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A Pastoral Letter for Easter, Holy & Glorious Pascha 2024.


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, 2024.

 

 

“Yesterday we were crucified with Christ, today we are glorified with him; yesterday we died with him, today we are made alive with him; yesterday we were buried with him, today we rise with him." (St Gregory of Nazianzus, AD 329-390)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,


Throughout Sacred Scripture a recurring theme is that of hope. In one form or another, in one context or another, the word ἐλπίς (elpis) – hope appears some one hundred and sixty times, depending on the translation. Faith – πίστις (pistis), is present three hundred and sixty times; love - ἀγάπη (agape) can be found up to six hundred times, again depending on the translation and keeping in mind that Greek has four distinct words for love against our one.


These three virtues, Faith, Hope and Love, the theological virtues, constitute the foundational principles of our Christian mind set, our way of thinking and our way of behaving.


In many traditional societies, the most frequent greeting is surely “Peace be with you”. Given the world’s monotheist populations, this must be one of the most common salutations used by humanity. It occurred to me recently that there seems to be no greeting by which we wish each other hope, “Hope be with you”. The why this is so, I will leave to you to consider.


Yet hope is singularly a sustaining virtue, a supporting state of mind; and it is intimately interwoven with peace. Once hope is gone or at least weakened, people find it hard to believe, their faith becomes fragile.


This is surely what we have witnessed these last several years throughout the world, across the entire human family, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Perhaps we can move a little towards hope restored if we consider the true meaning of the word as it is used, and as it occurs in Sacred Scripture. Christian hope allows no other alternative. In modern usage we use hope as a word of possibilities; it might happen or it might not.


However, when we hope in a biblical way, we are expecting what is hoped for without any other final possibility. In the Old Testament it is this biblical hope that strengthened Abraham, our father in faith, who is also our father in hope. As St Paul says of Abraham, “in hope (he) believed he should be the father of many nations.” (Romans 4:18). Even in the most perplexing events, even when asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham hoped and trusted that the promises made to him by God would unfold according to a merciful and trustworthy providence.


 We live in a world not all that different from that of the first century of which Jesus said,  “… you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in various places…” (Matthew 26:6-14).


Undoubtedly, those gathered around Jesus at that time were uncertain and fearful, for in verse 6, he tells them, “… see that you are not disturbed.” Just as in the Gospel of St John (14:1), Jesus says to his followers, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me.” In Jesus, faith and hope and trust are reflected in each other.


There are many who are disturbed by what they perceive as the parlous state of Christian civilisation, especially in the western world. For such unhappy souls both Church and State are in decline. However, again we must confront what seems a difficult situation with hope in Jesus Christ, “for in this hope we are saved. For who hopes in what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25).


It is regrettable that even within the Church, we often find reasons not to hope. Scandals and divisions, quarrels and conflicts are there, but they have always been there, and from the beginning. We need only read the letters of St Paul to the emerging churches. We should not allow our hope to be challenged by the ever-present anti-Christian, neo-secularist, theologically illiterate mass media and social platforms.


It is especially important that we guard against the demons of despair and despondency for the sake of our children. Facing the realities of history must also include acknowledging the good as well as the bad, the fortunate along with the unfortunate.


This year we are commemorating a special event in the life of our Melkite Church, that is, an ecumenical journey: three hundred years of the Melkite Catholic Church establishing full communion with the Church of Rome. It has been a journey in hope; an unfailing hope that the Undivided Church of the first millennium will be restored (see John 17:20-23). We long for the day of the one Bread and the one Cup.


If we are ever moved to lose hope, not to set our gaze upon the Risen Lord, let us keep in mind the words of St Meliton of Sardis in the second century, who wrote of Jesus, our Lord God and Saviour –


“This is the Alpha and Omega! This is the beginning and the end, the ineffable beginning and the incomprehensible end. This is the Christ! This is the king! This is Jesus! This is the commander! This is the Lord! This is He Who rose from the dead! This is He Who sits at the right hand of the Father! He bears the Father and is borne by Him! To him be the glory and the might for ever. Amen!” 


Dear Brothers and Sisters may this Holy Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, be for each of you, your families and all those dear to you, a time of peace and joy and unfailing hope.


Christ is Risen!  !المسيح قام  Χριστός ἀνέστη! 


With my paternal blessing and with prayers assured,

 

  

Robert Rabbat, DD

 

From our Eparchy at Greenacre, New South Wales

Holy and Glorious Pascha, 2024.

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