Arabic Version as PDF here
The Most Reverend
by the Mercy of God
Melkite Greek-Catholic Eparch of Australia and New Zealand
to the Priests and Deacons, my Fellow Ministers at the Altar,
to the Religious and to All the Faithful of our Holy Eparchy,
which is most beloved of Christ,
a Pastoral Letter for Easter, Holy and Glorious Pascha, 2019.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"For thus the power of death was overcome, and the dominion of corruption, which had gained sway over us, was destroyed." (St Cyril of Alexandria)
In his 1882 book, The Joyful Wisdom, and in others, the Prussian born, philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) declared "God is dead." Whatever he may have meant in what we would call theological terms, he seemingly was saying that western civilisation based on Christianity, with its Old Testament heritage, was finished; it had been supplanted by secularism.
In human affairs, it is often that the more outrageous a statement is the more likely it is to contain a grain of truth to be discerned only by those who look carefully. For the believer, or even a well-informed non believer, Nietzsche's "God is Dead", Gott ist Tot, is an absurdity. For us, as believers, "God" and "dead" are not words that are logically connected.
However, it does say something to us; not that God is Dead, as the impertinent secularists hold, but rather, that in a way we can never understand, in the Death and Burial of Jesus Christ, the God-Man, o θεάνθρωπος, God, himself, has entered into the mystery of Death; and because death had no hold over him, Christ "has trampled upon death by his death, and has bestowed life to those who were in the tombs." (Easter Troparion)
For this reason, the Christian is able to speak of the Cross as Holy and Precious; and the death of Jesus as Life-Giving. Today, no educated unbeliever would hold that Jesus never existed or that he was a first century wandering rabbi whose followers turned him into a god. Yet, even for the historically informed secularist, the events of Calvary during the time of Pontius Pilate, were the end; Jesus was dead and buried.
It could not be more different for those who have come to a knowledge of the Truth; who have come to know Jesus Christ as Lord, God and Saviour. For us, the Household of the Faith, "the atonement, a divine work which began with Christ's incarnation, finds its fulfillment in the sacrifice of His death, not as a surrogate to placate divine wrath, but as a blessed victory that overthrows the domain of death by death, freeing man from bondage to sin and death and removing the barriers which prevented the fulfillment of humanity's original vocation." (Daniel L. Marchant, School of Religion, Liberty University, Published Thesis, 2011)
It is not simply that Jesus died. His death only has meaning in terms of his Resurrection; otherwise the Cross becomes an isolated event. However, it is by his Death-and-Resurrection that Jesus, the Risen and Glorified Lord, brings life to all creation, to the entire cosmos.
In his Death and Resurrection, Christ renews all things. The Unconquered Light which shone forth from the Holy Sepulchre has penetrated all things. Creation after the Resurrection is essentially different to all that was before.
"What then is our responsibility? Pascha calls us to live like men and women who have heard the blast of a trumpet, who have arisen like those alive from the dead, living in joy. Nietzsche famously said that he would believe in the Redeemer when the Christians looked a little more redeemed. Fair enough: let us live in such a way that all may know that we have been redeemed-living each day in freedom and joy." (Archpriest Lawrence Farley, pastor of St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church, Langley, B.C. Canada)
We live in not dissimilar times to those of the nineteenth century secularists and cynics. Indeed, in many ways, our contemporary first world society has much in common with that of Europe in the second half of the 1900's - today, in first world countries there is still economic progress; at a world level there is comparative peace; in many countries there is a growing comfortable middle class; science and technology make rapid advances.
In one aspect of our contemporary western society, we are especially akin to the so-called Belle Époque, the sunset of the nineteenth century - the ascendency of a widespread, pervasive, and often aggressive, secularism.
In the political history of Europe, and its various imperial off-spring, it was religion that legitimised government, now it is increasingly the State that regulates religious practice, if not belief. In Australia, the intrusion of the legislature into matters of the confessional signals a re-emergent tendency of the state to interfere in the sacramental practice of the Church, with few, if any, convincing reasons. With regard to assaults on the seal of the confessional, and the position of the Catholic Church, and undoubtedly the Orthodox, I would simply recall the words of the 16th century English martyr, St Thomas More, "I am the King's good servant, but God's first."
On Easter night at the Hajme, the proclamation resounds, Christ is Risen! It is not simply a reference to an event almost two thousand years ago; it is a statement of a truly present reality. We do not say Christ has risen, but rather he is risen; and it is very much a challenge hurled at the darkness by the Faithful. God is not dead. We know that Jesus Christ lives. He is Truly Risen, He is Truly Lord.
May this Glorious Pascha be for each of you, and those dear to you, a time of countless graces and the choicest blessings from Above.
Christ is Risen! !المسيح قام Χριστός ἀνέστη!
With Easter prayers assured and with my paternal blessing,
Robert Rabbat, DD
From our Eparchy at Greenacre, New South Wales
Holy and Glorious Pascha, 2019.