PATRIARCHAL MESSAGE FOR THE NEW ECCLESIASTICAL YEAR
Protocol No: 136/2013
«I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together ».
With these words fifty years ago the man who dared to dream at difficult times, the activist who dared to fight with peaceful means the nightmare of racism, the fighter who dared to pull off the miserable white hood from an entire country, concluded his legendary speech in the American capital. Fifty years later mankind pays homage to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., the man who with word and action contributed as few have to ending racial discrimination and realizing racial equality.
What then seemed utopian, today is reality. Who could imagine at those times that, three decades later, Nelson Mandela would become President of South Africa, favoring reconciliation, putting aside the traumatic experiences of the past, and helping his country's transition from the past of apartheid to the future of peaceful interracial coexistence? Who would dare at those times to conceive, without running the risk of being considered insane, that, four decades later, in the exact same spot the first black President of the USA would take his oath of office before his nation?
Yet the dream finally became reality and today the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners sit side by side at the table of brotherhood. But this utopia is still nothing but the forerunner of reality. Faith has finally begun ascending the first steps, without seeing the entire staircase. It is not faith that comes from the miracle, but it is the miracle that comes from faith.
This faith is being crushed today under the weight of depressing reality, because the drums of war continue to beat loudly in the Middle East, the land where the seed of human transformation in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ was sown; because confrontation and conflict outweigh negotiation and mutual understanding in the international arena; because weapons, conventional or not – if we could ever accept the means of mass homicide as conventional – are still preferred as the way to cut through a variety of Gordian knots; because leaders around the world do not hesitate to open Pandora's box, oblivious to the consequences of their choices.
The descendants of the Africans, who were captured and taken under inhumane conditions to the New World on slave ships, may today boast – and rightly so – of the rapid progress that has taken place in issues of racial segregation. Nonetheless many of their African brothers still live on a lonely island of poverty in the middle of a vast ocean of material prosperity. And many among the African youth continue to wither in the fallow land of deficient opportunities and to find themselves exiled in their own homeland.
Before these life challenges the African Orthodox Church follows in the footsteps of its Head, our Lord Jesus Christ. The word of God became man and suffered more than anyone, not out of necessity, but freely, not by commitment, but out of love. He was born under difficult circumstances, He lived with proverbial humility, He was misunderstood by many, He was joined by the outcasts, He was dogged by the power of His era, and He was executed in the most shameful way. And yet He was ultimately resurrected out of the dead, defeating death through death.
This message of life, of our suffering and compassionate Christ we are sending today, the first day of the new ecclesiastical year, from Alexandria to our Orthodox brothers all around Africa. We fervently pray mankind not to lose faith in the biblical truth that «the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God» (Romans 8:21). We fervently hope on the one hand people's lives to be aligned, both ontologically and axiologically, to the course followed by our Lord through His Crucifixion and His Resurrection, and on the other hand His grace to nestle in the hearts of all the people, according to the last words of the Holy Scriptures «Come, Lord Jesus» (Revelation 22:20).
† THEODOROS II
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria
and All Africa
In the Great City of Alexandria
September 1, 2013