Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
Next Liturgy: Saturday 13th May, 4pm

To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.
To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.

The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email johnchrysostom@btinternet.com for details.












Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Germanus of Constantinople, Defender of Holy Images


The Vatican Information Service reports:

During his general audience this morning Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to St. Germanus of Constantinople, who "played an important role in the complex history of the battle for images during the so-called iconoclastic crisis, and was able to resist the pressure of an iconoclastic emperor, ... Leo III.

"During Germanus' patriarchate (715-730)", the Pope added, "the capital of the Byzantine empire, Constantinople, was subject to a threatening siege by the Saracens. On that occasion (717-718) a solemn procession was organised and passed through the streets carrying the image of the Mother of God ... and the relic of the Holy Cross to call upon the Most High to defend the city. In fact, Constantinople was freed from the siege".

This event convinced the patriarch "that God's intervention was to be interpreted as evident approval of the reverence people showed towards holy icons. Leo III on the other hand, who came to the throne in that year of 717, ... began ever more openly to show his conviction that the consolidation of empire had to begin by reorganising expressions of faith, with particular reference to idolatry, a risk to which, in his view, the people were exposed by their excessive veneration for icons".

The Holy Father went on: "Patriarch Germanus' appeals to Church tradition and to the real effectiveness of certain images, unanimously recognised as 'miraculous', were all to no avail. The emperor became ever more intractable in implementing his policies of reform. ... Germanus had no desire to bow to the emperor's will in matters he considered vital to orthodox faith. ... As a consequence he felt obliged to resign as patriarch, condemning himself to exile in a monastery where he died in obscurity. Nonetheless his name re-emerged at the Second Nicean Council ... of 787 where his merits were recognised".

Of Germanus' works "certain homilies on Marian themes have survived, of which some have had a profound influence on the piety of entire generations of faithful, both in the East and the West", including one which Pope Pius XII "set like a pearl in the 1950 Apostolic Constitution 'Munificentissimus Deus'", dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Benedict XVI went on to recall the "great contribution" this saint made to the Byzantine tradition in which "the rhetorical forms used in preaching, and even more so in hymns and poetical compositions, ... are as important to the celebration of the liturgy as the beauty of the sacred building in which it takes place".

The Holy Father concluded by considering three aspects in which St. Germanus still has something to say to modern man. Firstly, in the need to recognise "the visibility of God in the world and in the Church", because "God created man in His image but that image was covered with dirt and sin" and the Creator "could almost no longer see it. Thus the Son of God became man and ... in Christ, the true image of God, we too can ... learn to see ourselves as His image". If, to prevent idolatry and the danger of pagan images, God prohibited the Israelites from creating His image, yet "when He became visible in Christ through the Incarnation it became legitimate to reproduce the face of Christ. ... Holy images teach us to see God in the face of Christ, ... of the saints and of all human beings".

Secondly, Germanus shows us "the beauty and dignity of the liturgy", which must be celebrated "with an awareness of the presence of God and with a beauty and dignity that enable us to glimpse His splendour".

The third aspect is that of "love for the Church", the Pope concluded. "It may be that in the Church, as in ourselves, we see sin and other negative things, yet with the help of faith ... we can always rediscover divine beauty in the Church. In the Church, God offers Himself to us in the Eucharist, He speaks to us, ... He forgives us and He teaches us to forgive. Let us pray that God may teach us to see His presence and His beauty in the Church, to see His presence in the world".

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Orthodox Chanting


Follow the link in the title to a short documentary on PBS in the USA for Western Easter, introducing the music of the Byzantine tradition from Holy Cross Antiochian parish, Linthicum, Maryland.

Pre-Ecumenical Uniates — Ecumenical Eastern Catholics

A conference given at the Biennial Ecumenical Marian Pilgrimage, Walsingham, 19 March 2009

This presentation is historical, both in its method and in the very fact of it being the first of its kind in the history of these lectures. It is the first time that a “Uniate”, that is an “Eastern Catholic”, has given a talk at this ecumenical event. Ecumenism involves both theological and historical considerations. Church history has a theological component, since its content is based on theological questions lived out in the history of God’s Pilgrim People.

As Christians, we make use of and indeed require more than one discipline to express our beliefs and to communicate our experiences with one another. This presentation seeks to offer a different though complementary perspective to that which is usually presented at ecumenical gatherings. What has previously been missing from ecumenical dialogue in this country, and indeed worldwide, has been the participation of the Eastern Catholic Churches. This presentation represents a move towards remedying that omission.

Let us look to history to understand the problem: The term Uniate was coined at the end of the sixteenth century to indicate those Eastern Orthodox who entered into full and visible ecclesial communion with the Roman Pontiff and, in so doing, unfortunately fell out of communion with their Orthodox brothers and sisters. For this reason, the term Uniate took on a pejorative meaning akin to that of renegade or traitor, which led to it being abandoned in 1774, at which time the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa issued a decree prohibiting the use of the term Uniate, replacing it with Greek-Catholic, as most of her Uniate subjects were from the Greek or Byzantine tradition. Today, each Eastern Catholic Church has its own specific name, such as Ukrainian Catholic. Romanian Catholic, Melchite, Malabar etc.

The Uniate Churches came into being in what theologians refer to as a “pre-ecumenical” age; pre-ecumenical because, at that time, Christians acted according to the theological and cultural sensibilities of their age, which were not guided by the goals of modern “ecumenism”. Historically speaking, we cannot judge and even less can we condemn the past according to the standards of the present. The term pre-ecumenical is also used in contrast to unecumenical or anti-ecumenical. Not surprisingly, the Uniates of the past sought pre-ecumenical solutions to achieve church-unity, solutions arrived at which were not necessarily unecumenical in the modern sense of the term. Nowadays, Eastern Catholics are willing to join other churches at the discussion table in seeking solutions which are informed by modern ecumenical values emerging from development in Christian theology and profoundly rooted in Christ’s Truth and Charity. Thus, the formerly pre-ecumenical Uniates have been replaced by today’s ecumenical Eastern Catholics.

Latin Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and Reformed Christians often know little about Eastern Catholics’ past and present. The former Uniate Churches came into being as the result of attempts to heal the Great Schism between the Roman and Greek Churches; efforts which culminated at the Ecumenical Council of Florence in 1439. Unfortunately, the theological conclusions of this council failed to take into account the wounded memory of the Christians whom it sought to reunite, thus Florence did not bring about enduring unity. Disappointed, the Church of Kyiv (known then as the Ruthenian Church, the Mother Church of Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians) sought to continue efforts to heal the schism. In 1595, it achieved a reunion with the Church of Rome along the lines of Florence, known as The Union of Brest after the city where the synods took place. Brest was not a return to the unity that existed before 1054 but something new. It did not achieve the reunion of the Roman and Greek Churches, nor even succeed in reuniting the whole Ruthenian Church with Rome. What Brest ultimately produced was the the internal division of the very Church which it sought to unite with Rome, giving birth to a Ruthenian Catholic and a Ruthernian Orthodox Church. This “process” and subsequent others have been collectively and pejoratively labelled Uniatism.

There has been much misconception and even more propaganda with respect to the Uniate’s motives. According to one widely-held perception, Uniatism was achieved for political motivations, by by way of external pressure from the Roman Church which was to have deceptively absorbed groups of Orthodox faithful allowing them to retain their liturgical and canonical traditions and a certain autonomy. Contemporary historical research however, clearly demonstrates that the Union of Brest was not imposed but freely sought. Harkening back to Florence, the Ruthenian bishops came up with the plan themselves. Far from a sinister conspiracy cooked-up by Rome, through the Jesuits and the Polish State, the hierach’s plans surprised everyone, not the least the Roman Curia. In fact, the Jesuits, the Polish aristocracy and, generally everyone on the Catholic side, were all opposed to the Uniate plan. The Latin solution was to convert the Ruthenians directly to Roman Catholicism. Furthermore, the Polish-Lithuanian State never showed any enthusiasm for the project: the Popes having to constantly plead with the Polish kings to protect the Uniates, who were in the midst of discrimination from civil and church officials who actively opposed the union and pressured the Ruthenian Catholics to embrace the Latin Rite.

In reality, by examining the objective motivations of the Ruthenian Hierarchy using primary sources, we discover that the bishops did not envision their union as a breaking-away from their Orthodox traditions, but rather as an attempt to preserve their endangered Church from internal decay. Threatened by Calvinist theories and lay interference, sanctioned by Constantinople’s Patriarch, the hierarchs turned to what they recognized as being the highest moral authority in Christendom, in order to preserve ecclesiastical authority within the Church.

Regardless of their origins, the Uniate Churches did indeed come into being and begin an ecclesial life of their own. They flourished despite discrimination and persecution from civil and church officials. Under Russian rule, beginning in the seventeenth century and continuing into our own day, the Eastern Catholic Churches were systematically persecuted, suppressed, and forced to embrace, not their native Orthodox Church, but the foreign Russian Orthodox State religion. Unlike the Union of Brest, which went ahead against the wishes of Polish Catholic notables, Tsarist church-genocide, or “ecclesiacide” as Father Robert Taft calls it, was practiced for eminently political motives. It was reenacted when the Soviets occupied Western Ukraine in 1940’s and continued until the fall of that regime.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Catholics who had endured one of the worst persecutions in the history of Christianity, spontaneously re-emerged from a catecomb existence and began reclaiming their place in the life of the nation. This meant the loss to the Russian Church of most of the Greek-Catholic properties which had been awarded to them by the Soviet state. For the Russian Church it also meant a major drain on religious vocations, for during the Soviet period, a significant portion had come from the traditionally Catholic provinces of Ukraine. The re-emergence the Greek Catholic Church gave rise to a terrible crisis in Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical relations. The Orthodox accused Eastern Catholics of being a hindrance to Church unity, partly the reason why the latter have been excluded from ecumenical dialogue. In 1990, the famous Balamand Declaration was signed by Catholic and Orthodox representatives, officially repudiating not the Uniate Churches but “uniatism” as a method for seeking church union. Poignantly, Eastern Catholics were not invited either to participate in this dialogue or to offer their opinion.

And yet, Eastern Catholics are willing to play by rules of Christian ecumenism and make a constructive contribution to the dialogue between all churches. I would like to return to the themes of theology and history. History clarifies the motives of Uniates and demonstrates that they are not deliberately stalling ecumenical dialogue. The rebirth of the Eastern Catholic Churches was not an anti-Orthodox move but, in Taft’s words, “simply an end to persecution and the shameful conspiracy of silence”. Taft went on to say that:
Those of good will on both sides of the dialogue are in agreement that “Uniatism” is no longer an acceptable method for the future. But the past must also be dealt with; it is the real problem [my emphasis] blocking any future progress. That [is] why [the] late Pope John Paul II called for “the healing or purification of memory.” [... A] twofold process of facing up to the past and then moving beyond it to a better future. [The second component] is the work of the official ecumenical dialogue between our two Churches. However, “the purification and healing of memories,” involves everyone. For ecumenism to advance, we must put aside our own limited view of our past, and seek to understand how others see us. Since criticism, like charity, should begin at home [...] mature communities must accept responsibility for their entire past. Catholics must face up to the fact that they have acted throughout much of history as an aggressor with respect to the Christian East, and the bitterness this has provoked must be laid squarely at their door.
Concretely, then, what can the Eastern Catholic Churches bring to ecumenical dialogue that is distinct from what the Roman Church is already bringing: Firstly, even at the ecumenical table, the Catholic Church should, in the words of John Paul II “breathe with two lungs and with a one heart”. Roman Christians have been involved in the history of misunderstanding and discrimination against the Eastern Churches, be they Catholic or Orthodox, and thus, cannot represent Eastern Catholics at the ecumenical table. The Roman Church must undergo its own purification of memory, which is distinct from that of Eastern Catholics, and recognize the faults particular to its own past. Eastern Catholics, with whom the Roman Church shares full ecclesial communion, are a constant reminder that the Roman is only one of many traditions, even within the Catholic Communion; the Oriental Catholics can help raise western awareness to the realities and mindset of Eastern Christianity which, in turn, is a great help in dialogue with the Orthodox Churches. Eastern Catholics also remind the Latin Churches that, like charity, ecumenism begins at home and, in order to have honest theological dialogue with the Orthodox Churches, they must make greater efforts to know, understand and sympathize with their fellow Catholics of other rites. In this, they follow the solemn authoritative and binding words of the Second Vatican Council which teaches, once and for all:
The Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who […] combining together into various groups which are held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or Rites. Between these there exists an admirable bond of union, such that the variety within the Church in no way harms its unity; rather it manifests it, for it is the mind of the Catholic Church that each individual Church or Rite should retain its traditions whole and entire. These individual Churches, whether of the East or the West, [...] are consequently of equal dignity.
The life and work of the Eastern Catholic Churches can serve as resources for all. For example, the historical-liturgical scholarship which produced the Roman editions of the Slavonic Liturgical books in the 1940’s and 1950’s is at the service of all the churches. The Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Russicum college in Rome have long been centres of mutual contact and dialogue and have provided Orthodox students lodging, stipends and resources for their own scholarship. In such places of sympathy for the East, Catholics and Orthodox can get to know one another on a human level. It is no accident that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was himself a student of Canon Law at the Oriental Institute. Eastern Catholic scholars share their services with the Orthodox world. For example, the Jesuit Father Spidlik (now Cardinal) has promoted Orthodox spirituality on both popular and scholarly levels, and has been likened to by at least one Orthodox leader as a starets. Undoubtedly, the missions of great Eastern Catholic primates merit further critical analysis, such as Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky’s ecumenism, and Cardinal Slipyj’s theology of the Eastern Fathers as the primary sources for the Angelic Doctor.

Historically, the Eastern Catholic Churches have been identified as churches of the martyrs, witnesses for church-unity and, not the least, witnesses for unity with the Successor of Peter. Their history includes many examples of the Petrine Ministry as guarantor of unity and, therefore an engine of pluralism, having been exercised to protect persecuted minority churches from the nearsighted or self-satisfied interests of local churches. Subject to no earthly ruler, the Supreme Pontiffs have raised their voices in defense of the Eastern Churches, at times when the local Churches were too beholden to Caesar. The revival of the Eastern Catholic Churches in former Communist-bloc countries is a reminder to all that political interference is not only damaging to the churches themselves but also a major obstacle to church unity. Historically, virtually all persecution of the Uniates was inflicted for political reasons. It was and still is in the interests of certain regimes that Christians be separated. Divided, the Churches become docile tools of the state, unable to stand up for the truth and speak out against injustice. In our own day, more than ever, we see that political interests are often at odds with the fundamental Christian values that we all share. Christians need to work together for purely religious motives, for faith motives and for faith values.

Having been sacrificed time and again at the altar of political expediency and state-controlled religion, Eastern Catholics are now in a position to call upon all participants to ensure that that ecumenical dialogue never be used as a tool for ecclesial and or political imperialism. This would not only be unecumenical but truly anti-ecumenical, and lacking in any Christian value or significance.

I would like to conclude with a postscript gleaned from my experience of this pilgrimage. Oriental Catholics are often mentioned in the context of religious proselytism, something once common to the missionary strategy of all the Churches. In this regard, Eastern Catholics have been no exception, and this must become part of our purification of memory. However, in my research, I have examined situations where Eastern Catholics were more often the object rather than the agent of proselytism. Certainly for me, and hopefully for all, this event represents a resolution to the past in that, here, you have welcomed Eastern Catholics as equals to the table of Ecumenical fellowship. And we, in turn, profess our respect and love in Christ for all the churches, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, and we unite our prayers with yours to the Holy Mother of God, Patroness of this ancient shrine.

A Blessed Pascha: The Miracle of the Holy Fire


A blessed and Holy Pascha to all our Orthodox brothers and sisters.

For an account of the Miracle at the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem, whereby the Greek Orthodox Patriarch receives the Holy Fire, the Light of the Risen Christ, follow this link to the Ora et Labora blog.

Al-Masiah qaam!
Haqqan qaam!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Fairouz sings the Passion of Christ

Fairouz, the legendary Lebanese singer, singing the 15th Antiphon at Matins of Good Friday in 1965 at a church in Beirut in Lebanon:

Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon a Tree,
he who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns,
he who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in mocking purple,
he who freed Adam in the Jordan receives a blow on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a lance.

We worship your Sufferings, O Christ;
we worship your Sufferings, O Christ;
we worship your Sufferings, O Christ;
show us also your glorious Resurrection.

(translation (c) Archimandrite Ephrem)

Good Friday Arabic Catholic Hymn - Wa Habibi

English Catholics will recognise the melody of this hymn, to which we sing the poignant penitential and Passiontide hymn, God of Mercy and Compassion. It is a French traditional tune (Au sang qu'un Dieu), associated with the 18th century composer Pergolesi.

Here, in a moving example of 'spiritual ecumenism', in which the Christian East embraces something of the culture of the Western Catholic musical tradition, the famous Lebanese singer, Fairouz, sings the Good Friday lament, Wa Habibi.

My Love, My Love
What has befallen you?
Who saw you and grieved for you,
You who are righteous?
My Love, what is the sin of our times and our children?
These wounds have no cure.

Christianity in Iraq Seminar Day VI


The Centre of Eastern and Orthodox Christianity at the School Of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, will host its sixth seminar on Saturday April 25th 2009 at the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG.

The day conference will explore the legacy of Christian education in Iraq. It covers all denominations of Syriac Christianity.

Please consult www.easternchristianity.com for further details and bookings, as well as details of seminar days in previous years. These have attracted much interest, with over 100 people and press attending.

A new book, The Christian Heritage of Iraq: collected papers from the Christianity I-V Seminar Days will also be released on April 25th. Gorgias Press are the editors.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Letter of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III for Pascha 2009

Paul, Apostle of the Resurrection

“..You are risen with Christ” (Colossians 3:1)

From Gregorios, servant of Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, Patriarch of Antioch and of All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, to their excellencies, the bishops, members of the venerable Holy Synod, and to our sons and daughters in Jesus Christ, clergy and people, called holy, and to all those who are called
by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their and our God, “grace be unto you and peace from our God and Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:3)

“..You are risen with Christ.” That is the great announcement of Christianity, for it is the confirmation of Jesus’ resurrection and our own resurrection with him. The most beautiful chant, the finest acclamation, that rings out from our most enthusiastic voices as we are caught up in the loud cry, is indeed the hymn of the glorious resurrection, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs he has given life.”

That is why we decided to dedicate our Letter of the holy, glorious Resurrection for this year to meditating on the teaching of Saint Paul on the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and our own resurrection with him.

Resurrection: the Subject of Paul’s “Gospel”
Paul is the great preacher of Christ’s resurrection: he really is the apostle of the resurrection. He affirms that we are not only celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that we are also risen with him. We too celebrate our own resurrection and Saint Paul exhorts us, saying, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4)

These words are not simple spiritual exhortations, but are the result of Paul’s personal experience on the road to Damascus. In fact, we cannot understand Paul’s teachings in his epistles without always returning to his vision on the Damascus road, just as we did in our 2008 Christmas Letter.

Resurrection is the subject of Paul’s “gospel” as we find in the discourse that he addressed to the faithful of Corinth in his First Letter, saying, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel, which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless y have believed in vain. I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (I Corinthians 15:1-4)

We know that the vision happened at the gates of Damascus and we consider it to be not only the place of Saint Paul’s conversion and vision, but also the place of the appearance of Jesus, risen from the dead, to Paul and to Ananias, first Bishop of Damascus. So Tel Kawkab near Damascus is the only place outside Palestine, where Christ appeared after his resurrection from the dead.

Paul, Apostle of the Resurrection in the Acts of the Apostles
So, Paul lived the mystery and reality of the resurrection, becoming, thereafter, the great preacher of the resurrection. Moreover, the resurrection became his gospel, as we said above.

Resurrection is the subject of Paul’s preaching in Antioch of Pisidia. (Acts 13:32)

In the city of Thessalonica, Paul preaches in the Jewish synagogue on three consecutive Sabbaths, “opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered and risen from the dead; and that ‘this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.’” (Acts 17:2-3) In Athens, both in the synagogue and the market place or agora, Paul disputes with the Greek philosophers, preaching Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 17:18) “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) “He hath given assurance unto all, in that he hath raised Jesus from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

That was also the subject of Paul’s preaching at Corinth. (Acts 18)

Paul is tried because of his teaching about the resurrection of the dead. “..Of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.” (Acts 23:6) Later, he declares before the Governor, Felix that he is brought to trial for “preaching the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 24:21) King Agrippa understood the content of the accusations against Paul as follows: it concerned “one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.” (Acts 25:19)

Paul conducts his own defence before King Agrippa, concentrating his case on the resurrection, which he considers the substance of God’s promise to the ancestors of the Old Testament and to the twelve tribes of Israel, to the whole people and to all humanity. He also considers resurrection as the great hope in the life of the Jewish people. He says to King Agrippa, “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:6-8)

After that, in the same speech for the defence, Paul recounts in detail what happened to him on the Damascus road, considering that Jesus’ appearance to him there and his speaking with him are proof that Jesus is alive. Paul affirms that Jesus spoke to him plainly, asking him to be witness to his resurrection, saying to him, “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.” (Acts 26:15)

The mission that Jesus confides to Paul is clear: that he be witness to the resurrection. That is what he proclaims in his defence before King Agrippa and all the Jews, saying, “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22, 23)

This speech for the defence sums up all the teachings of the Old Testament that confirm that the Messiah, Christ Jesus’ resurrection is salvation for all humanity.

The book of Acts of the Apostles recounts the lives of the apostles, especially Peter’s and Paul’s, and through this we clearly see that the resurrection of Jesus was the great event in the life of Saint Paul and that the living Jesus, risen from the dead, wished Paul to be apostle, witness and great master of Christ’s holy resurrection.

That is what we shall show in our resurrection itinerary through the letters of Saint Paul, apostle of the resurrection.

Resurrection in the Letters of St Paul

Epistle to the Romans
At the outset of this letter, Paul sums up the Old Testament as being a preparation for Christ’s advent and the great event of his resurrection. (Romans 1:4) Paul affirms that he is “called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,” (Romans 1:1) which is the great announcement of the joyful resurrection and the basis of humans’ justification by faith. All are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)

“But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:24-25) “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:8-9)

Paul explains that as sin and death entered into the world through just one person, “much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” (Romans 5:15)

Later, Paul endeavours to explain the relationship between Jesus’ resurrection and baptism in the life of the faithful, and their liberation from slavery to sin through the resurrection. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:3-11)

By the resurrection, we become one with Christ. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Romans 7: 4)

Through the resurrection, we obtain spiritual, divine life. “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Romans 8:11)

The resurrection awakens in the hearts of the faithful an assurance of hope of salvation. “What shall we say then, to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?...Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8: 31, 34) He continues, “..if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10: 9)

Besides, our life and death are linked to Jesus’ life and death, “for none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” (Romans 14:7-9)

First Epistle to the Corinthians
The appearance of the risen Jesus to Paul on the Damascus road is the great proof, assurance and choice guarantee that Paul’s teaching is genuine and based on a sure foundation. He says, “Am I am not an apostle? … Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” (I Corinthians 9: 1)

Paul the apostle dedicates the fifteenth chapter of this First Epistle to the Corinthians to confirming the truth and modality of the resurrection. He concludes the fifteenth chapter by a hymn of victory over death.

I would like to quote a substantial part of this chapter, for it is a beautifully simple, real explanation of the manner of the resurrection. It is most profitable for the faithful, dissipating many of their doubts and answering many of their questions:-

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

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. But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

…If the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. But some man will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?’ Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam was made a living soul;’ the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:1-9, 12-23, 32b, 35-57)

Second Epistle to the Corinthians
Saint Paul senses a sweet savour of the resurrection in his apostolic journeying, which is victorious thanks to God, “which always causeth us to triumph in Christ.” (II Corinthians 2:14-16)

The apostle is strengthened in his difficulties by faith in Jesus’ resurrection, for he resembles him, both in his death and his resurrection. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” (II Corinthians 4: 10-12)

Paul’s faith in the resurrection gives him a warranty, as he says: “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you,” (II Corinthians 4: 14) and at last that “mortality might be swallowed up of life.” (ibid. 5: 4b)

Resurrection is linked to love (charity). “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (II Corinthians 5: 14-15) By the resurrection, the believer becomes “a new creature.” (ibid. 5: 17)

Epistle to the Galatians
The letter begins by affirming that Paul’s mission is based on “Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.” (Galatians 1: 1)

Besides, the life of Paul becomes the life of Christ. “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19-20)

Epistle to the Ephesians
We note here how the life of the Church and of Christian faithful, whether individuals or communities, focuses on the event of the resurrection. They discover in the resurrection of Jesus “… what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1: 19-23)

Jesus’ resurrection is the sign of God’s love towards us, for “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2: 4-6)

Epistle to the Philippians
Jesus, risen from the dead, is glorified in us, so that “Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1: 20-21)

The Christian hymns that spread during the first generations of Christianity, some of which are cited in Paul’s epistles, are centred on the event of the resurrection. So, the hymns referred to in this epistle describe Jesus as risen and in the image of God: “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.” (Philippians 2: 6, 8, 9)

Paul considers that his life is a participation in Jesus’ resurrection. “(My desire is) that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11) It is also the goal of every faithful person, “for our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (ibid. 3:20-21)

Epistle to the Colossians
In the Letter to the Colossians, we find another hymn, one of those spread among the early Christian community, in which we see the centrality of the mystery of Jesus’ resurrection. “.. He is the head of the body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” (Colossians 1:18-19)

Resurrection is the seed of life in Jesus Christ. “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” (Colossians 2:12-13)

Living the resurrection on earth is a call to meeting him in heaven. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

First Epistle to the Thessalonians
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians has to do with waiting for the coming of the living Jesus. “And (ye) wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (I Thessalonians 1:10)
Those who have died, rest in the hope of life in Jesus Christ. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him.” (I Thessalonians 4:14)

We live and die in Jesus Christ, “who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.” (I Thessalonians 5:10)

Second Epistle to Timothy
The gospel is the gospel of the resurrection, the proclamation of life. “But (God’s grace in Jesus) is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” (II Timothy 1: 10-11)

Paul reminds his disciple, Timothy, of the resurrection. “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” (II Timothy 2: 8) He continues, “It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.” (ibid. 2:11)

Summary of Paul’s Teachings on the Resurrection
We can highlight the main ideas in Paul’s theology on the subject of resurrection, thus: in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul affirms the following:-

Resurrection is the gospel’s subject and proclamation, its essence and sum. Man is called to participate in Jesus’ life through resurrection. There is a very profound and necessary link between cross and resurrection. Resurrection is the sum of the hopes of the ancestors in the Old Testament; Paul’s vocation is to be witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his Master. Besides, every believer is called to witness in his life to Jesus’ resurrection.

We can sum up Paul’s teaching on the resurrection in his Epistles as follows:-

Paul is witness to the resurrection of Jesus, whom he saw on the Damascus road. He was commissioned to carry out the resurrection mission. Salvation is through the resurrection. Baptism is dying and rising with Christ. Union with Christ is union with his resurrection. Through resurrection we obtain spiritual life. Through resurrection we become a sweet-smelling savour of life for animating our society, for we believe in and work for life. Resurrection strengthens us whenever we are faced with difficulties and confirms hope in our hearts. There is a strong link between love and resurrection. That is what we explained in our Paschal Letter of 2007. That is why resurrection is central to the life and faith of the Christian community. The goal of Christian love is participation in Jesus’ resurrection. Paul’s desire is to participate in Jesus through his resurrection. Similarly, the goal of every believer’s life is to participate, especially through baptism, in Jesus’ resurrection.

So the whole of Christian life is linked to the resurrection. That is why Saint Paul always reminds the faithful of the resurrection in every epistle. The Christian lives in continual expectation of the resurrection and as Christ is raised, we too shall be raised. Christ is glorified by our resurrection. So the core of the gospel is resurrection and the love of God for mankind has appeared towards us through Jesus Christ’s resurrection. We are called to participate in that resurrection by living it in this life, so as to share in it eternally.

The First Christian Community a Resurrection Community
This journey with Paul through his epistles has demonstrated clearly that he is indeed the great apostle, or teacher, of the resurrection. Our Church services spread the events of the resurrection related in the Holy Gospel across eleven pericopes, read during the service of Sunday Matins throughout the year.

Paul, however, analyses the resurrection experience primarily through his own encounter on the road to Damascus, in which Christ appeared to him personally, after having appeared to all the apostles, as we described above. After that, he experiences the resurrection in his life as an apostle, translating it all into spiritual teachings and guidance to confirm the faith of the first Christian community that had lived the mystery of the resurrection. Furthermore, the life of the first Christian communities founded by Saint Paul and other apostles in the East and in the West was always centred on the event of the resurrection. Saint Paul speaks of those meetings on the Lord’s Day, (Sunday) and gives the requisite guidance on the matter. In the First Epistle to the Corinthians, he says, “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper…Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” (I Corinthians 11:20, 27) Such guidance is also mentioned several times in the Acts of the Apostles, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

Justin of Nablus, the first Christian philosopher, alludes to this, when he speaks of the celebration of the mystery of the Eucharist, which is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sunday.

The first Christian community celebrated the greatest mystery of Christianity, sacred baptism, in the framework of the Sunday celebration of the Divine Liturgy. That is what is reported in the first Christian writings, the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didachē. Besides, all the sacraments or sacred mysteries are centred on the subject of the mystery of the resurrection: Christ lives the resurrection mystery through the sacraments, the Church’s mysteries, through the Sunday Liturgy, so the first day of the week has become the day of resurrection. The whole Christian life is focused on Sunday, the Lord’s Day.

The Liturgy: Celebration of the Resurrection
The Church lives daily the mystery of the resurrection, through the celebration of the great dominical feasts of Christ, the Theotokos and the saints and especially through the Divine Liturgy, which is the celebration of the mystery of the resurrection. In it we find several mentions of the resurrection. At the end of the proskomedia, or preparation of the gifts, the priest prays thus during the censing, “In the tomb with thy body, but in Hades with the soul, in that thou art God; in Paradise with the thief and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit, wast thou, O Christ…” and further, in the hymn to the Word of God, we pray, “Thou… wast crucified for us, O Christ our God, trampling down death by death ...” On Sundays, we sing, “O Son of God, risen from the dead, save us...” Similarly, we sing, “We venerate thy cross, O Master, and glorify thy holy resurrection.” After the procession with the gifts, the priest prays in a low voice, “Noble Joseph, taking down thy most pure body from the tree…” Similarly, the hymns inscribed on the antimension are concerned with the resurrection, for the holy table or altar, represents the Holy Sepulchre or sacred tomb, place of the event of the resurrection. In fact, we read on the antimension, “In the tomb with thy body, but in Hades with the soul, in that thou art God; in Paradise with the thief,” and “On the throne with the Father and the Spirit, wast thou, O Christ, filling all things, since thou art uncircumscribed,” and further, “Thy tomb, O Christ, has been declared bearer of life, lovelier than Paradise, brighter than any kingly bridal chamber, the source of our resurrection.”

The Proclamation of Faith (Creed) is a proclamation of resurrection. “I believe …in ..Christ, who was crucified …for us, suffered and was buried. And the third day he rose again… I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. Amen.”

In the anaphora, or eucharistic prayer, we thank the Lord because he has “raised us to heaven and given us (his) kingdom that is to come.” In the prayer of the anamnesis, we recall the events of the economy of salvation: “Remembering therefore this saving commandment and all those things which came to pass for us: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day…” and later, we make mention of the departed, in hope of the resurrection to eternal life. We give communion to the faithful, saying, “The precious and holy body and blood of our Lord, and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins and life everlasting,” as a token of the resurrection. The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom finishes on Sunday with this doxology: “Glory to thee, O Christ God, risen from the dead.”

In the thanksgiving prayers after communion, there is mention of the resurrection, as fruit of communion in the body and blood of Christ.

The mention of resurrection is also repeated in the prayers of the Liturgy of Saint Basil, where we read in the prayer of the anaphora, “they who were dead in Adam (are) made alive in thy Christ… (He became incarnate) being conformed to the fashion of our lowliness, that he might make us conformable to the image of his glory (that is, the resurrection)... He loosed the pains of death, and rose again from the dead on the third day, making a way for all flesh through the resurrection from the dead…. that he might be… the first-born of the dead.” The prayer continues, “Do this in remembrance of me, for as often as you shall eat this bread and drink of this cup, ye do proclaim my death and confess my resurrection.” We recall his redeeming passion and life-giving cross, his three days’ burial and his resurrection from the dead and then the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil ends with this splendid, beautiful prayer. “Completed and perfected, so far as is in our power, O Christ our God, is all the mystery of thine economy, for we have had the memorial of thy death, we have seen the type of thy resurrection, we have been filled with thine unending life, we have enjoyed thine inexhaustible bounty, which in the age to come be also pleased to vouchsafe us all….”

In the same way, the mention of the resurrection is repeated in the Presanctified Liturgy, “O God, who art great and to be praised, who hast brought us from corruption to incorruption by the life-giving death of thy Christ…”

In the final prayer of the Presanctified, we read, “Master almighty, who … hast brought us to these most holy days … for hope of resurrection; … grant us also, good Master, to fight the good fight, to finish the course of the fast, to keep the faith intact, to crush the heads of invisible serpents and without condemnation to attain and to venerate thy holy resurrection.”

What shall we say about the continual, unwearied, repeated mention of the resurrection in our liturgical services, such as the feasts of Christ, the Mother of God and the saints, when describing their struggles and singing their praises? It suffices to mention the Book of the Paraklitikē, or the Octoechos, (the Book of Eight Tones), where we find the resurrection services and prayers for every Sunday, comprising hundreds, or rather thousands of hymns all recounting the event, significance, effects and spirituality of the resurrection, whence it becomes apparent, that every Sunday throughout the whole year is truly resurrection Sunday, or as we call it, Little Pascha, while Easter Sunday or the Feast of the Resurrection is Great Pascha.

The first church in the history of Christianity, which Helena, mother of Constantine the Great had built in Jerusalem in 335 AD, is called the Church of the Resurrection (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre according to Western tradition.) The early Christians, especially in Syria, had the appellation, “children of the resurrection.” How beautiful it is to hear the faithful in Jerusalem saying, “I’m going to the Resurrection,” rather than, “I’m going to the Church of the Resurrection.” How beautiful if all of us are always walking along the way to the resurrection!

No Cross without Resurrection: no Resurrection without Cross
For every Cross a Resurrection: for every Resurrection a Cross

The fact of linking resurrection to cross and cross to resurrection, cross-resurrection and resurrection preceded by cross, is not simply a ritual gesture and not an ingenious liturgical genre, but rather the highest expression of life’s reality and the longings of mankind.

We say to each and every human being, find in every cross the seeds of the beginning of the resurrection, as you find in every shadow of a very dark night, the first glimmerings of dawn. In the depths of your suffering, trust that the resurrection is for you, your suffering and cross.

So it becomes evident again that liturgical prayers and services are not marginal to the lives of the faithful, but go to the very depths of their lives. The liturgy and liturgical prayers, through their meanings, teachings, spirituality and symbols, express our reality and illuminate our way. The saying is still true, “Whosoever prays is saved:” (cf. Romans 10:13) so, whosoever does not pray is not saved.

That deep relationship between cross and resurrection in the Liturgy is the expression of their relationship, or spiritual correlation, in our life and evidence that one cannot subsist without the other. No cross without resurrection to follow the cross and save us from the cross: no resurrection without cross in the reality of our life. Resurrection takes us down from the cross.

Just as cross and resurrection are intimately linked in Jesus and in the life of Paul and the other saints, so it is too with our reality, as Saint Paul testifies, saying, “…If Christ be not raised (after his passion and cross) your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (I Corinthians 15:17)

Besides, refusing to link cross to resurrection and resurrection to cross is the cause of many dangers, including despair, suicide, atheism, darkness, sin and crimes.

Linking cross to resurrection and resurrection to cross goes to the heart of our Christian faith and doctrine and is essential in the lives of the faithful and in Christian philosophy. Both of them sum up the meaning of the incarnation and redemption, as they do the relationship between man and God. “For he created us, yet did not cease to do everything to raise us up to heaven..” (that is, to bring us to resurrection life.) (Prayer of the anaphora from the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom)

Besides, this relationship sums up the economy of salvation. It is the best response to our human condition and the longings of our soul for immortality, for, on the one hand, we live the reality of the cross, but we hope to have done with it and, on the other hand, we aspire to immortality and resurrection. That is the meaning of being taken down from the cross and resurrection; that is the experience of Paul on the road to Damascus; that is the journey of the saints and martyrs. It is Jesus’ mission to save us from the cross and grant us the gift of resurrection.

Jesus has abased himself for us, to death, death on the cross. He came down to our human reality and rose again to fulfil our longings for resurrection. As we read in the Kneeling Prayers on the Monday of Pentecost, Jesus gives life “with the hope of resurrection to those who were smitten with the sting of death,” and announces to us the great “hopes of resurrection and of life immortal.” He is the “Chieftain of our resurrection,” who has “become a partaker, on equal terms, of our flesh and blood, because of (his) exceeding great condescension.” Of his own will, he “took upon (himself) our passions,” and “led us to apatheia,” (or passionlessness: that is, to resurrection.) (Kneeling Prayers)

That is also what appears very clearly and splendidly in the prayer of consecration of light on the morning of Great and Holy Saturday (the Saturday of Light) where we find a very beautiful description of the whole economy of salvation and the linkage between sin, incarnation, cross, death, resurrection and return to paradise. Here is an extract from this prayer, to be found in the Triodion: “Thou, Saviour, didst set the law before the first man, while he was in the state of light, to guide him towards the new world and give him the desire to grow towards eternal life, but by transgressing thy commandment, he fell from that great glory which was his. And he disgraced himself by his fall and became exiled from thee, thou glorious Light. But thou, O Lord, Lover of mankind, by thy death and the abundance of thy goodness and limitless compassion, hast condescended to the lowliness of us abandoned sinners, so as to restore us to that glory and first light whence we fell. And thou didst will to dwell in the tomb for the sake of us, who transgressed thy divine commandments. Thou didst descend to Hades and to the bowels of the earth and hast destroyed the everlasting doors and saved those who were in the darkness of death and raised them. Thou hast illumined the human race by thy resurrection on the third day and hast granted the world new life, illumining the whole world more brightly than the sun and hast restored our nature, by thy compassion, to its first rank and to the glorious light, whence we were exiled. As thou hast raised us up and restored us to life from the abyss of sin and hast delivered us from the shadows of our crimes, make us worthy, by thy rich compassion, to light our own lamps from the light of this day, symbol of thy glorious, radiant resurrection and grant to thy holy catholic and apostolic Church that perfect light.”

The meaning of that prayer is that Jesus condescended to our condition (reality of the cross). He was crucified so as to participate in our condition and he rose up to the level of our aspirations and hopes for immortality. In other words, man wished to become God and was disappointed: so “God became man that man might become god." (St. Athanasius of Alexandria wrote, "God became man so that man might become god." (On the Incarnation 54:3, PG 25:192B))

Let All People be Raised with Christ
In my Lent Letter, “I am crucified with Christ,” there is a passage entitled: Let us take the poor down from the cross. Today, the day of the glorious, radiant resurrection, I say, Let us raise the poor with Christ. Instead of raising the cross with the poor man on it, let us raise him to the height of joy in the resurrection. For when we have pity on the poor and take them down from the cross, whatever their cross may be, it is not enough to improve their social conditions, or health, or life. One should rather do everything to satisfy their hunger and thirst for God and enable them to participate in the divine life. That is what Jesus said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” (John 6:27)

The action and mission of priest, apostle and true faithful should be to enable others to participate in the divine life. That is what we read in Matins of Great and Holy Wednesday, “Let the believer enable the ignorant to share in the Word.”
So the relationship between Christ’s resurrection and our own becomes evident and whenever we celebrate the resurrection on the Great Feast Day of Pascha, or participate in the Divine Liturgy on Sunday and commemorate Christ’s resurrection, we charge our souls with a new store of hope and optimism. We could say the same about the effects of personal prayer at home and lectio divina (or spiritual reading of the Holy Gospel and Saint Paul’s Epistles) in stimulating one’s spiritual life. They are equally effective opportunities or factors for charging our souls with the power of the resurrection. Thanks to them, the resurrection becomes ours and not just a remembrance of Christ’s resurrection: so we infuse our souls with real optimism.

The cross is a reality of our weakness and resurrection is our divine calling, realising our longings for immortality. Indeed, we all want to be immortal, to be immortalised by our children, by the success of our projects, by our excellence, but the highest expression of great immortality is resurrection - immortality with Jesus and by Jesus, who raises us by his resurrection.

Everyone aspires to and wishes to participate in divine life and immortality, so that the sequence of life, death and resurrection is the true reality that awaits us all. Death is not a definitive state, but a stage. Death is the passing over from earthly to heavenly life, the other life. Death remains a surprise, either by the moment of its happening or through what awaits us thereafter. As Saint Paul says, “…Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2: 9)

The Christian not only believes in Christ’s resurrection, but is proud of it and defends its reality, believing that he or she is in turn a child of the resurrection, agent of the resurrection of others, family - companions, fellow-citizens and wider society - so that Jesus Christ’s words be realised, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) Our daily work for daily resurrection in our everyday life involves trying to actualise the reality of resurrection through our faith in it. That is why the early Christians, especially those of Syria, were given the extraordinary title, “children of the resurrection” (Cf. Luke 20:36). Thus resurrection became their surname, their Christian tribe’s name and an inseparable part of their personality and identity.

Resurrection begins with Christ, here in our earthly life, but is realised definitively and completely in heaven. That is how we build the civilization of love, life and resurrection. Resurrection is not only the foundation of our faith and Christian belief, but also of our way of life and involvement in the Church, society and country, work and profession so that we become agents of resurrection and servants of life.

Without resurrection and hope of resurrection, without daily life in the resurrection, there is only disenchantment, despair, futility, suicide, violence, terrorism, breakdown of marital and family life and social relations and a shrivelling up in death.

On the other hand, the doctrine and reality of resurrection gives a meaning and goal to our life. It gives an awareness of generosity, devotion and service and supports our projects for progress and prosperity, our concerns to help the poor and for scientific inventions and developments to fight illnesses that attack millions of people due to lack of doctors and effective medicines to combat different maladies.
For people to be raised with Christ means that they must be taken down from the cross, enabling the poor, weak, discredited and suffering to share in Christ’s resurrection. That means that we have to convert the deprived sufferer’s cross into resurrection. It means too that we must take down the poor person from the cross, enabling him to share in the resurrection: life, well-being and reintegration into his nation. This way we can do much to collaborate and help in working to combat terrorism, violence and fundamentalism. Enable people to share in the resurrection - in a worthy, noble life. Give them their rights. Thus you will be able to eliminate a large part of the social disasters that most threaten our society. Without that, there is cold war, social chaos, in which there are no winners and we cannot tell whence that chaos comes, whither it tends or who will be its next victim. Often we notice that injustice in all its forms is the cause of violence, terrorism and fundamentalism. Those who are religious are very distant from all that and absolutely innocent. However, religion is used as a cover for it all. Religions and faith values are exploited for illegal and destructive goals.

That is the resurrection that Saint Paul speaks of in his epistles and that is the vision of the risen and living Jesus that is the basis for his conversion, mission and gospel. He lived the mystery of the resurrection in all its dimensions, through his apostolic journeys and continual, lifelong struggle to be able to proclaim the gospel of resurrection. He is truly the apostle of resurrection, explaining it marvellously, through his epistles, as we have shown above. Thus he reunited in an extraordinary way by his life, teachings and gospel, the cross and resurrection.

“..You are risen with Christ.”
“I am crucified with Christ.” But I am not crucified alone. That is what Saint Paul said. That is what we have explained in greater detail in the Lent Letter. This expression is couched in the present, of reality. It is completed by another expression of Saint Paul, a verse in which he describes himself as nailed to the cross. But immediately, he continues, further, “..Ye be risen with Christ,” again in the present tense, and in the future. He continues, “…Your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3: 3-4) That means that there is no cross without Jesus, and neither is there any resurrection without him.

That is the great Christian hope and that is the Great Feast. That hope, in all its earthly and divine dimensions, closes our Christian Creed, where we proclaim, “I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. Amen.”
In order to strengthen this hope in the hearts, souls and minds of our children, we would like to highlight some verses of Saint Paul in slogan-form:

For I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ.

Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

So shall we ever be with the Lord.

We look for a city which hath foundations.

The body is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory;

It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption,

And this mortal must put on immortality.

He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves,

But unto him which died for them, and rose again.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain.

The Lord Jesus Christ shall change our vile body,

That it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.

He died for us, that we should live together with him.



Earth and Heaven
Animating our life on earth are hopes of resurrection after death and an afterlife in heaven. We are sure that we are born to die, but we are equally certain that we shall die to live and be resurrected. That is what the Arab poet said, “How narrow is life if there is no room for hope.”

Through Christian doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus Christ there appears that profound relationship linking earth and heaven: Saint Paul expressed that, saying, “..Our conversation is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20) “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)

In fact the Christian is exposed all the time to a double temptation: not to link earth and heaven; not to link reality with his longings, meaning that either he contents himself with this earth and only works for earthly life, or perhaps he contents himself with heaven, living as an exile in beatific isolation and leaving earthly things to this world, ashes to ashes and dust to dust, no longer actively building and participating in society, but existing in a withered state, deadly for him and for others.

Christian faith in Jesus Christ’s resurrection helps the faithful to link earth and heaven. There is a well-known Arab saying, “Work for this world as though you were going to live for ever and work for eternity as though you were going to die tomorrow.” Not linking these two elements – life in this present world and the life to come - can lead to suicide, which is denial of life both here and hereafter and failure to understand its meaning and goal. It can also lead to atheism in which all convictions are destroyed. Suicide and atheism are two stances with the same false basis. On the former topic, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “There is no antithesis between hope for heaven and loyalty to the earth, since this hope is also hope for the earth. While we hope for something greater and definitive, we Christians may and must bring hope to that which is transitory, into the world of our states.” (See Cardinal J. Ratzinger, “Values in a Time of Upheaval” p.72, Ignatius Press 2006)

The history of the Church is witness to the fact that the Church Fathers and saints were not strangers to the earth or to the concerns of their fellow-citizens. We gave evidence of that in our Christmas Letter of 2003 entitled “Poverty and Development.” We explained how the Church worked through its saints and its welfare, cultural and health foundations and institutions to develop facilities and improve human living conditions. On the contrary, the true Christian who believes in resurrection and the life to come is most involved in social affairs and is at the service of his or her people. It is to that that Vatican II called us in the Preface of one its most important documents, “The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” published in 1965:

1. The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.

Saint Paul, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, wonders, “But some man will say, ‘How are the dead raised up?’” (I Corinthians 15:35) We have tried to explain this question through Saint Paul’s teaching. We should also like to answer this question, which is not peculiar to one or two individuals, but is everyone’s, through the story of two monks who were meditating together in Latin on this very question put by Saint Paul, “How will the dead be raised and how will our own body be raised? How will our body here differ from the one to come? Is the heavenly state what we imagine it to be or different from what we imagine? Is it a difference of modality (qualiter) or something else entirely (aliter)?” They agreed that whoever died first would try from heaven to answer the question for his friend. The first to die did indeed send a short, succinct message to his friend, “It is completely different. (Totaliter Aliter.)”

The Feast of the Resurrection in a Communist Prison
At the end of this Resurrection Letter, I would like to mention an event that I shall never forget and that expresses the power of faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

During the period of the Communist regime, a strange thing happened in one of the big Moscow prisons, during the Paschal Vigil of the glorious Resurrection. The meal had been served to the prisoners, as usual at five in the evening and they were locked into their big, cold, common dormitory. They tried to go to sleep, but to no avail. Warders were posted at the doors of the dormitory. Towards midnight, the time when the resurrection is usually proclaimed in churches, they had in their hearts a strong impression of sharing in that joy in the churches and with their families. In the middle of that dread night, in total darkness, one of the prisoners raised his voice and shouted as loud as he could, proclaiming, as does the Patriarch of Moscow, “Christ is risen!” (In Slavonic, “Khristos voskrese!”) At that, hundreds of prisoners got up on their beds and sang all together at the tops of their voices, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs he has given life.” The “Communist” warders, fellow Orthodox, joined with the prisoners to continue the whole resurrection service and celebrate the resurrection together in prison.

Our world has need of this shout, conviction and longing for resurrection. We pray for our sad world to be filled with yearnings for resurrection and for all people to sing together of their hopes for resurrection, life, peace, redemption and salvation.

A Bouquet for a Happy Feast
We offer these resurrection and Pauline meditations as a spiritual bouquet for the Day of the Glorious Resurrection to all our venerable brother bishops, to all our beloved priests, deacons, consecrated monks and nuns, seminarists, aspirants to the religious life, faithful Christian men and women dedicated outside religious life, to all our sons and daughters in all our eparchies, parishes, religious orders, convents and monasteries in Arab countries and throughout the world and we ask the Lord for them to remain faithful to their baptismal promises, which are resurrection promises, faithful to their historic title of children of the resurrection, living out the resurrection in all areas of their life, causing aspirations for resurrection to grow in their society.

Together we shall sing, without lukewarmness or weariness, proclaiming throughout the world, the good news of the glorious, radiant resurrection, “Christ is risen!” He is risen indeed, granting life to the world.

With my love and apostolic blessing,

Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Damascus 25 March 2009, Feast of the Annunciation of the Holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary



Translation from the French: V. Chamberlain

Friday, 10 April 2009

The Holodomor: An Act of Genocide against the Ukrainian People, 1932-33

The Holodomor or Holocaust against the Ukrainian people in 1932-33 was a man-made famine engineered by the USSR’s Bolshevik regime that took millions of Ukrainian lives. In all of the history of the human race it would be difficult to find a crime of a similar scale executed with such cruelty and total cynicism and the methods by which it was carried out. While the Soviet Union existed, the topic of the Holodomor was taboo, forbidden to be mentioned. Even the survivors were too terrified to speak of this atrocity in public. It was not until the Ukraine gained her independence in 1991 that the truth about this crime against humanity was brought to national consciousness. The Holodomor has become, for all Ukrainians, the great and tragic symbol of that nation’s suffering as well as the proof of the Ukrainian people’s will and ability to survive.

Joseph Stalin’s ruthless totalitarian regime was firmly entrenched in Russia by the late 1920s and breaking the spirit of the Ukraine was a priority for the dictator. Stalin was determined to impose his rule and the Ukraine was to be used as “an example to teach the other Soviet republics a lesson.” The Ukraine was to be destroyed and the first group to be liquidated were the intelligentsia and the prosperous farmers. The latter were described as “exploiters” and were to be destroyed, and the lesser farmers were to be collectivized so that the Party could have complete control over the countryside of the Ukraine. Wherever the Party discovered resistance to collectivization, they confiscated all food supplies and banned all travel. Famine, therefore, became the main weapon of mass destruction of the Ukrainian people. The aim was to create conditions that doomed millions of farmers and country dwellers to starvation. The first step was the confiscation of all food resources. The ban on travel was to ensure that the population was totally isolated and unable to escape to search for food. In the autumn of 1932 the government’s actions bore all the marks of genocide as defined by the Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United General Assembly on 9th December 1948. Eye witnesses who survived the famine told terrible tales of what occurred:
‘There were five girls and two boys in our family. What little grain we had, father hid in the cattle-shed for sowing. But then the brigades started going from house to house. Our turn came. The brigade broke into our house and told father: “If there is any hidden bread, you’d better tell us, because if we find it, we’ll take away everything to the last kernel.” Our family was large, we were crying, begging them. My father answered there was some barley for sowing. When my father sowed the pit in the cattle-shed with some barley and wheat in the attic, they took away everything and swept the attic with a broom. Famine began. We searched the woods for some berries, but there were more people than berries. There was nothing. Even grass was torn up. What can be said? People were dying every day. Our family was large. So we started going separate ways. Our relatives took my eldest sister to a mine. My mother took away my youngest sister, Varia, and left her near a children’s home in the city of Izium. Later I was also taken to my sister in Donbas. My sister Paraskeva died at home, and Dymtro, born in 1912, walked away somewhere, and I do not know where he is to date. Regarding my mother and father, they starved to death at home.’
Kateryna Stepanivna Pavlenko, Born 1920, Chystovodivka, Izium raion, Kharkiv oblast.

To remember the Holodomor and its victims a large gathering of Ukrainians and their supporters gathered from all over the United Kingdom at the Central Methodist Hall in London, earlier this year, and in the presence of the Ukrainian Ambassador and representative of the Foreign Office heard the testimonies of those who had survived. At this ceremony the son of Malcolm Muggeridge received a decoration from the Ambassador to honour his father, who when he was The Times correspondent in Moscow was the only journalist to report on the horrors happening in the Ukraine. Up to that time Malcolm Muggeridge had been a sympathizer with the Bolshevik Revolution and a Fellow Traveller, but the Holodomor was an eye-opener to him, and led eventually to his reception into the Catholic Church.

Following the gathering in the Methodist Central Hall the participants processed to Westminster Abbey for Evensong and were welcomed by the Dean. The Abbey officials had not bargained on such a huge turnout and the Abbey was packed. The service was followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the Martyrs’ Memorial in the forecourt and the singing of a Panikhida by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox clergy and choirs. The Society was represented by The Revd. Dr. Athanasius McVay and Fr. John Salter and Mr Alan Worsfold and Mr Jonathan Bolton-Dignam.


Monday, 6 April 2009

Orientale Lumen Conference XIII - Washinton


The Orientale Lumen XIII Conference is now all set for June 15-18, 2009 at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, DC on the theme of "Monastic Spirituality for Everyday Life." Jack Figel, Conference Chairman and and National Chiarman of the Society of St John Chrysostom in the United States, writes:

I am very hopeful that this ONE conference for 2009 (rather than the three locations we had last year) will bring everyone together in one place and foster more "face-to-face" ecumenical dialogue and exchange of understanding among Eastern Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Oriental Orthodox.

We have quite an interesting mixture of speakers this year. Let me tell you a little about them and why they will be particularly exciting to come and hear. They will include:

  • Metropolitan Jonah, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America -- a year ago, Archimandrite Jonah was a monastic on the West Coast and after being elected and consecrated bishop last summer, he gave a stunning speech at the OCA Sobor which then elected him their leader. We are very honored that he has agreed to be with us for most of the conference agenda, will serve a Divine Liturgy for the Orthodox participants, and will surely have some unique ideas about monasticism for the every day life of lay persons and clergy alike.
  • Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, Ukrainain Greek Catholic Church, Kyiv, Ukraine -- I have known Bishop Hlib for almost ten years, meeting him in Rome several times when I accompanied Archbishop Vsevolod there. He has also attended both Orientale Lumen Conferences in Constantinople, accompanying Cardinal Husar there in May 2007. He is responsible for Monastic Matters of the Patriarchal Curia of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church along with other jobs and has family (his brother is Father Taras Lonchyna, pastor of Church of the Holy Trinity in Silver Spring, MD) in the Washington area and is American born. I am certain he will also provide a wonderful perspective on monastic life for lay persons.
  • Mother Lois Farag, Coptic Orthodox Church, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN -- Mother Lois earned her doctorate in Early Christian Studies at the Catholic University of America and also holds an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School She attended several of the early OL conferences while a student in Washington. She teaches Early Church History at Luther Seminary and is doing research on a book project related to the conference theme of spirituality. She will have a special perspective for the conference working in Church history, teaching at a Lutheran-oriented college, and being from the Coptic Orthodox tradition.
  • Sister Barbara Jean Mihalchick, OSBM, Retreat Center Director, Mt. St. Macrina, Uniontown, PA -- In addition to her current position of directing and giving retreats to a wide range of participants, Sister Barbara Jean was also the Vicar General (number two) of the Order of Saint Basil the Great at their world headquarters in Rome for some 12 years. She has traveled the world, visiting Basilian monasteries and other religious institutions in many places, and will bring a wealth of experience for our spiritual journey of "theosis," becoming like God.
  • Professor Richard Schneider, Orthodox Church in America, Director of the Orthodox Eastern Studies Program at Trinity College, Toronto, Canada -- Prof. Schneider has been a speaker at the last three OL conferences, 2007 on Icons and 2008 on Feastdays in the US, and at OL EuroEast II on Liturgy in Constantinople. He has a unique perspective of understanding and learning from icons that he refers to as "iconology," and will apply that to personal spirituality and growth in our Christian journey.
  • Mr. Elias Damianakis, Greek Orthodox Church, Iconographer and Lecturer -- Mr. Damianakis has been studying and living the spirituality of an iconographer for many years, and has developed a well-respected studio of iconography which not only has decorated many churches around the world, but also produced icons for the Vatican and Ecumenical Patriarchate. His talk will bring iconography and spirituality together, and he will also display an exhibit of icons and the process of painting an icon at the conference.
  • Father John Crossin, OSFS, Executive Director of the Washington Theological Consortium and President of the North American Academy of Ecumenists -- Father Crossin has written several books on spirituality, teaches courses on ecumenism, and served as the moderator of OL XII East in Washington last year. We welcome him back as moderator this year, and as an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, he brings a unique perspective to spirituality.
So as you can see, this lineup is quite exciting and will provide some very unique perspectives on individual spirituality. This year's agenda for OL XIII will be a little like Noah's ark -- two by two! We have two bishops, two nuns, and two lay men! It will be fun, exciting, and spiritually rewarding. To reflect current economic conditions, we’ve lowered the cost, and the airline and gasoline prices are as low as two years ago, so come and join us!

More details and registration information can be found here at the Conference website.


Friday, 3 April 2009

Archbishop of Westminster


We are delighted to learn that the Holy Father Pope Benedict has appointed Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, England, as metropolitan archbishop of Westminster and thus, in due course, the ex officio president of the Pontifical Society.

He will succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, for whose support and encouragement to the Eastern Catholics in England and the work of East-West understanding and Christian unity we are deeply grateful.