GREETING By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew At the Consecration of the Sacred Aedicule of the Holy Sepulcher (March 22, 2017)
Your Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of the Sacred City of Jerusalem, with Your venerable surrounding Hierarchy and the entire Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher that guards the most holy sites of this ancient Patriarchate of Mount Zion, together with His Beatitude the Armenian Patriarch and the Most Reverend Latin Custodian in attendance to share in this celebration, and all the pious pilgrims present at this historic moment,
Your Excellency the Prime Minister of Greece,
Your Excellencies the representatives of the Kingdom of Jordan, the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority,
Precious people of God and all who dwell here in Jerusalem,
If at a certain moment of human history, “the hosts of angels were amazed when they beheld” their Lord and creator, the sustainer and governor of creation “who was thought to be among the dead,” then all of us today – and along with us the whole world – also stand in awe before the mystery and witness of the Resurrection, namely the newly restored and reconstructed Sacred Aedicule of the Holy Sepulcher. We stand in amazement as “with one voice and soul” we articulate a song of glory and gratitude to the Savior Christ, who was crucified and buried here in the flesh on this place of the skull, Golgotha. We stand in amazement before the Holy Sepulcher that “emanates life” and “we are astonished by the miracle” just like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other Myrrhbearing women, as well as Peter, the chief of the apostles.
We too “have hastened” from the City of Constantine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which always supports the Church of Zion in safeguarding these venerable Holy Sites, the all-holy pilgrimages; and we “have hastened” to the tomb of the life-giving Lord – albeit surely not “in mourning” but rejoicing with Your illustrious Beatitude and all those who “lovingly mingle with their tears” the myrrh of prayer and fervent supplication, congratulating one another on this historic occasion experienced by our militant church over more than two millennia, proclaiming: “Let everyone behold the tomb and know that the Lord is risen from the dead.”
Having responded to Your fraternal and loving invitation with special delight, sentiment and spiritual elation, Your Beatitude and dear brother, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, we are today attending this present ceremony. And we rejoice with Your Beatitude and the other venerable representatives of the Christian Churches and presences here, on the completion of this monumental project, through the diverse contribution of the Hellenic Republic, represented here by His Excellency its Prime Minister, the honorable scholars of the National Technical University of Athens headed by the distinguished Prof. Antonia Moropoulou, and the countless pious pilgrims to these sacred sites of our Faith. We express to all of you the wholehearted gratitude of the Holy and Great Church of Christ and the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the restoration of the Holy Sepulcher in a manner worthy of the sacredness and importance of this extremely invaluable and unique monument of life rather than, of course, death for the sake of “evangelizing to those in Zion” and to every disciple throughout the world, saying: “O life of all, you have risen and shattered the restraints of death. O Lord, glory to you.”
In our contemporary, ever troubled and divided world, the Holy Sepulcher before which we stand constitutes the sole source of genuine, substantial and sacred unity among Christians that is not established upon human interests and ambitions, but only upon the Cross that is able to unite what was previously divided, the protection of the universe, the beauty of the Church, the foundation of authority in this world, the support of the faithful, the glory of the angels, and the elimination of the forces of darkness, injustice and turmoil in human affairs.
Dear brothers and sisters,
This moment is the liturgical time of the endless Divine Liturgy always revealed “in the breaking of the bread” by Jesus Christ. It is a doxology of thanksgiving “for everything that we do and do not know.” It is a ladder that leads from earth to heaven, the union of mortal voices and angelic voices “for the sake of all that we do and do not know” through the Passion, Cross and Resurrection of Christ. This is a time of absolute silence, a recollection of things gone by and still to come, an experience of the divine gift of freedom.
On and through this Tomb – this “minuscule monument” that is so vast as “to contain the entire universe” inasmuch as it is depicted on the Holy Altar of every Orthodox Church – life continues to this day and the ephemeral present becomes the eternal future. Therefore, on the unique occasion of the revelation of the Sacred Aedicule of the Holy Sepulcher, “let all mortal flesh be silent, standing with fear and trembling, without considering anything earthly at all” (Hymn of Holy Saturday). Let every mortal word be silent in prayer before this moment of historic symphony among the three Christian communities of this Holy City, which fraternally agreed and collaborated in this hallowed project.
Those sharing our elation include first and foremost our blessed Nation, the Greek Orthodox people through the presence and prayer of its Prime Minister, Your beloved Excellency Alexis Tsipras, who recently celebrated your name-day on the feast day of Alexios the Man of God, for which we congratulate you, praying for your support and strength to lead the vessel of Orthodox Greece toward calm waters, like the “Good Harbors” of the great Island of Crete, to the safe haven of godly welfare for our people.
Your Beatitude, our Greek Orthodox Nation and the Fathers of the Holy Sepulcher have through the ages vigilantly guarded and continue to guard these Holy Sites with sacrifice in order to transmit them to us breathing life, peace and resurrection. We honor and thank those who heroically and nobly preserved the Deposit of our Fathers, the Holy Lands of our faith. For all these things, we respectfully stand before this splendid Aedicule of the Holy Sepulcher, offering thanks and glory with one mind and one voice to our crucified, buried and risen Lord, as we say: “We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, O Lord; and we pray to You, our God.” We offer You thanks with all our soul and all our heart, “for You have bestowed everything upon us.” Glory to You, Lord, glory to You.