Beloved friends, faculty and students of the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy and the University of Sant’ Anselmo,
We greet you with the Paschal cry: “Christ is Risen!” To this, as you know, Orthodox Christians all over the world respond: “Truly, He is Risen!” For, His resurrection is the source of all joy and the foundation of all faith.
It is a great joy to welcome you all – accompanied by the President of your esteemed Institute, Fr. Juan Javier Flores Arcas – to the Center of Orthodoxy. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the highest see and holiest center of the Orthodox Christian Church, serving as Mother Church to faithful throughout the world. It is an institution with a history spanning seventeen centuries, during which it has retained its see in this historical city of Constantinople. Moreover, the Ecumenical Patriarchate constitutes the center of all the local Orthodox Churches, heading these not by administration but by virtue of its primacy of honor in the ministry of pan-Orthodox unity.
Reconciliation is foremost in the mind and heart of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This is why we have historically inspired, initiated and been involved in numerous ecumenical activities – internationally, regionally, as well as locally. More significantly, as you are aware, we have recently received His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in an historic visit promised from the outset of his Papal ministry, just as we had received the late Pope John Paul II at the beginning of his own blessed ministry. These visits sealed our commitment to ongoing theological dialogue and fraternal relations between our two Sister Churches. Moreover, your own presence here during these days also confirms our belief that all of us must reach out to our fellow-Christians in an effort to obey the will of our Lord, “that we [his disciples] may be one.” (John 17.11)
You come from a Pontifical Institute and a prestigious University that recognize and emphasize the priority of liturgy in relation to doctrine and spirituality. Therefore, you will appreciate how it is above all in the mystery of liturgy that the sacrament of reconciliation and oneness is celebrated. That is the ultimate mystery, to which we are all called. That is, as the 14th century commentator of the Divine Liturgy, St. Nicholas Cabasilas, noted: “the end and meaning of everything, beyond which it is not possible to go, and to which nothing can be added.” (On the Life in Christ, Book IV) In liturgy, we sense that we are a part not only of something larger than ourselves. We are a part of a heavenly kingdom that simultaneously transcends and contains this world. The phrase of the fourth-century Archbishop of Constantinople, St. Gregory the Theologian, that “the unassumed is unhealed” (Letter to Cleidonius) is realized in all its fullness and richness during the Divine Liturgy. Everyone becomes a part of this encounter with God; everything assumes mystical or sacramental value.
It is the light of that heavenly kingdom that is experienced in liturgy. After Easter, for forty days, just as during every service of matins prior to the celebration of the liturgy, Orthodox Christians chant “We have seen the Resurrection of Christ”. And after communion during each Liturgy, they sing: “We have seen the true light.” Everything derives its source from the splendor of the Divine Liturgy. Even the administrative life of the Church does not reflect and should not imitate secular organizations and worldly structures. Rather, it should be an authentic icon of liturgical worship. It is not by accident that the meal table in Orthodox monasteries is always an organic continuation – both architecturally and spiritually – of the altar table: on great feasts, there is a solemn procession from the church to the dining hall. Thus, the sanctification of the gifts – the bread and wine – pervades the whole of creation. Indeed, in the Orthodox Church, everything may be said to stem from the altar table: every ministry, every service, every office, and every authority. In this way, we can appreciate why in the seventh century St. Maximos the Confessor spoke of a “cosmic liturgy,” offered by the entire world through the sacrificial Lamb of Revelation.
In the light of this Paschal liturgy, we extend to each of you a most cordial welcome. God bless you in your studies and your ministries.
Once again, then, “Christ is Risen!”