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Encyclicals from Archbishop: Easter

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Encyclical
Pascha 2014

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† STYLIANOS
By the grace of God
Archbishop of Australia
to all the Reverend Clergy and devout faithful
of our holy Archdiocese


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


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

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Encyclical
Pascha 2013

Anastasis-Icon-final

† STYLIANOS
By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
to all the Reverend Clergy and devout faithful
of our holy Archdiocese


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


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

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Encyclical
Pascha 2012

Anastasis-Icon-final

† STYLIANOS
By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
to all the Reverend Clergy and devout faithful
of our holy Archdiocese


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 pious life after baptism. The new life through baptism, which undoubtedly presupposes the death of our previous selfish life, 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


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

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Encyclical
Pascha 2011

Anastasis-Icon-final

† STYLIANOS
By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
to all the Reverend Clergy and devout faithful
of our holy Archdiocese


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. Amen!

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

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