THE EASTER MESSAGE OF HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP GABRIEL OF COMANE, EXARCH OF THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Christ is Risen !
Greater love hath no man than this : that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
If I have chosen to pick out the words that Christ left to His apostles a few hours before His Passion, passed on to us by Saint John, this is because they contain two key words that relate to the Lord’s Resurrection : love and life. In fact, if we are rejoicing on this day in our families, our parish communities and monasteries, it is because of the great love that Jesus had for every one of us and because it opens to us the Life that He offers us.
We all need love, and we are called to life. It is a universal reality, shared by all men on earth : life without love is meaningless.
We who are Christians must testify to love. We can, of course, talk about it, but, much more, we must live it - the most convincing way of expressing this. It is what the Lord did : He loved us to the point of giving His life for us. His death and Resurrection are the two sides of the one seal that He set on our hearts once and for all.
Yes, Easter is a great and lovely feast, recording as it does a ‘passing’, a crossing ; this is the meaning of the word Pessah in Hebrew. It is a joyous feast that we are celebrating, for Christ passed victoriously through death, and this ‘passing’ is definitive. But let us turn our attention to the fact that, if Christ’s Resurrection is an event recorded in history, it is not static or frozen in time. From that day onwards, the Lord continues to ‘pass through’ our lives, offering His love to us here on earth and for all eternity. It is at every moment of our daily lives that the Lord holds out His hand to us, saying : ‘I’m offering you My love if you want it !’ Let us look at what this means in reality.
When we look at our lives, the lives of all men on earth, we are tempted to sadness, and we could say like the writer of Ecclesiastes : All is vanity and vexation of spirit (Eccl. 2:17). So many misfortunes, so much shattered love ! Serious illness, unexpected accidents, old age in which everything is on the decline : all can exhaust us. Many young people are unsure about their future and are beset with anguish, sometimes seeking substitutes with no tomorrow.
Faced with these fears, this anguish, we must remember that Great Friday comes before Easter. We must return in our thoughts to Gethsemane : My soul is troubled even unto death, and to the Crucifixion : My God, why hast Thou forsaken me ? We will then understand that the Resurrection is not just a simple, delightful family feast, but is a real surging forth, a hymn to life and love ! If Christ accepted suffering, humiliation (kenosis), exclusion, rejection, terrible solitude, abandoning by His apostles and, in the end, death on the Cross, it is so that, through the mystery of the Resurrection that followed, we may have no more fear.
Later, Thomas was to be invited by the Lord to place his hand in the wound caused by the lance at the Crucifixion. This gesture was for every one of us : in touching Christ’s side, the Apostle received, as a gift, God’s infinite love and an open path to life. Then our doubts, brought about by our manifold terrors and tribulations, are transformed into great hope and an act of faith : My Lord and my God ! (Jn 20:28). Yes, as the Lord said to Thomas, He says to each of us : ‘I offer you My love and my life if you want them.’ And it is for us that Christ says : Blessed are they that have not seen but yet have believed ! (Jn 20:29).
The Lord’s Resurrection, therefore, reveals to us the real purpose of the mystery of the Cross : the supreme love of the Lord Jesus for us, for all men on earth.
Dear fathers, brothers and sisters,
On this great and resplendent feast, I embrace you all with great love and great joy ! We are now risen with Christ ; we have seen the true light, and it is the divine Life that henceforth flows in our veins !
Christ is risen !
He is risen indeed !
Paris, April 2nd/15th 2012
Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky, Paris
+ Archbishop Gabriel of Comana
Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch