His All Holiness, BARTHOLOMEW, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch is the 270th successor of the 2,000 year-old local Christian Church founded by St. Andrew the Apostle. As Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew occupies the First Throne of the Orthodox Christian Church and presides in a fraternal spirit among all the Orthodox Primates.
Following is the homily given by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during the Joint Prayer Service with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
“Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matt. 28.5-6)
Your Holiness and dearly beloved brother in Christ,
Your Beatitude Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem, much loved brother and concelebrant in the Lord,
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, and very reverend representatives of the Christian churches and confessions,
Esteemed brothers and sisters,
It is with awe, emotion and respect that we stand before “the place where the Lord lay,” the life-giving tomb from which life emerged. And we offer glory to the all-merciful God, who rendered us, as His unworthy servants, worthy of this supreme blessing to become pilgrims in the place where the mystery of the world’s salvation transpired. “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” (Gen. 28.17)
We have come as the myrrh-bearing women, on the first day of the week, “to see the sepulcher” (Matt. 28.1), and we too, like they, hear the angelic exhortation: “Do not be afraid.” Remove from your hearts every fear; do not hesitate; do not despair. This Tomb radiates messages of courage, hope and life.
The first and greatest message from this empty Sepulcher is that death, “this last enemy” of ours (see 1 Cor. 15.26), the source of all fears and passions, has been conquered; it no longer holds the final word in our life. It has been overcome by love, by Him, who voluntarily accepted to endure death for the sake of others. Every death for the sake of love, for the sake of another, is transformed into life, true life. “Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down death, and to those in the tombs He has granted life.”
Do not, then, be afraid of death; but do not also be afraid of evil, despite any form that this might assume in our life. The Cross of Christ amassed all the arrows of evil: hatred, violence, injustice, pain, humiliation – everything that is suffered by the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the exploited, the marginalized and the disgraced in our world. However, rest assured – all of you who are crucified in this life – that, just as in the case of Christ, the Cross is followed by the Resurrection; that hatred, violence and injustice have no prospect; and that the future belongs to justice, love and life. Therefore, you should work toward this end with all the resources that you have in love, faith and patience.
Nonetheless, there is another message that emanates from this venerable Tomb, before which we stand at this moment.
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