Orthodox Archbishop of Nea Iustiniana ad All Cyprus
Your Beatitude, Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa,
Your Reverences, Representatives of the Holy Orthodox Churches,
The performance of any Divine Service is a joint service between heaven and earth. It is a remembrance of the past and expectation of Kingdom Come. And at this Service, which God willing, we are performing, we have been transported on high, where the angels preside, but also to centuries past, where the faithful have always worshipped the Lord in the same way. We also gazed upon the coming Kingdom of God. The connection between heaven and history in the Divine Service confirms that Christ is among us now and was, is and shall be. Through Jesus Christ there is a deep connection between the past, present and future. Through the Divine Service, although, in other tongues, we have affirmed the unity of faith and the bond of the love between us.
We are especially joyful, Holy Brothers, about your presence here in Cyprus. We look back on the excellent relations of the Apostolic Church, the Church of St Barnabas, with your Churches and we take this opportunity to ask you to give your blessing to our pious people.
It is universally acknowledged that our civilisation is currently experiencing a great crisis. Technological development has changed people’s lives, it has done away with earlier social structures and has contributed to the questioning of values that had survived for many centuries. The modern world is abandoning the traditional national and religious values. Economic values are attempting to take the place of humanitarian values. And material values are struggling to prevail over spiritual ones. Principles and values on which mankind was founded for centuries – millennia even – are being rendered without meaning or made relative. And society appears to be hovering between the past and an uncertain future, in an ever-changing and fluid present.
One of those values: the value of peace, is the subject of this international meeting, which the Church of Cyprus is currently hosting, and for which you have come to our country, Holy Brothers. Peace is a substantive term and a fundamental principal in the life and prayers of our Church. We have invoked it often for all, for the people and for ourselves, in the Divine Service, with the words peace unto all. We have prayed for peace in the world. In peace we shall be called upon to depart this place, always having uppermost in our minds and hearts the peace of God. Living peaceably with all men, as Christians we are called upon daily to prepare ourselves for our heavenward journey.
In older times, even before Christianity was born, in the ancient world, peace was viewed in the true and correct way. It was founded on justice, freedom and the brotherhood of men and nations. But today, when a stateless eudemonism and a material view of life is threatening society, peace is also beginning to be given a relative value. If freedom is becoming confused with ‘co-existence’ and justice is debased to ‘give and take’, peace becomes an unjust compromise aimed at avoiding war.
For us Christians, peace is identified always, at all times, with Christ who is the truth and the life. Christ is our peace (Eph. 2, 14). He caused the two warring worlds, those who knew God and those who did not, to unite into one people, and by His death on the Cross he knocked down all that divided them like a wall. He shall speak peace unto his people (Psalms 85, 9). Near Him man is reconciled with God, he finds peace with his conscience and peace towards others.
It is this triple peace that St Matthew found close to our Lord, as described in the Gospel. So many years sitting at the receipt of custom, engaged in making a profit as a tax collector, he found no satisfaction. That is why his response to Christ’s call ‘Follow me’ was immediate. It was as if he had been struck by a thunderbolt. As if an extremely powerful electric current had been shot through him. Near Jesus he found the peace that he so greatly sought. It is this peace that all honest men have sought throughout the ages.
And if in the past it was necessary to seek the Lord of peace, about whom it was prophesied that of his peace there shall be no end (Isaiah 9, 7) and that in his days shall the righteous flourish and have abundance of peace (Psalms 72, 7), it is even more necessary today. Today with so many echoes of human anxiety, with the desperate struggle for wealth and prosperity. Today when peace has been spirited away from men’s lives and their many passions lead them to wars and compromise.
We here in Cyprus are also experiencing the results of a situation of a non-war waged in the name of peace, which is founded on force and injustice, with dead, missing, displaced persons, occupation, deprivation of our fundamental rights, settlement of our land by others, ethnic cleansing. That is why we are so highly sensitive to the issues of peace and justice.
After welcoming you all once again, our high guests, our brothers the Orthodox High Priests, as well as the Christians of other denominations, and after wishing every success to the proceedings of our conference which is beginning today, we ask his Beatitude, Theodoros, Patriarch of Alexandria, being the most senior among all those present, to bless our people and address us all, near and far.
Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus
16 November 2008.