Arabic Version as PDF here
The Most Reverend
by the Mercy of God
Melkite Greek-Catholic Eparch of Australia and New Zealand
to the Priests and Deacons, my Fellow Ministers at the Altar,
to the Religious and to All the Faithful of our Holy Eparchy,
which is most beloved of Christ,
a Pastoral Letter for Easter, Holy and Glorious Pascha, 2017.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“…you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” (Rom 13:11)
Even a casual survey of our society suggests that there has been a blurring of seasonal time and of place. We no longer buy foodstuffs when they are in season because occasional goods are in the supermarkets all year. Modern transport means that roses picked in South America can be given to someone special here in Australia within twenty-four hours. The seven-day working week does not allow for a Sabbath together. There is no longer a common day of rest for individuals or families.
That the world is now a small place, and the “restructuring” of time, have consequences not only for our daily secular lives but also for our spirituality. This is especially true when we recall that our liturgical year, as a cycle of fasts and feasts, is a product of a time when religion was at the very heart of daily existence.
I recently saw an Easter card that wished the recipient a Happy Egg Hunt Sunday; and, of course, no sooner had we taken down our Christmas decorations than the supermarkets were selling hot cross buns and Easter eggs. In some shopping centres the large holiday time tables no longer even give the Easter days a name but simply provide a calendar date and the proposed business hours. Lest we offend the minority.
These examples, and many others, perhaps at first seem trivial, if not pedantic. However, they are a warning to us not to become complacent. The early Greek Fathers of the Church spoke of acedia, ἀκηδία – a lack of concern, negligence, a spiritual fatigue. The holy abbot, St John Cassian (c.360-435AD) writes, “all the inconveniences of this disease are admirably expressed by David in a single verse, where he says, ‘My soul is tired from weariness’ (Ps 119:28) that is, from acedia” – and for us, the sleep-inducing lullaby is the sound of the cash register and the stupefying potions are unseemly amounts of chocolate!
Some years ago, it was common for conference speakers to highlight the importance of maintaining a sense of wonder. In our increasingly commercialized society, in which seasons and festivals are shaped by the market place, there is an undeniable and ever present assault on our sense of wonder. Unfortunately, it would be so easy to surrender to the “secular” Easter, the Christ-less Pascha; and to do so simply because amidst aisle after aisle of chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies, and suffering acedia, spiritual boredom, we have forgotten what the Feast is all about.
While theologians and others may well debate some of the finer points of belief, along with localized apparitions and supposed incidents of the miraculous, the great Christological Mysteries are not up for negotiation. At this season of the liturgical year, we are reminded that we are different from those who see Jesus Christ as a great but deluded teacher, a well-meaning but failed rabbi or a prophet who escaped the cross; and we are reminded that this difference is because we follow a crucified Lord who is risen in glory from the dead. As St Paul reminds the Corinthians, “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1Cor 1:23)
This Easter, the Blessed and Glorious Pascha of the Lord, let us resolve to awake from spiritual boredom, from debilitating acedia. Let us greet the Risen Lord with a renewed sense of wonder. This my Easter prayer for each of you; that your hearts and minds will be caught up into the wonder which is at the very heart of our Faith, “Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen.”
This year is one blessed with a common date for Holy Pascha. Greet our Orthodox Brothers and Sisters with much love and great joy. Assure them that the Melkite Catholic Church throughout the world prays for a resolution to the divided celebration.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As I was preparing this Easter message, there came news of the atrocities committed against our Coptic brethren in Egypt. I urge you not to become distanced from the nature of these crimes because of our numbing exposure to repetitious news broadcast. It is far better to take heed of the Prophet Isaiah who warns us, “In the midst of life, we are in death.” (2 Kings 20) Pray for these new martyrs, who, like the priests mentioned by Jesus, were murdered between the altar and the temple gates. (Cf. Mt 23:35) And in your charity, bring yourselves to pray for the conversion of their demon-deluded killers, who lost their path in life away from the Way our Lord Jesus Christ has drawn for all humanity to follow.
May this Glorious Pascha be for each of you, and those dear to you, a time of countless graces and the choicest blessings from Above.
Christ is Risen! !المسيح قام Χριστός ἀνέστη!
With Easter prayers assured and with my paternal blessing,
Robert Rabbat, DD
From our Eparchy at Greenacre, New South Wales
15 April 2017.