Orthodox Observer - May 5, 1999



Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!  Christ is Risen!

You have heard the Gospel reading today. (John 5:1-15). For 38 years, that paralyzed man had been waiting by the Pool of Bethesda, waiting for healing, waiting for forgiveness, waiting for salvation. And when the Lord Jesus Christ approached him and asked him 'Do you want to be made well? Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be saved?', what was his reply? 'I have no man . . . I have no one to bring me to these waters of refreshment, to dip me in this pool of healing, to wash me in the streams of salvation.'

What a tragic statement about our human condition. Could no one be found to help this man, whose life was paralyzed -- not only by physical disability -- but by fear, anxiety, guilt and shame? Like the wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, love had passed him by. No person reached out to touch his life with the warmth of friendship and the communion of true agape. 38 years without help, but not without hope.

My friends, we do not have 38 years to wait, for we have a living hope, Christ risen with our hearts, our hope for a brighter future. Christ's glory can and will dissolve the gloom of doubt and anxiety. Our Church, our children and our world need us to come together in the light of the Resurrection. We must illuminate the shadows of darkness with this glorious light. This is not a time to decrease our involvement in the Church's mission, but rather to deepen and expand it. We, faithful Orthodox Christians together, need to play a greater role in the world, but we need to play an even greater role in the lives our most precious gift, our children.

When we see children murdered in the very schools that are supposed to be a safe harbor for them; when we see war waged on our televisions night after night, when we see innocent children described as "collateral damage" and countless human beings herded like cattle, this is no time to eclipse the light of Christ's Gospel. This is the time to proclaim our Truth more boldly than ever before.

This is a time for decision. This is a time for action. This is a time for sacrifice. In the final analysis, we are the ones who are lying by the Pool of Bethesda. We are the ones who will choose whether we will respond to the voice of our Lord. Which shall we choose? The paralysis of doubt and anxiety or the freedom of love? Will we seek to heal one another's wounds, or will we pass each other by, indifferent, silent, and alone. It takes hope; it takes expectation; and ultimately, it takes courage -- the courage to live our faith as the Lord commanded us -- with purity of intention, humility and obedience to His Holy Will.

And if it seems that such courage cannot be found in the world today, allow me this moment to praise the memory of someone who found that courage, even in the face of certain death. I am speaking of a young girl, Cassie Bernall, 17 years old, who faced her death in Columbine High School like a Martyr in the arena.

When her killer asked her if she believed in God, knowing that the answer meant she would die that very instant, she replied: "I do believe in God." And what is more miraculous is that she witnessed to her faith in that final moment by telling her executioner: "And you should follow the path of God."

What a testimony of faith! What a miracle of love! What a reason for all of us to hope that even in the nightmare of that slaughter, the light of Christ shines. For by the Resurrection, we know that the light shines on in the darkness, and that darkness can never overcome it!

Now I ask you my friends, my brothers and my sisters, what words do we as parents hope to hear upon the lips of our children? Whose Name will be above every other name in their hearts. If we break our covenant with heaven over the things of this world, then how shall we face God when we are called to account for the living treasures He has entrusted to us, as parents, as teachers, as servants of redemption?

As we continue to pray together this morning and implore the Holy Spirit to come upon us and the gifts we set upon the Holy Altar, let us lift up the faith and the love we have seen in that young girl. This young martyr's angelic witness is a sign for all of us. I behold the waters in the Pool of Bethesda being moved by the angels of God. This is the time to free ourselves from the paralysis of doubt, fear and anxiety and proclaim the name of Christ. Now is the time for us to live as whole, healed, forgiven and forgiving Orthodox Christians. Let us look into each other's eyes and in the full knowledge of our own humanity let us live our faith as we joyfully sing:

It is the Day of Resurrection, let us be radiant for the feast.

Brothers and sisters, let us embrace one another.

Let us say to those that hate us, that in the Resurrection all things are forgiven.

Let us cry aloud with our hearts and souls and minds:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs granting life -- life eternal and everlasting lived in the light of His love.

ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!  Christ is Risen!
Truly the Lord is Risen!

This Homily of His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon was delivered on the fourth Sunday of Pascha (May 2, 1999), at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio.

[ Orthodox Observer - May 5, 1999 - p. 6 ]