Encyclicals from Patriarch: Easter
+ B A R T H O L O M E W
BY THE MERCY OF GOD
ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE - NEW ROME
AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
TO THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH
GRACE, PEACE AND MERCY
FROM OUR GLORIOUSLY RISEN SAVIOR CHRIST
Dearly beloved Brethren and Children in the Lord,
“Behold, the winter has passed!” (1) “Arisen is the spring” of salvation; “flowers appear across the land, the sound of the turtle-dove is heard, … the vines are in bloom and give forth their fragrance”. (2) A sacred Pascha -- great and holy -- has arisen; and it warms, lights and makes radiant the world. “Now all things are filled with light, both heaven and earth and the nethermost regions of the earth.” (3)
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Our God, Who is beyond all suffering and is Immortal, Who is the comely Bridegroom of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our Firstborn Brother and Dearest Friend -- “He is risen from the dead, having trampled down death by death” -- three days after He cried out from the crest of the Cross: “It is consummated!” (4) “Hades was embittered when it encountered” Him (5), because Christ destroyed his lordship. As God, He rightly emptied out his chambers of darkness, freely bestowing life on those He found in the tombs. But not only this; to all those who believe in Him from then until the consummation of the age -- indeed to all those who live in Him and hold fast their faith and confession in Him until the end, the Lord grants everlasting life and a sure resurrection. Christ, “Who has girded His loins with righteousness and clothed his sides with truth,” (6) is Risen from the Tomb. “As the One Who loves mankind, He has raised up Adam, the father of us all.” (7)
Behold then, dearly beloved brethren and children, the crown of our Great Feast and the atmosphere of springtime; in the midst of its first bloom the Church announces the Good News to the Universe. The heavy winter of death has passed away! The icy tyranny of the devil and his domination have been overcome. The frightful reign of darkness and perdition has been undone. “The Lord is King, He has girded Himself with majesty!” (8)
We behold Jesus Who, of His own free will, out of His unconditional love, suffered on the Cross, died and was buried for our sake and for our salvation. We have just now worshipped Him Risen from the dead, and together with the Apostles and the Myrrh-Bearers we have heard from His holy mouth the words: “Peace be unto you!” (9) and “Rejoice!” (10) -- and our hearts are filled with joy. Indeed, “no one will take our joy from us,” (11) because more than even our own, the personal death of every single human being has been mightily abolished. This is why we, who have crucified the carnal mindset of the old person “together with the passions and lusts,” (12) and “who have died with Christ: this is the reason we believe that we [shall] live with Him.” (13) For as “we have been buried” with Christ “through Baptism,” (14) we have become “planted with Him,” that is, we have become partakers of His Resurrection. (15)
St. Gregory the Theologian trumpets this truth with the highest rhetorical skill when he says: “Yesterday I was crucified with You, O Christ; today I abound with glory. Yesterday I died with You; today I am filled with life. Yesterday I was buried with You; today I arise with You.” (16) That which has plagued us from ages past has once and for all been resolved by the Risen Lord. Our agony is over. “Christ is Risen, and life can truly be lived!” (17) From now on, Life and our Resurrection are not things to be sought for – not dreams, neither a utopia. From here on, Life is, and the Resurrection is: concrete, tangible reality. A reality that has a specific face and name: “a name above every name” -- Jesus Christ-- before Whom “every knee shall bow – whether in Heaven or on earth or under the earth,” (18) and every tongue shall confess that He alone is Life-Giver and Lord. He is the One Who lives and reigns forever. He is the One Who by His ever-favorable will distributes His Kingdom, His glory and His inheritance from His Father, to all who share in His Cross, His death and His Resurrection, as “He is the Firstborn to many brethren.” (19)
Him do we beseech, from our Martyric Patriarchal and Ecumenical See, that He grace the world with peace; that He illumine the souls of men with truth and righteousness; that He bestow patience and encouragement on those who face adversity; and that He grant the taste of salvation and life eternal to all believers.
Unto Him, Who is the Conqueror of Death and the Prince of Life, be the glory, dominion, honor and worship, together with Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages. Amen.
Holy Pascha 2008
BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople
Your fervent intercessor
before the Risen Christ
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
† B A R T H O L O M E W,
BY THE GRACE OF GOD ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE,
NEW ROME, AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH,
TO THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH,
GRACE, PEACE AND MERCY
FROM CHRIST THE SAVIOUR, RISEN IN GLORY
"O life, how can you die? How can you dwell in a tomb?"
Brother concelebrants and pious, God-loving children of the Church,
All of Nature, the choirs of angels, the multitudes of humankind: all are astonished and amazed. The entire creation stands in fear and trembling in the presence of the great and unspeakable Mystery of the Holy Passion and the glorious Resurrection of Christ the Savior, and asks: “How is it possible that Life, true Life, Life itself, the source of Life, can die? How can a grave become the dwelling place of Life, of our Lord Jesus Christ Who said of himself, “I am … the life ” (John 14:6)? The answers are revealed to us in the Resurrection.
Many of the questions asked in days of old remain unanswered today. What happened then, once and for all, is repeated without ceasing. The Mystery continues, as does our wonder. Christ remains for many in our own day “a sign that is spoken against”(Lk 2:34). He is crucified, but He rises to life. The Crucified One remains to some a stumbling block; to others, foolishness (1 Cor 1:23). Some scoff upon hearing of the Resurrected One (Acts 17:32); others slander Him (Matt 28: 11-15); but He reigns in the hearts of the faithful.
We, the faithful, enjoy a foretaste of the Resurrection. We live in the Resurrection, not fearing the physical death of the body because we believe in the Resurrection of Christ and human beings. We experience it as a reality through our fellowship with the Saints who, although they died according to human understanding, in reality live on and communicate with us and help us in our lives.
The shrill voice of fanaticism, however, which rang out then and which has been ringing out unceasingly ever since, continues to cry: “Crucify him, crucify him!” The powerful ones of this world, who answered such cries with cowardice and denial of responsibility, continue to reply: “Take him yourselves and crucify him” (John, 19:6).
Life is risen! Christ is Risen! And we bear witness to His Resurrection not only by offering rational arguments and proofs but rather by living our lives in accordance with the Resurrection. Only then does our witness become credible, when the Resurrected Christ lives within us, when our entire being radiates the joy, certainty and peace of the Resurrection.
Certainly, our lives and the life of our natural environment remain threatened by death. We do not mean here decay and deterioration in the biological sense, but rather those types of death and destruction brought about suddenly, in cruel and violent ways; ways that challenge our conscience, trivialize the human person, and mangle the beauty of nature.
We mean, among other things, that death which puts an end to human life before it even has the chance to see the light of the sun.
We mean those countless children, who lose their lives because of poverty, hunger, the lack of even the most basic medicine, the cruelty of those who have the power to do but who do not do what is necessary to save these children, the impudence of the exploiters and corrupters of children’s innocence.
We mean the victims of daily acts of violence, of religious, nationalistic, and racial clashes, as well as the victims of fanaticism and war. Such acts are callously and uncaringly carried out by those who turn deaf ears to humanity’s call for the end of hostilities and the establishment of peace throughout the world.
Finally, we mean the plundering of the natural environment by human beings who, driven by greed and the lust for profit, violently and cunningly subordinate and exploit it. Such conduct not only distorts the beauty of creation given by its Creator but also undermines the foundations and conditions necessary for the survival of future generations.
We mean, in short, those types of life that bear signs of death, be they spiritual or moral, the consequences of disordered passions and errors, deprivation or greed, the trivialization and oppression of life.
Beloved brothers and children in the Lord,
We worship once again this year the Holy Passion of our Savior Jesus Christ. We know that the teaching about His death on the cross remains foolishness for those who remain unbelieving and who go the way of destruction. It is, however, the power of God for us who walk in faith the way of salvation (1 Cor 1:18) in the brilliant light of the Resurrection.
In this power and joy of the Resurrection of Christ, we respect the life of our fellow human beings. We call for an end to the killing of one another, and we denounce the violence and fanaticism that threatens life. The victory of the Resurrection must be experienced as a victory of life, of brotherhood, of the future, of hope.
“Christ is Risen, and life reigns.
To Him be glory and dominion unto the ages of ages."
Holy Pascha 2006
† Bartholomew of Constantinople
your fervent intercessor of all before Risen Christ
+ B A R T H O L O M E W
BY THE GRACE OF GOD ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE
NEW ROME, AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
TO THE ENTIRE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH
GRACE, PEACE AND MERCY
FROM CHRIST THE SAVIOUR, RISEN IN GLORY
Beloved Brothers and Children in the Lord,
It is with great joy that we address you once again with the Resurrectional greeting, “Christ is Risen!”.
This greeting incorporates and heralds the substantive content of our Christian faith: “We celebrate Death’s death”. This message continues to be unique and daring even in our times, for, despite the two thousand years that have elapsed since the birth of the Resurrected Jesus Christ, humanity did not love life in the same way Jesus Christ honored it.
Unfortunately, murderous tendencies are widely spread. People obliterate their competitors in order to prevail. Murderers kill in order to rob or destroy incriminating evidence. Terrorists kill in order to force nations and governments to accept their demands. Ideologues take lives in order to facilitate the prevailing of their ideology. Nations clash for reasons of racial dominance and thousands of people are killed from all opposing sides, because of the lack of spirit of conciliation and peaceful settlement. Fanatics murder the ones that do not share in their fanaticism. Believers of one faith sometimes kill others who represent a different faith. Ruthless people kill in order to satisfy their bloodthirsty instincts. Some commit suicide because they consider as unbearable burden the divine gift of life. In general, murderous acts, which are condemned by all humanity and God, tend to become an acceptable reality and a legitimate means for the accomplishment of certain goals that are unacceptably placed above human life.
In the midst of this abundance of blood shedding, there appears the leader and giver of life, Who was murdered by humanity, trumpeting to all that murderous acts are not signs of success; He heralds that resurrection and judgment awaits us all, and that life is stronger than death, and that the ones who build their edifices upon the death of their fellow human beings labor in vain. Our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ confirmed through His Resurrection His message that He is the way, the truth and the life. Also, He confirmed that God did not create death, nor does He takes pleasure in the loss of life (Wisd. Sol. 1, 13). For while God created everything to last eternally, death entered the world as a result of the impiety of people. The love of God, though, not being able to tolerate the predominance of death over human beings comes to the rescue of humanity and remedies the ills of human sin.
He was incarnated, assumed mortal flesh and willingly suffered death on the cross, but came back to life, on His own power, stronger than death, becoming, thus, the forerunner of all who want to return to life along side with Him. First born among the dead, first of the resurrected, giver of life and life after death, abolished the bearer of death. Contemporary man is so familiar with the catastrophic evil of humanity that he does not always understand the joy and depth of the Resurrection, the restitution and eternal life that our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ has given us. The people, though, that foretaste and recognize the joy arising from the Resurrection feel exultation upon saying, “Christ is Risen”. Today, we, the Orthodox Christians celebrate along with the people who experience this joy of the Resurrection of the Lord and address one another with the victorious greeting, “Christ is Risen!”.
Holy Easter, A.D. 2005
Your fervent supplicant before the Risen Christ,
+ BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople