Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens
My beloved brothers and sisters, my beloved children,
At this time of the year, we hear the encouraging words: ‘Let no-one fear death; for the death of the Savior has set us free’.
We look forward expectantly to the resurrection of the dead. This hope of ours, which is an insult to reason, remains the last great source of meaning for people and the world. It’s the risen Christ who illumines history, with its high points but also with the darkness of the human vicissitudes which accompany it. He sheds light and provides an explanation for the unanswered questions- ‘Why?’- which are full of pain. These often crush us and we pour them out like the cry of the saint of our literature [Alexandros Papadiamantis]: ‘As if the sufferings and heartaches of the world would ever come to an end’.
We’re still shocked by the tragedy in Tempi [a rail crash, on 28 February, 2023, which killed at least 57 people]. An agonizing reflection of the many pains we all bear, it accompanied this year’s journey to Easter. It left its mark on our conscience. It made many people think about the great questions.
If Christ didn’t rise, our faith is in vain, as our spiritual tradition confirms. It’s worth remembering that the risen Christ doesn’t look down with contempt on the human condition. The resurrection isn’t a dream of secular power. It’s he, who asked God the Father to let him avoid his sufferings, who was betrayed by one of his own people, who was mocked and scourged, who was wounded and bled profusely, who cried: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, and who died upon the cross. We saw him in Great Week, ‘covered in bruises’, defeated in the eyes of his disciples, finished from a human point of view and utterly humiliated.
This is the crucified Lord we worship; in him we believe. This defeated man, an affront and foolishness in himself, is God. Our Church tradition boldly proclaims: ‘God died; the blood of God on… the cross’. He abrogates the dominion of death, ‘for it was not possible for the Lord of life to be held by degradation’. Since he is both God and human, he raises humankind with him.
Human history, tragic circumstances, natural wickedness, the often inexplicable moral evil, and the torturous negation of our hopes on all levels are all called upon to participate in the transformational perspective of the resurrection. In opposition to decay, the dazzling joy of the resurrection. The risen Christ shows us the infinite possibilities that human nature, all of us, can acquire by grace.
He is the Savior and is still controversial: ‘destined for the fall and resurrection of many’. For a struggle of love and freedom. ‘Come’, then, ‘and let us walk with him and be crucified with him… so that we may live with him’.
My brothers and sisters,
The resurrection is the action of divine love in all its great brilliance. Christ’s descent into hell, such a favorite depiction in our iconographical tradition, marks the resurrection of the human race. On this auspicious and holy day, let us pay heed to the message of the empty tomb. ‘Christ has risen; he is not here’. Death has been defeated, my brothers and sisters.
CHRIST HAS RISEN!
† of Athens Ieronymos II