Put Off The 'Rust' of Sinful Tendencies, says Patriarch's Easter Message

Believers should purge themselves of the "old rust" of sinful tendencies that they may pour the "abundance" of Christ's life to all the world, said the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew in his Easter (Pasha) proclamation, adding that such an accomplishment is only possible through an impassioned faith in Jesus Christ.

"Christ has risen from the tomb as divinely human; and humanity has risen with Him!" Bartholomew proclaimed, noting that the Resurrection of the "the only powerful Giver of life" has granted believers "life in abundance."

This new life, however, is being "ceaselessly slandered and assaulted by the devil…by means of the hubris that still prevails in the world against God" and the "sinful tendency that exists within us like 'old rust,'" the patriarch says.

"Accordingly, it is imperative that we purify ourselves of this rust with great attentiveness and carefulness in order that the profuse life-giving light of the Risen Christ may shine in our mind, soul and body," Bartholomew continues, "so that it may in turn dispel the darkness of hubris and pour the 'abundance' of life to all the world."

According to Bartholomew, such a feat cannot be achieved by "philosophy, science, technology, art, or any ideology" but can only be achieved through "faith in what God has condescended for us human beings through His Passion, Crucifixion and Burial, descending to the depths of hades and rising from the dead as the divine-human Jesus Christ."

"The white garment of righteousness was given to us symbolically on the day of our Baptism; and we are invited to cleanse it continually through constant repentance, control of desires, patience in life's pain, and relentless effort to fulfill the commandments of God, and especially the supreme commandment of love," Bartholomew notes.

"In this way, we are able to participate in the cross-bearing self-emptying of Christ, in order that the Paschal gladness, radiant light, and joyful salvation may enter our life and world."

The Ecumenical Patriarch has drawn attention in recent months after a December report on 60 Minutes heightened awareness over the spiritual leader's threatened safety under the government of Turkey

In response to the report, National Council of Churches (NCC) General Secretary Michael Kinnamon wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton on behalf of the NCC's member bodies expressing concern over Bartholomew's wellbeing.

"We are grieved that (Bartholomew's) safety and freedom are constantly threatened," Kinnamon wrote. "And despite the many traditions and histories that our member churches bring to our council, we are emphatically agreed that a threat to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a threat to Christians everywhere."

Kinnamon also urged Clinton to use the moral authority of the U.S. to assure the safety of the Patriarch.

"I am confident the safety of the Ecumenical Patriarch is as close to your heart as it is to ours," he said.

Furthermore, a recent encyclical from Bartholomew on unity in the church has also captured the attention of ecumenical community who have offered it high praise.

In an entry for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Feb. 21, Bartholomew wrote that indifference over Christian unity is not an option for disciples of Jesus.

"It is not possible for the Lord to agonize over the unity of His disciples and for us to remain indifferent about the unity of all Christians," Bartholomew wrote.

Making a charge against "fanatical" challenges by various Orthodox groups against dialogue, Bartholomew said that, "[t]he truth does not fear dialogue, because truth has never been endangered by dialogue."

"When in our day all people strive to resolve their differences through dialogue, Orthodoxy cannot proceed with intolerance and extremism," he added.

World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary the Rev. Olav Tveit said that he was "grateful" for Bartholomew's entry, and for the Patriarch's "strong commitment to dialogue and the unity and the unity of the church."

"This encyclical," Tveit said, "reminds me of another famous text: the 1920 encyclical letter in which the Ecumenical Patriarch proposed the foundation of a fellowship of churches, providing a major impulse for the formation of the WCC."

In a Feb. 23 response, Kinnamon noted his "profound appreciation" for Bartholomew's writing, saying that, "surely, your emphasis on unity in truth is precisely what is needed in order for the whole ecumenical movement to recover depth and direction."

"Please be assured that we at the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA stand with you , as well, in this passionate call for the unity for which our Lord prayed," he added.

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