Friday, April 27, 2007

Paschal Message 2007

Beloved brethren and dearly beloved children in Christ,

Let us celebrate the Holy and Glorious Resurrection of Christ in fervent faith and warm yearning, glorifying His infinite goodness and mercy on account of which He became a man in order to redeem mankind.

The love of God toward mankind is indeed ineffable and unique, as He Himself characterizes it: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) A sacrifice of friendship on the altar of love! So great is the goodness and ingenuousness of the merciful God that He refers to men who have sinned and have apostatized from His glory as cherished friends and offers Himself as a sacrifice on their behalf.

To what end was such an unfathomable offering made? He gives us the answer Himself: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) A sacrifice of a precious life for the salvation of blameworthy sinners!

The form of the Crucified One renders for us the impenetrable image of the mystery of God’s love. The Incarnate Son and Word of God, who sits enthroned along with the Father and the Spirit, is sacrificed on the Cross between two contemptible thieves in order to redeem those who have faith in Him. This is indeed an awesome and unspeakable mystery of divine economy. Divine Blood flows on the earth in order to cleanse the filth of Adam’s sin; it is offered as a ransom for the deliverance of the enslaved race of men. The Creator is sacrificed for the salvation of mankind. The Immortal One is seen dead on account of the forefathers’ sentence of death, in order to quicken and render immortal deadened mankind.

All of creation suffers along with the Crucified Jesus. St. Dionysios the Areopagite, observing from the city of Alexandria a darkness over the earth inconsistent with the regular patterns of solar eclipses, fearfully remarks: “Either a God is suffering or the universe is being shattered!” The sun is made dark and the earth trembled in fear. Fright and terror takes hold of the heavenly powers, but not the hardened hearts of the crucifying Judeans.

All these are fulfilled as prophetic oracles, in that there is no other, absolutely no other way to ransom Adam and his race from the hands of Hades. This great and fearful event renders clear, on the one hand, the great weight of mankind’s sins and, on the other, the value of an immortal soul, established by the word of the Lord: “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) This is interpreted to say that the entire world does not hold the value of one human soul.

For this reason what was required was the sacrifice of the most-high life of the God-Man as propitiation [1] and as the only counter balance for spiritual salvation, according to the Divine Paul: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15: 20-22)

This message of salvation, pious lovers of the Feast, is the quintessence of the Divine Work of Salvation. Christ is risen as God having trampled under foot death and quickening mankind, having become our forerunner for that last day of the common resurrection of all.

Up to the life-giving tomb, we knew only the human nature of the Lord. In the Resurrection, we see His Divine nature as well, affirming His world-salvific work and verifying His utterance regarding His Eternal Kingdom and the beatific future belonging to those who have faith in Him.

So necessary was the Resurrection of Christ that Paul, the walker of heavens, ventures to say: “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

Therefore, beloved, rejoicing on account of such good will from God toward us, let us celebrate God’s Pascha of salvation in a way worthy and pleasing to God—our passover through Christ from the earth to the heavens, according to the hymnography of the Church: “This is the day of Resurrection, let us be radiant, O peoples! Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha; for Christ God has brought us from death to life, and from earth to heaven, as we sing the triumphal song.” This is the interpretation of the Pascha of salvation.

Indeed, what a dispensation! Man, who was enslaved by the apostate devil, is raised through Christ to the heavens.

Indeed, as well, what an obligation for mankind in the face of such a magnificent dispensation! Beneficent God asks us to respond to His love with our love, in that all of the Law and all the Prophets are enclosed in whole and complete love. A lack of love signifies a separation from God.

Mankind, however, beneficed to such a degree but vacillating greatly, shuts its eyes and ears to these things, “like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear” (Ps. 57:5/58:4) according to the Psalmist, and discards its eternal gladness, remaining instead attached to vanity and the sinful senses.

One part of mankind not only discards but also mocks and taunts the redemptive work of the God-Man, abusing divine forbearance! It thus renders itself worse than even Lucifer’s venture in heaven, in that Lucifer vainly sought divine equality. He did not blaspheme by mocking God as man has. What an appalling eternal punishment—more dread than that of Satan’s—awaits those foolish unrepentant ones!

But we, beloved brethren and children in Christ, in much thanksgiving and faith and love toward our Benefactor, Savior, and Redeemer God, let us be radiant in virtues and, shining radiant, let us meet the Resurrected Christ in pure spirit and heart through repentance and let us fall down before Him and worship the extreme divinity of His Divine majesty, glorifying His immeasurable mercy toward us. But let us beseech Him that He reside inseparably with us, as a divine guide and helper, even up to our yearned for entrance into His Kingdom and eternal gladness.

Let us also participate in the triumph of victory over death and the tyranny of Hades along with heaven and all of creation, singing the victory hymn of redemption as a greeting and proclamation to the world:


Would that His grace and mercy be with you all, along with my humble blessing.

+Archbishop CHRYSOSTOMOS of Athens
First-Hierarch of the Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece

[1] cf. 1 John 2:2. “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”


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