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Encyclical

Pascha 2010

Anastasis-Icon-final

STYLIANOS
By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout faithful of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
Brother Concelebrants and beloved children in Christ who is Risen,

The basic stages we passed through liturgically this year, before Holy Pascha, are well-known to all the faithful:• Triodion • Holy and Great Lent • Holy and Great Week of the Passion and Resurrection In between (for spiritual relief and consolation within the period of fasting), we experienced the ‘Salutations’ and the ‘Annunciation of the Mother of God’, followed by the ‘joyful sorrow’ of ‘Palm Sunday’.

The Grace of God, who loves all humankind, has once again enabled us to taste all the above in repentance, for the edification and salvation of our own selves and the entire world.
This year we had the pleasure of celebrating the triumph of Pascha together - that is, at the same time - with Christians of the West. And we recognize how much easier the simultaneous celebration is for the daily lives of working people, especially where there are minorities of faithful from various denominations.

With these undoubtedly blessed presuppositions, we are called once more to continue with endurance our strenuous journey between the harsh ‘Symplegades’ of recent times, keeping our spirit of the Resurrection upright, no matter to what extent the darkness of the present world may alarm us.
However, maintaining the ‘spirit of the Resurrection’ does not mean indifference or an underestimation of the new dangers that threaten all of humanity at this time.

This would be an unacceptable hypocrisy and a false triumphalism concerning the Resurrection, which would be irreconcilable with our Christian Faith.

It would also be an inexcusable betrayal of the redemptive message and example of the Apostles through the centuries.

At this very point it should be mentioned that the ‘Apostles’ were not only the Twelve Disciples of Christ. Nor were they only the 500 or a multiplication of this number to whom the Risen Lord subsequently appeared at various intervals.

The Apostolic character of the Church (just as with all other charismata granted by the Risen Lord) cannot be ‘monopolized’ in some manner by the ‘spiritual Shepherds’ and ‘Teachers’. It is simply that these gifts are exercised by them in essence, with the ‘consent’ and ‘collaboration’ of Clergy and lay people.

Only in this manner can the whole Church be understood in an Orthodox manner (i.e. genuinely and authentically!), with Christ being its irreplaceable Head, and all the faithful - both men and women - as Members of His Sacred Body.

See then, brothers and sisters, that even in times of various impasses, such as today, the Cross of Christ, who Suffered and Rose for all people, is able to transform the most tragic circumstances of the world into a ‘Resurrectional mobilisation’ of those who pray. Provided that we firmly remain believing, hoping and loving in the name of the only God-Man, who reconciled us forever with our Creator God, elevating us from children of ‘wrath’ into children of ‘adoption’.

To Him be all glory and veneration unto the ages. Easter 2010
With fervent prayers in Christ who is Risen Archbishop STYLIANOS

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Encyclical

Pascha 2009

Anastasis-Icon-final

THE GRACE OF THE RESURRECTION

S T Y L I A N O S
By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout faithful
of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

Brother concelebrants and ‘Light-filled children of the Church’,
Again this year, we have worshipfully struggled together in the Arena of Great Lent for our ‘purification’ (to the degree and manner afforded us by the mercy of God), in order that we might celebrate prayerfully the Services of the Holy Passion and the Resurrection of Christ.
And we know, of course, that both our ‘preparation’ for, and our ‘contentment’ in, the RESURRECTION are gifts of God which we could never have anticipated, especially after our willful rebellion and fall.
However, precisely because of this, we feel the need not to observe silence, as this unexpected miracle demands of us. We accept unreservedly the salvific exhortation of that unsurpassable theologian of the Church, St Gregory of Nazianzus, who summons us emphatically: “Honour the mystery in silence!”
Yet, the self-understood ‘silence’ on our behalf, in light of the mystery generally - especially the mystery of the Resurrection - does not absolutely preclude our pious contemplation within the ‘already established bounds’, i.e. within the boundaries of the divinely-etched Tradition of the People of God.
Within these boundaries we dare here, today, to focus our attention on a Psalm of David which, although we have often heard it articulated in Church, perhaps has an ‘interpretation’ that has not engaged us as much as it should have.
We refer to the most acute and unreserved cry of the Prophet, King David, which in no way causes us to panic, as a ‘thunderbolt in a clear sky’. Rather, it enlivens us, as through an ‘awakening trumpet call’, to observe a pan-human alertness for salvation. In any case, no one is oblivious to the fact that at this hour, we are facing a ‘deep’ and ‘moonless’ night – the entire human race.
Here then is the astounding verse of David’s Psalm:

“Arise, O Lord, my God,
Lift up Your hand!
And do not forget your poor.”
(Ps. 10:12)
Through the three-fold structure of this divinely activated verse is expressed the certainty of the Prophet that the grace of the Resurrection constitutes the only stable reality of the presence of God in which the faithful person can find direct support in the midst of all the afflictions of a decaying world.
It is precisely this immediacy of His presence which is expressed in ‘humanly portrayed’ images appealing to God to ‘rise’ from His throne and to ‘lift up His hand’, in order to protect His people who find themselves in a ‘journey of worship’ on earth.
“Arise, O Lord, my God,
Lift up Your hand”!

These two appeals to God - “Arise” and “Lift” – clearly indicate that Ana-stasis (Resurrection) literally! means ‘UP-RISING’, ‘UP-LIFTING’.
But ‘ELEVATION’ of the “hand of God” also means a dynamic intervention of the Almighty, as the sole expression of one who is Just and Good, for the unassailable protection of His people’s journey on earth.
Consequently, the Resurrection of the God-Man Christ which constitutes the foreshadowing of our own ‘elevation’, does not mean the avoidance of the eventual de-composition of the material elements of our perishable body.
The foremost and greatest gift secured for us by the Resurrection of the God-Man, is the verification of the decisive triumph of the divine will.
Just as in the ‘Lord’s prayer’ we were taught:
“…Your kingdom come
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven…”
in the same way, the Resurrection of our perishable body does not refer only to the ‘end of the ages’, which is called the ‘last day’.
It is also arrayed in gratitude ‘by way of foretaste’ against all the un-certainties of the present world.
For this reason precisely, in the third part of the Davidic verse the Prophet, whilst acknowledging that we are all “poor”, does not omit to call upon the mercy of God for im-perishability and im-mortality.
This Mercy of eternity is witnessed by the Psalmist’s cry:
“Do not forget your poor”!
Just as God did not forget the thief on the Cross who said “Remember me Lord when you come in Your kingdom”, let us pray that all who have hoped in the Mercy of God (those before Christ and those after Christ), will not be deprived of the ‘grace of the Resurrection’.
Amen!
With fervent prayers in the Risen Christ

Archbishop S T Y L I A N O S

Easter 2009

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Encyclical

Pascha 2008

Anastasis-Icon-final

By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout faithful
of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

Brother Concelebrants and light-filled children of the Church,

The great duration of time separating this year’s celebration of Easter by Christians of ‘East’ and ‘West’, has once again unfortunately made highly topical certain practical problems of daily living.

When the holidays and working days are common for all citizens of a modern culturally diverse society, how is it then possible for a minority to celebrate at another time, without feeling cut off from the prevalent majority?

It would perhaps be no exaggeration to state that such a celebration, to an extent, ‘contradicts’ the Feast itself!

This is at least our situation in the Diaspora, especially when it comes to Easter, the greatest and most characteristic Feast of the Orthodox.

Because Easter (or Pascha) which, as we know, means ‘passover’ to another reality, cannot be properly appreciated when your own limbs are fragmented or, above all, when we are ‘half-hearted’!

This very human problem could have perhaps been limited merely to its practical consequences, which are in any case perishing daily, only if the spiritual foundations of the sanctified Tradition in Christ still remain vigorous and vibrant – at least in our sub conscience!

Let us remember, for example, how we all felt just a few decades ago, as the bright Feast of Easter approached: Rising from our lips, like the refrain of a melody from beyond this world, was the prayerful ‘three-part’ hymn of Easter:

“O pure Pascha
O great Pascha
Pascha of the faithful!”

If we take this liturgical ‘exclamation’ which vitally characterizes Easter using only three words (in the form of adjectives rather than nouns), we will be amazed by the condition of all modern Christianity throughout the world!

This is why we should admit in all honesty that, even if today’s Christians had managed to celebrate Easter on a mutually agreed date, we would not have the right to call such an Easter “pure” or “great”. And this, only due to our own unworthiness.

Above all, we would not have the right to indiscriminately call such an Easter the “Pascha of the faithful”!

How can we consider ourselves to be ‘the faithful’, we who are called ‘Christians’, yet who are also divided - not only in terms of Doctrine and Ethos, but also through antagonism against one another day and night?

Could there possibly be any more uncivilized antagonism between ‘Christians’, than for us to quarrel about the most ‘mundane’ and ‘vain’ things of this world – especially for the ‘primacy’ of Authority, rather than for the Christ-like gift of Service?

It would not be superfluous to remind “ourselves and one another”(!) that, as a general rule, the most spiritual people of each epoch silently preferred to ‘beg’ rather than to ‘demand’, i.e. to beseech rather than to grab. For, only in this way does the ‘free person’ blossom from the ‘slave’, and from the bondage of the ‘possessive urge’, which expresses the blind need of ‘beastly instincts’.

However, let us not end on a pessimistic note and ‘spoil’, in some way, the ‘reverence of these days’ and remain, above all, without consolation as “those who do not have hope” (1 Thess. 4:13), while the celebration of the Holy Passion and Resurrection of the Lord approaches. We therefore quote immediately below one of the most astonishing statements of the Apostle Paul, which heralds the ‘glory’ which we hope for ‘in Christ’ and ‘with Christ’, following the debasement and the related ‘dishonour’ of this world:

“When Christ who is our life appears
Then you also will appear with Him in glory”
(Col. 3:4)

With fervent prayers in Christ who is Risen
Archbishop S T Y L I A N O S
Easter 2008

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Encyclical
Pascha 2007

Anastasis-Icon-final

By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout faithful
of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

Brother concelebrants and beloved children in the Risen Lord,

Again, in this year's Matins Service for the Resurrection, we heard the comforting invitation of the Church; "Come receive the light from the never-setting light..."! Thus, our soul rested again for a while, from the fears and the bitterness of the continually 'threatened' peace, both around us and within us.

However, it was not long before each of us - from his or her own position - found ourselves once again confronting the 'Signs of the times'; in other words, the characteristics of the fallen life which constitute our 'daily lives'.
This 'daily routine' that is not simply devalued but literally 'decadent', each day becomes more inconsolable, regardless of the 'profession' each of us has chosen.

'Modern Times', especially, have become more 'pitiless'. Because, by disputing everything, they have spread anxiety and confusion, even in the hearts of those who reverently "seek the Lord "! The "never-setting light" of the Resurrection will consequently be encountered by, and collide with, it’s Antithesis, still many more times in our lives. It will collide head-on not only with the 'Night that seeks to refute the light but also with the forces of Darkness and Denial.

Despite the fact that "the light of the Resurrection" is not a singular momentary 'bright flash', but Christ Himself, the Incarnate God, the Logos "who remains with us unto the ages", nonetheless, His salvific influence upon our life does not cease to be "overshadowed" continually:

By the night of our foolishness.
By the hard-heartedness of our ingratitude.
By the indifference of our apostasy.

It is characteristic, and simultaneously disheartening - for us 'Christians' at least - that, John, the pre-eminent 'Disciple of Love', spoke so explicitly not only about the love of Christ the Light, towards "every man who comes into the world" (John 1:9), but also about Christ's incomprehensible abandonment, primarily by those who were supposedly 'His own':

"He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them be gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:11-12)
Would anyone ever dare refute such a 'testimony'?

Today, as we live through and are informed about global confusion and anarchy, there should remain no doubt as to the absolute 'verification' and bitter 'timeliness' of the words of John the Evangelist

And, John does not engage in 'alarmism'. Nor in 'hypocrisy'. He proclaims directly that to become a "child of God" is the highest "power" that renders one invulnerable "before Nations and Kings" (Acts 9:15),

However, the power of "the children of God" is not "of this world" (John 8:23). That is the only genuine 'criterion' which separates those who have been blessed to become "children of God", from those who hypocritically profess to be such, without being worthy.

Therefore, following the 'invitation' "Come receive the light", almost spontaneously, we hear the 'appeal' of the two Disciples who, upon observing that the "night is coming", on their way to Emmaus, said to the Risen Lord walking with them: "Stay with us, for evening draws near, and the day is almost over" (Luke 24:29)
Our entire life, after having 'recognised' the Risen One, cannot but be a continuous appeal:

"STAY WITH US...”
Amen!

Pascha 2007
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 2006

Anastasis-Icon-final

By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout faithful
of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

Brother concelebrants and beloved children in the Lord,

Great Lent has trickled by once again, like a tranquil stream of water, amidst our daily routine.
It reached a pinnacle, in its own distinct style, during Holy Week and in the splendorous light of the Resurrection.

Yet we know from previous years that the joy of the Resurrection will not last long this year either. Not even for the faithful!

If it is true that the joy of the Resurrection 'evaporates' quickly and almost unnoticeably into dreary 'substitutes for joy', which bear no resemblance to the abolishment of death, this is because we have long since lost the flavor of true life.

Who would dare claim that life is merely a matter of biology and physiology, which we share with other mammals?

It is therefore timely to remind ourselves and others that LIFE and DEATH are deeply interconnected. For human beings in particular, life and death are solely dependent on whether or not there is COMMUNION with God - the only source of life and immortality.

It is not a coincidence that the most profound and sensitive Mystics throughout the history of world civilization never equated 'death' with illness, physical weakness or the final mortification of the BODY! For devout people of every time and place, true death is always seen as unbearable loneliness and the 'absence' of God.

To be 'without God' is the most tragic and concise definition of death.
Modern people would be much more familiar with 'loneliness' than their forebears in previous times. The latter, by not being deprived of the vivid presence of the other 'person', rightly described 'co-existence' and 'in-volvement' as communion. They also called this the 'unshakeable life'!

Today - even though we talk about 'the confidentiality of personal information', 'human rights' and 'crimes against humanity' and so on - we see that the sacredness of the human 'person' as the 'image' of God, is increasingly disappearing.

And it is disappearing not only in the crimes of masked thieves. Nor only through the hypocrisy of the impious. It is now disappearing 'legally' behind impersonal 'multinational companies'. It is disappearing behind digital messages that are sent in one direction only. Behind the automation of the world wide web. Behind the unspoken language of figurative and numerical slogans …
Following such 'spoiling' of human life, how can all things not seem routine, since there is no longer a 'communion of persons'? This is why we have for some time celebrated Easter as a rather uninspiring and tedious formality, which in fact leads us to even greater loneliness!
And it is the greatest irony to recall that 'Pascha' literally means 'Passover', 'passport' and a 'way out' of a miserable situation into a place of light and liberation. Precisely as the people of Israel travelled through their Exodus from the slavery of Egypt to the Promised Land, through all the ordeals of the wilderness, under the uncompromising guidance of Moses.
If we carefully read how St Luke the Evangelist describes the human pain of Christ (with the tenderness and nostalgia He felt during the last Easter before His Passion), perhaps we too will be enabled to rediscover its purely human dimension.

For it was through the Cross and Resurrection that Christ 're-established' the solidarity of all people, just as the Creator had pre-eternally wanted it to be.

While the other Evangelists describe Christ's Last Supper and institution of the Holy Eucharist in a manner which is strictly 'chronological', it is Luke - the Physician and Iconographer, the constant travelling companion of Paul - who uniquely underlines, on the one hand, the closeness of the specific partakers in the Supper and, on the other, the universal character of salvation, having the chosen people of course at its centre.

That is how all traditional commentators viewed the following characteristic words of Christ:
"I have wanted so much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer! For I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:15 onwards)
This precise interpretation is what makes the Gospel of Luke the Good News of 'compassion' and 'mercy' par excellence.

We all have a share in the mercy and compassion of the Lord who was Crucified and Resurrected for all people. So long as we accept it. A blessed Easter to you, sisters and brothers! A joyful Resurrection feast! Peace be to all!
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
Easter 2006

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Encyclical
Pascha 2005

Anastasis-Icon-final

By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout faithful
of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

Brother Concelebrants and beloved children in the Risen Lord,

Having conducted, as a worshipping Church, all that our sanctified Orthodox Tradition has entrusted to us, taught us and experienced throughout centuries, we dare to have a foretaste of the peace which is promised to the faithful through the Resurrection from the dead. We do so in awe of God, and in spite of all that is impiously occurring around us at present.

We know from the outset, however, through the indisputable word of Scripture, that the peace of God "which passes all understanding" (Phil. 4:7) has nothing to do with the conditions and devices that human hypocrisy calls ''peace''.

We do not require proof that the world - the whole world (!) - "lies under the power of the evil one" (1 Jn 5:19). We experience this on a daily basis, each in his own way. We also see it in the modern ''globalised'' world of technology and terrorism!

The degree to which we lack the very things we urgently seek (stable peace, untainted justice, worldwide good will) can be evaluated only by the ''sensitivity'' of the individual faithful who is vigilant and afflicted, and who naturally seeks consolation in the prayer of silent solitude (cf. Matt. 6:6).

We falsely and misleadingly call groups of people ''societies'', whereas the unbiased observer can see that they are divided into rivalling ''sub-groups'' and continually changing ''factions''. We therefore have communities without ''communion'', heresies and schisms!

Even divinely-instituted Christianity of the Martyrs and Confessors, which struggled to the point of shedding blood so as to ''transform'' the entire world, through the Cross of Christ alone, was eventually betrayed and given over to the deceit of ''this world''. It thereby became even lower and more materialistic than primitive idolaters!

It is a mystical law of divine Providence that the higher God''s undeserved grace raises somebody, the greater the fall when this grace is absent.

Only in this way could ''primacy'' of power and highly irreverent notions of ''infallibility'' have taken form within historic Christianity, while hidden due to the cunning plots to subjugate the human person!

It is time to finally admit, with the freedom we have as children of God - granted to us by the saving death of the only Sinless one on the Cross - that even the most miserable of Roman Emperors could not have imagined such ''methods'', let alone consecrate them! They just managed to be ridiculed throughout the centuries by ''deifying'' themselves!

Such tragic failures of historic Christianity are of course not only seen in the West, as they have unfortunately been copied also in the East - and poorly at that! Therefore we cannot possibly glorify worthily the Risen Lord who suffered for us, except through repentance and contrition.
Recent talk about ''catharsis'' and indeed ''self-purification'', for the renewal and regeneration of those who administer the Church, have absolutely nothing to do with ''repentance'' in Christ.

Furthermore, the chanting of ''Christ is Risen'' provocatively during the recent funeral of the Pope by those who persist in the deceit of Uniatism was an unbearable mockery, especially during a worship service. For, if we do not live the rest of the hymn which states ''by death trampling upon death'', then our singing of ''Christ is Risen'' is in vain.

The challenging question, then, for all Christians is as follows:
How many of us, in both East and West, are prepared to seek the peace and joy of the Resurrection, but only through the death of our individual and collective ''love of self''?
The Apostle Paul is definitive on this point also:

"For whoever has died is justified from sin.
But if we have died with Christ, we believe
That we shall also live with Him
Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again,
Death no longer has dominion over Him
The death He died, He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives,
He lives to God" (Rom. 6:7-10)

Our ''uncatechised'' people have allowed this astonishing passage about life and death in Christ to be distorted, in so far as they use the arbitrarily mutilated phrase ''he who has died is justified'' (!) as a popular saying.

Who would have thought that we would have ''thrown out'' the most essential portion of the phrase, namely the second part ("from sin"), which alone makes the first half meaningful?
Only when freed "from sin", by being buried and raised together with Christ, can we be consoled and redeemed from the fallen world of corruption and apostasy.

For this precise reason, the entire body of faithful rightly exclaims the following confession with adoration and gratitude towards the Risen Christ:
"Glory to You, Lord, our life and Resurrection"!

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
Easter 2005

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