A Pastoral Letter for Holy and Glorious Pascha, 2016.

Arabic Version Here – pascha_letter_2016_a_.pdf

The Most Reverend
ROBERT RABBAT
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,
and to the Subdeacons, the Religious and to All the Faithful of our Holy Eparchy,
which is most beloved of Christ,
A Pastoral Letter for Holy and Glorious Pascha, 2016.

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Let us reclaim the Feast of Feasts, lest Jesus weeps over us as He wept over Jerusalem!

The society in which we live is one dominated by visual images; the literary or linguistic component of the message has become secondary. Look at any successful advertisement in the press – the image, usually an award-level photograph provides the important information supported only by a brief written message – often simply a slogan. And, should anyone doubt the power of the oft repeated slogan just consider one of the success stories in modern marketing history – Coca Cola. (The ‘Hilltop’ ad)

Those of us who are of a certain age have lived through a communications revolution. Some of us learned to write with a steel nibbed pen dipped in ink, whereas, children today in the junior school are proficient in the use of the laptop, the iPad, the smart phone, etc., and we can but guess what information savvy future awaits our young technocrats.

It is sadly possible that the noisy fallout from this modern electronic Tower of Babel is capable of obscuring even the central truths of our Faith. Misused over and over again, the error replaces the truth; and given the visual messages with which we are daily assaulted, the truth gives way to the idolatrous and the phoney. Even a comparatively simple celebration such as the feast of the third century Roman priest-martyr, Valentine, has been hijacked and distorted by international commercial interests.

Consider that Lent had not yet even commenced and certain chain stores were selling Easter eggs and hot cross buns; and, of course, Holy Saturday is constantly referred to as Easter Saturday in almost every public notice that one sees. Are some people afraid to call a day “holy” – especially a day of such significance for Christians.

We might well ask ourselves if in some ways we contribute to the decline in a sense of the sacred; and, at the Great Feasts of the Year how much of the damage is because we should know better, indeed often we do know better, but so frequently we do the inappropriate because “everyone else does.”

What difference does it make if I forego the preparation and giving of a real egg at Easter, and spend up big on chocolate eggs and confectionary treats as presents. The answer is simple. If, in any large shopping centre, we can see un-believers buying Easter eggs as confectionary then the chocolate egg as a Resurrection symbol has lost its meaning. This is but one thing that is out of step in our celebration of Easter. However, if we decide to give chocolate eggs and sweets at Easter, let the giving at least be accompanied by the Easter greeting, “Christ is Risen!”

The Church’s year is a cycle of Feasts and Fasts. The centre of this liturgical cycle is, of course, Easter, the Pascha of the Lord, the Feast of Feasts. Perhaps a first simple and easy step in reclaiming Easter is one that involves the rediscovery of the sanctification of time. For at least the first week after Easter, and it should be for the forty Paschal days, we replace the usual greetings, such as hello or good morning, good afternoon or goodnight, with Christ is Risen!  or   ! المسيح قام or  Χριστός ἀνέστη! – to which the reply, He is truly Risen.

In all history, these are the most important words ever spoken. Yet, do these Easter greetings become part of our speech during the blessed season of Pascha or are they left at the church door as we leave after the Resurrection service, as we pass from the Light to the darkness, as we go from God’s time to the world’s time.

It saddens me to think that the reclamation of Christmas as a Christian festival is perhaps not possible; and although it would seem that Easter is slowly but surely going the same way, the situation is not irretrievable.

The time to begin this recovery of Easter is now, and we should start with the children of our Community. We should use the Easter greetings and encourage our children to do the same.

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

During this Great and Holy Week, as we have participated in the liturgical services, we have journeyed with our Saviour through the days of his sufferings and life-giving death, from the house of the Saints-at-Bethany to the garden tomb at Calvary (Cf. John 11-21), so that we can say,  “Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am made alive with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him.” (St Gregory Nazianzus. Oration 1, On Easter)

Now, our Saviour invites us to share in his glorious Resurrection. In his catechetical letter for Easter, St John Chrysostom reminds us that the Risen Lord calls us to the celebration regardless of our own Lenten efforts.

This Blessed Night, we remember those of the Household of the Faith who are unable to celebrate the Feast because of a barely disguised hostility or an overt and violent persecution. How fortunate are we to live in a land free of the prejudices so common in less happy places. However, we must keep watch lest little by little our hard won liberties are whittled away by those touting a crude anti-Christian secularism. As St Peter warns the Community, “Be sober and ever vigilant.” (1 Pet 5:8)

Let us also remember those in our neighbourhoods who are unable to join us in prayers tonight. They are the housebound because of old age or ill health. They are those who have no family or kinfolk. They are the abandoned, the unemployed and the fearful. They are those whose faith have lapsed over the years or never knew of Jesus. How much they would appreciate a plate of food, a sweet, a kind word of hope, an assurance of friendship.

As we go forth to greet the Risen Lord and as the Paschal Proclamation pierces the darkness, my thoughts are with you and my prayers are for you.

Christ is Risen! المسيح قام ! Χριστός ἀνέστη!

With my paternal blessing, and with prayers assured,

+ Robert Rabbat, DD
Eparch

From our Eparchy at Greenacre, NSW
Holy Easter, Glorious Pascha, 2016.