light;
heaven and earth and the subterranean regions.
Let all creation therefore celebrate the Resurrection of Christ,
by means of which it is established”

To Him be glory and power unto the ages.


With fervent prayers in the Risen Christ

Brother concelebrants and beloved children of the Church,

“Pascha, the sacred feast, today shines forth for us
Pascha that has opened the doors of Paradise to us
Pascha that sanctifies all faithful!”

These three concise verses of the Easter Canon of Hymns are sufficient to impress upon us the meaning of Christian Pascha (Easter) as the only Absolute in history. Pascha – as the ‘feast of feasts’ – is not an anniversary. Pascha is not a past event that should not be forgotten simply. It is eternity within time, the sacrosanct and ceaseless presence of God.

We celebrate the entire week of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ once a year, in order to remind ourselves of the historical sequence of events. Yet, this does not mean that we have Pascha only once a year.

Pascha is our every Sunday, our every Liturgy. Because Pascha for the Christians is not an anniversary, which is to say an historical memory, but rather a liturgical event. It is a daily holy offering “in every way and for everything.” Our Pascha is Christ Himself.

The Hebrew word Peshah, from where ‘Pascha’ derives, means a ‘passover’, a ‘passage’, which for the Jews marked a certain unrepeatable time in their history: the passage through the Red Sea. For us, the passage and the passover is not one of time, but rather of a manner of existence. It is Christ Himself, as constant obedience to the will of the father: “For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7).
Our Pascha, therefore, is not time, but our manner of living, which is Christ Himself. The manner is the possibility of freedom for the human person, which is guaranteed by God. To be a “child by adoption” amidst increasing apostasy, to be a “light in the darkness,” “life in the tomb,” “broadened in sorrows” is another order of things that this world does not understand, nor is it taught by time. This order of things was shown by Christ through His Passion and Resurrection, having become “the firstborn of all creation” (Coloss. 1:15).

To Him be all glory and worship to the ages. Amen!

With fervent prayers in the Risen Christ

Brother concelebrants and “illumined children of the Church”,

Once again, the grace of God, who is All-Good, has enabled us this year also to reach Holy and Great Lent and prayerfully experience the characteristic stations of prayer and fasting. This is just as our reverent Forefathers – who had “placed all things in good order” – provided and established for us centuries ago.

And it is indeed true that, throughout the entire ecclesiastical year, there is no other period that is as rich in purifying and alternating services, as this blessed period.
What can one mention first, and what last, from this vast spiritual journey and feast? There are the: Sundays of the Triodion, the Saturdays dedicated to the Souls, the Salutations to the Theotokos, the divine Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, and the five Sundays of Lent, Palm Sunday and the astounding days of Holy Week with the awesome Passion and resplendent Resurrection of the Lord.

In this way, we arrive soundly at the morning of the Resurrection, during which the loving Mother Church speaks to all the faithful without exception with the words

“Come receive the light from the unfading light, and glorify Christ who is raised from the dead.”

And of course, the illumination that each person will receive shall no doubt depend upon the willingness of each to respond to that invitation. However, precisely because the invitation is directed to all people, it must be stated unreservedly that it is not the subjective factor that introduces us to the redemptive process of the abolition of death. Rather, it is the all-accomplishing power of the God-Man Christ who by death trampled upon death.

The death and Resurrection of Christ are proclaimed by the Apostle Paul as the guarantee also of our own Resurrection, since our baptism in the name of Christ secures not merely an ethical improvement of our former life, but a radical renewal “through the glory of the Father”:

“Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, 
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4)

Yet, if the Resurrection of Christ is for the Apostle Paul directly connected with the “glory of the Father”, for John the Evangelist our Resurrection is the fruit of God’s Love for the believer, a Love so powerful that it can even compel the sacrifice of the only-begotten Son:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

To the risen Lord Jesus, who for all people died and rose, be all glory, honour and worship to the ages. Amen!

With fervent prayers in the Risen Christ

Brother concelebrants and ‘light-filled children of the Church’,

Behold, before us once again is the blessed Paschal joy. Being the climax of our Church Calendar, it comes – following the purification of the sacred Triodion period and Great Lent – as a reward for the mourning and lamentations of Holy Week, through the joyful cry of the resurrection “CHRIST IS RISEN”!

The constant repetition of this traditional sacred drama, also provides great amazement every year to all the people of God, whether Clergy and Laity, who hasten to confess with spiritual gladness that, truly:

“A sacred Pascha [Easter] is shown to us today”!

However, the continuation of the Paschal Service is highly eloquent concerning the sentiments not only of the holy hymnographer, but equally also of the prayerfulness of the faithful:

“…a new and holy Pascha, a mystic Pascha;
an all-venerable Pascha;
Pascha, Christ the Redeemer;
Pascha without blemish; a great Pascha; Pascha of the faithful;
Pascha, that has opened to us the gates of Paradise;
Pascha sanctifying all the faithful.”

At any rate, the Biblical word Pascha, which as we know means ‘passage’ (from one state to another), could not express the mystery of the salvation of all humankind, if our Easter hymnology did not identify Christ, the sacrificial God-Man, with the word ‘Pascha’!

In other words, what characterises Pascha is neither the time nor the manner of the Feast. The incarnate God, who died and rose for all people, is Himself called Pascha: “Pascha, Christ the Redeemer”!

This is precisely the reason why the Apostle Paul points out to all faithful the direct relationship that exists between our baptism and the death and Resurrection of Christ:

“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too should walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:4)

However, when the Apostle Paul calls us to “walk in the newness of life”, he is not simply suggesting a more piouslife after baptism. The new life through baptism, which undoubtedly presupposes the death of our previous selfishlife, is entirely the ‘life in Christ’. For this reason it is granted to us “by the glory of the Father”, in which case we participate in the Resurrection of Christ, becoming ‘co-inheritors’ of His kingdom.

To the Lord of life and immortality, who for all people suffered and rose, be all honour and worship to the ages. Amen!

With fervent prayers in the Risen Christ

Brother concelebrants and beloved children in the Risen Christ,

The Grace of the All-Good and Loving God has enabled us this year once again to cross over the sea of Great Lent and to reach, through the awesome Passion of Holy Week, the redeeming triumph of the Resurrection of Christ.

The Church, as an affectionate Mother, addresses the same words to all the faithful without exception: “Come receive light from the unwaning light.” Yet the illumination we each receive always depends upon the willingness with which the invitation is accepted.

When writing to the Romans, the Apostle Paul categorically underlines the direct relationship of our baptism with the death and Resurrection of the Lord:

we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that

just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the

Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

(Rom. 6:4)

See, then, that through baptism in the name of Christ we are made partakers of His death, and become “by the glory of the Father” co-inheritors of His kingdom.

However, when the Apostle Paul invites us to “walk in newness of life”, he is not simply prescribing for each faithful person a more devout or ‘ethical’ life after baptism. The ‘new life’ presupposes a completely radical transformation of our earlier life of ‘self-love’. With this renewal of our mind, we will put on the ‘bright robe’ of baptism. And we will go responsibly towards all our fellow human beings, proclaiming to them without exception: “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

In other words, we should know, but also confess to all, that our ‘new life’ in Christ, derives not from our own degrees of ‘merit’, but rather from the sacrifice on the Cross of the Theanthropos, Christ.

This exceeding love of God for all human beings, is precisely what St John the Evangelist underlined, when stating:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16)

Therefore, in order to have the ‘eternal life’ that He has ‘bequeathed’ through His Resurrection, all that the Lord – who died and rose for all people – requires of us, is to receive it in ‘purity of heart’, i.e. in humility and gratitude.

This is exactly the reason why we chant prayerfully, during the Matins (Orthros) of the Resurrection Service:

“Your resurrection, Christ our Saviour

is praised by angels in heaven

make us also on earth worthy

to glorify You in purity of heart.”

To Christ who died and rose for all people, be glory and honour and worship to all ages.


With fervent prayers in the Risen Christ

Archbishop S T Y L I A N O S
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia