Easter message by Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa
My beloved spiritual children, Greeks of the Diaspora, Arab-speaking Christians and Orthodox Africans,
This year too, from all the corners of the earth, from the Most Holy Tomb of our Lord, from every Altar that symbolizes that Tomb, will resound the joyous message that “Christ is Risen”. The hymns will announce to us, as the Angel did to the Myrrh bearers that “He whom you seek, Jesus of Nazareth, who was Crucified, is not here but has risen as He had said”. It is this message that we have to take to heart and have it characterize our lives. We have to transmit it as an event and as a trumpet-call of victory to all those being blessed with feelings of defeat and loneliness in this world.
While journeying through mother-Africa these past few years, I daily encountered incredible hardships and problems, many of whom are complex and unsolvable. It is at these times that we turned to the Lord with an earnest prayer, “Lord, grant us your Resurrection. Help us to see all these problems and hardships through Your light, the Light of Your Resurrection”. I do this, my brothers and sisters, because life within the embrace of our Holy Church is faith in the Resurrection of Christ. The Resurrection of Christ is the only manner of existence of all the faithful.
My brothers and sisters, Resurrection means remission of sins, forgiveness, transfiguration and re-fashioning of our relationship with God, a re-fashioning of our relationship with our selves, with others and with this blessed and abused world in which we live and so often take for granted. Resurrection means we have found the road that leads to our lost homeland – the Kingdom of Heaven. Resurrection means also that we have the ability to really approach the Truth and the mystery of our own existence.
In the Holy Tradition of our Church, we have the empirical knowledge that Christians throughout the ages achieve salvation through the co-operation and coexistence and merging of three foundational virtues and gifts – faith, love and hope. This is proclaimed by the Blood of the thousands of Holy Martyrs and Confessors that nourished the Tree of Faith on the African earth. It is proclaimed by the sanctity of thousands of holy men and women that hallowed the African Continent with their ascetic struggles.
Faith is our connection to our long past. We heard of Christ and believed in Him. Love is the expression of this faith as we follow in His footsteps as imitators of Christ. Hope is the reaching out of the faith in and love of Christ to the anticipated and distant future of the Kingdom of Heaven. If we isolate our faith from love and hope, in essence we are removing it from the present and future of our lives.
We have all at some time felt the bitter experience of life without love and hope. It is this feeling that is expressed as ‘tragedy’ – an experience of life without Resurrection.
Our lives within the Church are basically a continuous learning experience, a continuous struggle, a continuous re-baptism in the dazzling flood of light of that Third Day, the Day of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the unique and incarnate communion of God with Man. It is this Jesus Christ that the Apostle Paul encourages us to ‘put on’ as a garment of salvation, of hope and grace. By ‘putting on’ Christ we not only change the dark context of a colourless life, but also put on the mystical wedding garment of the Lamb of God. Wearing this garment, we are to go out to all the ends of the earth and invite all into our Holy Church, in which there is and always will be a place for every suffering soul and the way in which life is transformed and the person is no longer merely a unit of energy and production.
It is this labour that has been undertaken today by Orthodox missionaries, Bishops, Priests, Hieromonks, Deacons, Monks, Nuns and lay-people throughout Africa. It is to these fellow workers that we offer our praise and for whom we ask the prayers of all.
My beloved brothers and sisters,
In this world of profit and injustice resounds the inconceivable event that is summarised in two words, “Christ is Risen”. They do not only contain a description of an event, but can cultivate, transform our faith, our love and our hope and give us meaning in our daily struggle. In this way within our every faith and every love and every hope, God’s Will can be heralded and transform our very existence. God’s Will is the only Will that can give meaning to our world today. It leaves no one wanting.
Hope within our Holy Church is faith in the Resurrection of the Lord. The Resurrection of the Lord is the only hope in this and the next life.
With these directions as a guide for our lives, through the unique Communion offered through the Divine Liturgy of the Resurrection, I exchange once again with you all “Christ is Risen”, “He is truly Risen”, and wish that all truly “live” this greeting and share it with our fellow man.
From the Apostolic Seat of the Holy Evangelist Mark, I bestow every peace and mercy in the Risen Lord.
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
In the Great City of Alexandria
Holy Pascha 2009