Κυριακή, 8 Απριλίου 2018

Christ is Risen (in Africa)! Orthodox Holy Easter (Pascha): the resurrection of the race of mankind

 
THEODOROS II
BY THE GRACE OF GOD POPE AND PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA AND ALL AFRICA
TO THE PLENITUDE OF OUR APOSTOLIC AND PATRIARCHAL THRONE
GRACE AND MERCY AND PEACE FROM OUR RISEN LORD AND GOD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST
 
The Orthodox Holy Icon of Resurrection of Christ 
or The descent into Hades (from here - more here)
 
 
“You killed the author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15)
 
My dear brothers and sisters,
The Apostles testify and the world celebrates. The Apostles confess and the world rejoices. The Apostles assert and the world believes. That truly the Creator of our life is risen. That truly the Author of our life is risen.
That truly the Renovator of our life is risen. Nonetheless, can the light of the Resurrection overcome the thickening darkness of human history? Can the message of the Resurrection freely reach out to every one of our brothers and sisters in Christ, to every person of good will? Or does the Prophet still wonder: “Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another?” (Malachi 2:10).
When God created us, He did so voluntarily. And when He re-created us through His Only Son, He did so without us offering anything in advance. However, the Kingdom of God, in other words our union with God, will only occur if we desire God; only if we seek God; only if we existentially set as our first priority the will of God.
The Apostolic faith concerning God’s will is clear: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” (Acts 10:34-35). Entering the Kingdom of God only requires the fear of God as a respect for His will, and the righteousness of God as the fruit of His will.
What do we do? We set aside the fear of God. We consider the fear of God to supposedly discredit our ego. Moreover we distort God’s righteousness. We see it through the deforming lenses of nation, race, color, or diversity. And we come to the point of burying under successive layers of elements of identity the one and only element that unites us all: our common origin from God.
We forget that a Samaritan man became the model of compassionate philanthropy. We forget that a Samaritan woman became the model of heartfelt alteration. We forget that a prostitute became the model of saving repentance. We forget that the thief of the eleventh hour became the first inhabitant of Paradise. We forget that the only distinction that should exist on a human level is the one that distinguishes our brothers and sisters as those who are self-sufficient and those who are in need of help. 
 
Patriarch Theodoros, Holy Saturday 2018 (from here). He is throwing in the temple laurel leaves, symbols of glory, for the victory of Christ against death.
 
My dear brothers and sisters,
Today as we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord and open our homes to share our joy, let us keep in mind the will of God. Christ said: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed”. (Luke 14:12-14).
Why should we invite all those people in need? Our holy predecessor, the Patriarch of tangible love, St John the Merciful, gave the answer: "For indeed they can help us inherit the Kingdom of Heaven." It is not just that our brothers and sisters need us. We have a much greater need of them, because our brothers and sisters who are in need hold the keys of Paradise.
It is with this faith that we walk through the Africa of the nations, the Africa of the tribes, the Africa of diverse cultures. Not with the faith of the intellect, but with the faith of the heart. Not with ideological faith, but with humanistic faith. Not with faith that shows favoritism, but with the faith that in the person of every brother or sister we meet in Africa, in the Continent of hope, Christ may be hidden, the Author of Life!
 
Christ is Risen!
† THEODOROS II
POPE AND PATRIARCH OF ALEXNADRIA AND ALL AFRICA
In the Great City of Alexandria
Pascha 2018
 
Great and Holy Saturday


Orthodox Holy Metropolis of Zambia & Malawi
 
This is the Blessed Sabbath. The “Great and Holy Sabbath” is the day which connects Good Friday, the commemoration of the Cross, with the day of His Resurrection. To many the real nature and the meaning of this “connection”, or “middle day”, remains obscure. For a good majority of churchgoers, the “important” days of Holy Week are Friday and Sunday, the Cross and the Resurrection. These two days, however, remain somehow “disconnected.” There is a day of sorrow, and then, there is the day of joy. In this sequence, sorrow is simply replaced by joy, but according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, expressed in Her Liturgical tradition, the nature of this sequence is not that of a simple replacement. The Church proclaims that Christ has “trampled death by death.”
It means that even before the Resurrection, an event takes place, in which the sorrow is not simply replaced by joy, but is itself transformed into joy. Great Saturday is precisely this day of transformation, the day when victory grows from inside the defeat, when before the Resurrection, we are given to contemplate the death of death itself. All this is expressed, and even more, all this really takes place every year in this marvelous morning service, in this liturgical commemoration which becomes for us a saving and transforming present.
On coming to the Church on the morning of Holy Saturday, Friday has just been liturgically completed. The sorrow of Friday is, therefore, the initial theme, the starting point of Matins of Saturday. It begins as a funeral service, as a lamentation over a dead body. After the singing of the funeral troparia and a slow censing of the church, the celebrants approach the Epitaphion. We stand at the grave of our Lord, we contemplate His death. Psalm 119 is sung and to each verse we add a special “praise”, which expresses the horror of men, and of the whole creation, before the death of Jesus:
“O all ye mountains and hills, and all ye gatherings of men,”
“Mourn, weep and lament with me, the Mother of your God”

"The rain could not stop us proceeding from St George and cosmas in kitaor to St Nectarios in Chebugundi, the priests were Fr Methodios,Fr Andrea and I Fr Leontios. It was really awesome. May you have blessed Pascha." (Western Kenya, Orthodox priests and parishioners walked 7km in the rain during the procession!). More here.
 
And yet, from the beginning, along with this initial theme of sorrow and lamentation, a new theme makes its appearance and will become more and more apparent. We find it, first of all, in Psalm 119 – “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.”
The death of Christ is the ultimate proof of His love for the will of God, of His obedience to His Father. It is an act of pure obedience, of full trust in the Father’s will; and for the Church it is precisely this obedience to the end, this perfect humility of the Son that constitutes the foundation, the beginning of His victory. The Father desires this death, the Son accepts it, revealing an unconditional faith in the perfection of the Father’s will, in the necessity of this sacrifice of the Son by the Father. Psalm 119 is the psalm of that obedience, and therefore the announcement that in obedience the triumph has begun.
But why does the Father desire this death? Why is it necessary? The death of Christ is described as His descent into Hades. “Hades” in the concrete Biblical language means the realm of death, which God has not created and which He did not want; it also signifies that the Prince of this world is all powerful in the world. Satan, Sin, Death – these are the “dimensions” of Hades, its content. For sin comes from Satan and Death is the result of sin – “sin entered the world, and death by sin.” (Romans 5:12).


Photo: Holy Friday 2018 in Kitwe,Zambia (here)

The entire universe after the fall had become a cosmic cemetery, it was condemned to destruction and despair. And this is why death is “the last enemy,” (1 Corinthians 15:20) and its destruction constitutes the ultimate goal of the Incarnation. This encounter with death is the “hour” of Christ of which He said that “for this hour have I come.” (John 12:27) Now this hour has come and the Son of God enters into Death. The Holy Fathers of the Church usually describe this moment as a duel between Christ and Death, Christ and Satan. For this death was to be either the last triumph of Satan, or his decisive defeat. The duel develops in several stages. At first, the forces of evil seem to triumph. The Righteous One is crucified, abandoned by all, and endures a shameful death.
He also becomes the partaker of “Hades,” of this place of darkness and despair. But at this very moment, the real meaning of this death is revealed. The One who dies on the Cross has Life in Himself, i.e., He has life not as a gift from outside, a gift which therefore can be taken away from Him, but as His own Essence. For He is the Life and the Source of all life. “In Him was Life and Life was the light of man.” The man Jesus dies, but this Man is the Son of God. As man, He can really die, but in Him, God Himself enters the realm of death. This is the unique, the incomparable meaning of Christ’s death. In it, the man who dies is God, or to be more exact, the God-Man. God is the Holy Immortal; and only in the unity “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation” of God and Man in Christ can human death be “assumed” by God and be overcome and destroyed from within, be “trampled down by death.”
Death is Overcame by Life Now we understand why God desires that death, why the Father gives His Only Begotten Son to it. He desires the salvation of man. Hence the necessity of the Incarnation and the necessity of that Divine death. Death was not only destroyed by God, but was overcome and trampled down in human nature itself by man and through man.
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15;21) Sabbath, the seventh day, achieves and completes the history of salvation, its last act being the overcoming of death. But after the Sabbath comes the first day of a new creation, of a new life born from the grave.
However, we are still in Great Saturday before Christ’s tomb, and we have to live through this long day, before we hear at midnight ‘Christ is Risen!’, before we enter into the celebration of His Resurrection. Thus, the third lesson — Matthew 27:62-66 – which completes the service, tells us once more about the Tomb – ‘which was made secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.” But it is probably here, at the end of Matins, that the ultimate meaning of this “middle day” is made manifest. Christ arose again from the dead. His Resurrection we will celebrate the next day on Pascha (Easter). This celebration, however, commemorates a unique event of the past, and anticipates a mystery of the future. It is already His Resurrection, but not yet ours.
We will have to die, to accept the dying, the separation, the destruction. Our reality in this world, is the reality of the Great Saturday; this day is the real image of our human condition. We believe in the Resurrection, because Christ has risen from the dead. We expect the Resurrection. We know that Christ’s death is no longer the hopeless ultimate end of everything, Baptised into His death, we partake already of His life that came out of the grave. We receive His Body and Blood, which are the food of immortality. We have in ourselves the token, the anticipation of the eternal life. All our Christian existence is measured by these acts of communion to the life of the “new eon” of the Kingdom, and yet we are here, and death is our inescapable share. But this life between the Resurrection of Christ and the day of the common resurrection, is it not precisely the life in the Great Saturday? Is not expectation the basic and essential category of Christian experience? We wait in love, hope and faith. We wait for “the Resurrection and the life of the world to come” (see Nicene Creed).
Every year, on Great and Holy Saturday, after this morning service, we wait for the Easter night and the fullness of Paschal joy. We know that they are approaching — and yet, how slow is this approach, how long is this day! But is not the wonderful quiet of Great Saturday the symbol of our very life in this world? Are we not always in this “middle day,” waiting for the Pascha of Christ, preparing ourselves for the day without evening of His Kingdom?

Easter Message 2018 by the Orthodox Metropolitan Elder Jonah Lwanga.

Uganda Orthodox Church

“Come Oh People Let us drink A new beverage! Not from a barren rock (Ex 17:16) Miraculously called forth! But from the fountain Of Immortality (Jn 4:14) Springing from the tomb Of Christ! In Whom we are founded!”

DEAR MY CHILDREN IN CHRIST / VIEWERS / LISTENERS !!
Christ is Risen!

Photo from here

One of the main objectives in the incarnation of the Word of God the Father, in the person of Christ, was to bring, prepare and clearly shed light on the matter of the resurrection of the race of mankind. “Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven Mt 22:23-33, (Mk 12:18-27, Lk 20:27-40). But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living!” Ex 3:6, 15; Ac 7:32. The resurrection is the most important gospel of the Prophets Is 26:19; (Is 66:22-24, Ez 37:3-27). The resurrection is the gospel message in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross (Gal 6:14). This is also the gospel message of all the Apostles, and all ecclesiastical people to the whole world that: “Christ is risen from the dead! Trampling down death by death! And upon those in the tomb bestowing life!”
The lesson from the above is that, on one hand, we have the birth of the Son of God, that we celebrate annually every December; and on the other hand, not death as such, but with the resurrection, in the person of Jesus Christ, which we preach to the whole world, to every person who is conscious.
Although, the gospel of the prophets, apostles and ecclesiastical people on the Birth and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is good, to many people in this world, it is one that is difficult to understand, believe and perceive. This is so because, if this very good gospel of the Risen Christ was easy for all to understand, believe and perceive, even ourselves here in Uganda of today we would not be as we are, especially in the way of morality. The truth is that the preachers of this good gospel have repeatedly spoken against our way of morality. What kind of person (except one who is not conscious) having well understood the gospel of the resurrection of the race of mankind, with all the given examples of the New Testament, would continue to behave in the same way and live a life without change; Mt 9:18-26, (Mk 5:22-43, Lk 7:11-17; 8:41-56, Jn 11: 1-43). The rampant killings taking place in our country these days contradict our standard of Christianity. Our standard of Christianity must be a little different (must portray growth in the Christian way of life), for the rampant killings and such vices as embezzlement and corruption to be eradicated from amongst us. This is because people who claim to know God and believe to be in Christ’s image, and who have hope in the resurrection and everlasting life, cannot behave in that manner without repentance and confession of their actions.


The Christian faith, in itself, is the fulfillment of the whole ancient revelation, from our early ancestors till today, saying that; “a fulfilled person is the purpose of creation both visible and invisible (Gen 1:26). But who is that fulfilled person? Listen to the Holy Apostle, Paul, the theologian, concerning a fulfilled person: “The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Cor 15;15).” From this, one is led to understand that there is a difference between those two beings. The first is earthly or human and is directed by the body. The second is personable and is directed by the Spirit. All of us develop like that from infancy. The Apostle Paul adds that “The spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual (1 Cor 15:46).” What is it the Apostle Paul is referring to here? It is definitely our nature created afresh.
As humanity we were created in the human material-psychic nature. However, through God’s Grace, we are transformed into the divine spiritual nature as persons in the likeness of God (Gn 2:7, 1 Cor 12:3-). In this divine nature, the last Adam is the prototype just as the first Adam is the prototype in the human material-psychic nature. And here lie exactly the root of the problems of the actualization of our life as human persons. This is because our spiritual nature fails to control itself and to direct our human material-psychic nature Gn 2:16-17; 3:1-24, Rom 7:22-23. Whereas, in the actual sense, or according to the law of immortality, the divine spiritual nature was meant to direct the human material-psychic nature. This way, the human being would be transformed and initiated into a person in the image and likeness of God.
Because of all these, although most people find it a problem to understand or believe the gospel of the resurrection of the human race, in the person of Jesus Christ our Savior Who rose from the dead, and the benefit from that belief; the prophets and Apostles plus all the preachers as well as the other ecclesiastical people, proclaim that: The Risen Christ is the Lord and King of the spiritual people and who are personalities cleansed and perfected for the Kingdom of God on earth (Col 1:15-23).
As we conclude, we wish His Excellence, the President , Yoweri Museveni and his family, His Excellence, the Vice President, Edward Ssekandi, Ministers, Members of Judiciary, Members of Parliament, His Highness Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda II, Nabagereka Sylivia Nnaginda, Cultural Leaders, Religious Leaders and all Ugandans to appreciate more the purpose of the Incarnation of the Divinity into Christ, the objective of all His teachings, His crucifixion to the Cross, His Resurrection, Ascension into heaven, the descend of the Holy Spirit to His chosen in different ways and the meaning of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, preaching the Resurrection.

CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED IS RISEN!
+ Metropolitan Elder Jonah Lwanga. Uganda Orthodox Church

See also


The new spring issue of our “Orthodox Mission” magazine is now available online with news from 11  Orthodox missionary divisions, an annual report and wishes from two Patriarchs. (Read it online in English here & here!)

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