The Easter Message of His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Comana, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch
‘Behold, through the Cross joy has come into all the world. [...]
For us Christ endured the Cross, and by his death he has destroyed death’
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
By this joyful acclamation, I am happy to announce to you the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This proclamation is the greatest and the most significant that we can make and receive in our hearts. The whole mystery of salvation is accomplished in this event. At Easter Christ proves to us the full extent of the Trinitarian love for mankind and for all creation.
In this joyful feast we once again feel in our hearts the immense generosity of God, who comes to tell us how much he loves us, whatever may be the situation in which we find ourselves. For we are all sinners, we are all weakened by the Fall of Adam and by our own weaknesses, and we know how much this shackles our daily life. But on this day we rejoice, for we also know that the Lord has taken all our faults and, ascending voluntarily on the Cross, has thrown them behind it definitively. By rising from the dead, he has given us the grace to stand upright in his indescribable light.
We are transformed by this fundamental event, the reference point of all our Christian life. We were dead, we are alive again! It is the grace of graces: ‘But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain’ (1 Cor 15:10).
We have been prepared for salvation by ‘the mouth of thy servants the prophets’ (Liturgy of St Basil). It is an angel who announces to Mary what she will become: the Mother of Him who comes amongst us to save us, and we sing: ‘Today is the crown of our salvation’ (Troparion of the Annunciation). Then Christ himself tells us that he is come for us human beings and for our salvation. And to show us how much he loves us and that everything is possible, he raises his friend Lazarus from the dead, not without having wept before his corpse. At that moment we understand that the Lord’s tears reflect the depth of his compassion, the depth of his love of humanity that led him to give his life in order to save us.
And in the end, it is also an angel who announces to the Myrrh-bearers that Jesus is not shut up in the tomb, but that he is risen. Beginning with the prophets, Christ himself recalls for the disciples on the road to Emmaus how salvation has been proclaimed to them. We know all this, of course, but nevertheless when we meditate on the Resurrection of the Son of God, we are happily surprised, we are overwhelmed, we prostrate ourselves before the one who is Holy, the one who is Lord, ‘Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father!’ (Liturgy of St John Chrysostom).
It is probably necessary for us always to be surprised by the mystery of the Resurrection. We get used to our own weakness, to our own faults, and so we risk getting bogged down in our habitual sins and beginning to think that this is normal. But when we relive the Pascha of the Lord, his ‘pass-over’ through death, when we allow ourselves to be made joyful by this ineffable mystery, in which he has conquered death by his voluntary death, then all our being is transformed in the awareness of the infinite Love of God.
It is this Love that saves us, it is by this Love that we come back to life, that we recover confidence. It is this love that sustains us in hope. Perhaps we are far gone in sin, perhaps we sometimes think, ‘I’ve gone too far!’ Perhaps we are on the edge of an abyss of despair? Do you know what God says to us at that very moment? He says, ‘So, where is the problem? I tell you: you are loved beyond anything that is thinkable, remember that! “A mother may abandon her child, I will never abandon you!” (Isa 49:15). And I give you proof of this: my Son voluntarily accepted to die for you, to experience the worst that human beings can experience, participating fully in your suffering so that you might participate completely in divine Love. By his Resurrection, he gives you access to the Love that unites the three persons of the Trinity. By that you share in Life, for it is eternal Life that is being offered to you: ‘Enter into the joy of thy Lord! (Mt 25:21)’
And so, brothers and sisters, the life of Christ becomes my life, through the infinite mercy of God! This immense joy that flows from this us becomes the joy of the whole Church. We should keep a trace of this legitimate joy in us all our days; we should be witnesses to the infinite Love of God; we should share this love with each other, and even with our enemies. What a great adventure! It is an adventure that would be impossible without God’s help! But, if God is with us, who can be against us? Even in our daily hell, in our darkness, he is there to tell us that he loves us, and that he loves us to the end of time. Let us not be afraid, then, let us live in the only therapy that truly heals: let us live in the Love of God, let us love God, let us love one another and sing from a single heart, ‘Christ is risen from the dead; by his death he has overcome death!’
With all my heart I send you the threefold Paschal kiss: ‘Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!’ May the blessing of the Risen Lord be upon you! Amen.
Paris, Cathedral of St Alexander Nevsky
6/19 April 2009
+ Archbishop Gabriel of Comana
Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch