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A Pastoral Letter for Easter, Holy & Glorious Pascha, 2023.

The Most Reverend ROBERT RABBAT by the Mercy of God

Melkite Greek-Catholic Eparch of Australia, New Zealand and All Oceania to the Clergy, the Religious and All the Faithful of our Holy Eparchy

a Pastoral Letter for Easter, Holy & Glorious Pascha, 2023.

“For those who love the truth, nothing can come before God and our hope in Him.” St Basil the Great.

Dear Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, We live in times that can only be described as interesting. In many ways our world is not all that different from the Greco-Roman world in which our Lord lived, and in which the first apostolic missionaries established the earliest Christian communities. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” (Mt 24:7)

It used to be common for people to refer chronologically to the Second World War as “the last war”. Unfortunately, since 1945 there have been numerous conflicts some better known than others, but all involving death and misery. It is now estimated that on any given day there are some fifty armed engagements throughout the world. And we should never forget that in several instances these local conflicts are actually persecution of Christians under the guise of various nationalist liberation causes.

The one miracle recorded in each of the four canonical gospels, other than the Resurrection, is that of the feeding of the five thousand men, and there must be included whatever number of women and children were present.

The day following the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Jn 6:1-14), the crowd, undoubtedly thinking of their next meal, seeks out Jesus and finds him at Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee (Jn 6:24-25). It is during the meeting with the crowd that Jesus says of himself, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” (Jn 6:51) and “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn 6:54)

For some of that same crowd, this was too much, and “From that time many of his disciples left and walked with him no more” (Jn 6:66) It is of Peter that our Lord then asks, “Do you also want to go away?” and Peter answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:68)

And to this we must also add that which Jesus asked of the disciples at Caesaria Philippi, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mt 16:13), and again we might note that it is Peter who answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16)

These questions put by Jesus, and answered by Simon Peter, are amongst several recorded in the Gospels, and upon which there rests the entire economy of salvation. It is in the midst of our uncertain times that the question addressed to Peter becomes especially pertinent for us.

I said above that contemporary society is not all that different from the one in which Jesus lived and to which the first Christians brought the Good News. As the sacred author of Ecclesiastes notes, “What has been, will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9)

The critical difference is, of course, that we live in a “technocracy”, a world transformed by the micro-chip. We live in an age of immediate mass communications; information, good or bad, travels instantaneously. In the first century, the century of the apostolic missions, under the best weather conditions, news from Rome took thirteen days to reach Judaea by a fast ship.

The sin of our First Parents resulted in a wounded and disordered world; a world in which our hearts and minds are especially susceptible to those forces which so often are far from good. Indeed, St Peter warns us, “Your enemy, the devil, prowls around seeking someone to devour.” (1Pet 5:8)

And our world, damaged by that primordial disobedience, so often turns on us and we find ourselves threatened by natural forces such that even the tepid seek refuge in mercy and help from above. There are few atheists in an earthquake or in the midst of a raging bushfire!

Perhaps one of the most obvious and distressing signs of the fundamental injury done to our world is that of armed conflict. We have become so accustomed to militarized hostility that it requires a spectacular manifestation of violence to catch our attention beyond a three-minute media report.

The “diabolic Lion” of which St Peter warns us is especially active in the West through a confusing mélange of “woke” movements and -isms; and like the pervasive military activity, these are often state sponsored. In Australia, there is an undercurrent of antichristian bias promoted by the religiously illiterate media and a plethora of influencers, columnists and opportunist politicians. Western civilization, the product of three thousand years of Judeo-Christian thought, is hell-bent on cultural suicide.

In western education, at all levels, there has been an almost total collapse of any concept of objective reality. What can we say when a world leader at the highest echelons tells school children that there is no one truth, but only your truth and my truth. There has been a general retreat from the basic philosophical principle that a thing cannot be the case and be the case at the same time. Aristotle must be weeping.

As we survey the current world scene, the temptation for many is one of despair. Yet if we listen prayerfully, in the midst of the world’s hedonistic negative hubbub, we will surely hear the Lord ask us, as he did Peter the day following the feeding of the multitude, “Do you also want to go away?” And our response can only be that of Peter, “Lord, to whom else would we go?”

The Greek Orthodox monk-martyr, St Kosmas the Aetolian (1714-1779) gives wise counsel when he says, “You need your soul and Christ. Even if the whole world were to fall apart, no one can take these two things away from you against your will. Guard these two, and don’t lose them.”

There can be no better time to reassess the world and our place in it than at Easter, the Glorious Pascha of the Lord; and we can only do so effectively and honestly if we examine our heart-to-heart relationship with the Risen and Glorified Lord. And today as we greet the Risen Lord, let us do so as St John Chrysostom exhorts, “Let none mourn that they have fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.”

Dear Friends,

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, 2023.

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