Through the mercy and providence of the Most High, Bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Northern Europe, to my beloved fellowservants priests and deacons, to those striving in the holy monasteries and to the chosen people of God, grace,
peace and joy from the Crucified and Risen Christ, with a fatherly and brotherly embrace and with the Paschal greeting,
Christ is risen!
My dear ones,
On the way to Jerusalem, the Savior lamented the fate of the city, long protected by God through the righteous and the prophets (cf. Matthew 23:37-39), but which was to fall into the sin of killing the Son of God and bear the consequences of this deicide. Christ, who knows that he is going to the Golgotha of his passions, therefore weeps for his sons and daughters, who are so estranged from him that they will not only not recognize him, but also betray him, take him out of the city and kill him as the last of men, as a robber and a stranger.
On the way there, He is approached by His disciples, the sons of Zebedee, who, unaware of what will happen in Jerusalem, ask the Lord for leadership positions in the kingdom they believe he will establish on earth (cf. Mark 10:35-37). The disciples overestimate their affection, their fidelity, their courage and their ability to follow their Master in the many trials that will follow, as shown not only by the reactions of John and James, but also by the futile promises of Simon-Peter on the night of the Last Supper (cf. Matthew 26:35).
Upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus is greeted and hailed as the prophesied Messiah. Clothes are laid at his feet, on the way he rides on the donkey’s colt, and to the annoyance of the scribes and Pharisees, hosannas are shouted to him. But the Savior sees this expression of joy and enthusiasm with a heavy heart: he knows that in a few days most of the Jerusalemites who greet him today as King of Israel will angrily shout before the governor Pontius Pilate, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (cf. Matthew 21:1-10; 27:1-60).
But in all this confused and chaotic scenario, in all this darkness, there are the bright seeds of spiritual rebirth after Golgotha: the good heart of His disciples, with the exception of the traitor Judas (who sincerely love their Master, although they have not yet come to the understanding of His mission and person that the Holy Spirit makes possible); the steadfast fidelity of the myrrh-bearing and the other holy women, led by his most holy Mother (who remain with Him to the end); and the pure innocence of the children who also shouted Hosanna at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, children that we do not find in the excited crowd in the Praetorian court.
These are the remains of the good that will be found again in Christ after the Resurrection: Love, faithfulness, innocence, purity, good heart, sincerity and gentleness. The ability to recognize the other as a source of joy and fulfillment.
For a moment, however, which seemed like an endless nightmare to Jesus’ disciples, these remains were swallowed up by the “power of darkness,” by the unleashing of the evil spirits that followed the arrest of the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane. For a moment, only the voice of the tyrants and rulers, the voice of the traitors and evildoers, the voice of the torturers and floggers who tormented the Son of Man, the voice of the blasphemers were heard. And the voices of the children who rejoiced were silenced. They also silenced the voices of the male and female apprentices. The humiliation was carried out to the end. The darkness was complete.
My beloved brother and sister,
Like Jesus’ disciples, we too are on the road to Jerusalem today. We are facing historical events of an eschatological character. We hear what the Lord tells us about them, but we do not yet fully understand them. It is a time of confusion and perplexity. Something is happening to humanity today, we suspect it, but it seems that too much is foreshadowed, as if by prophecy, about Golgotha, about the passions that will follow, about the destruction of everything. Some of us expect the deceptive victories of good on this earth and in this world, possibly without the Cross. Others believe that through their own bravery and courage, through their own perseverance and faith, they will be victorious in every trial.
We are witnesses to an accelerated process of eclipse, of decay of the image of man created by God, which is now in danger of being distorted beyond recognition. We see and experience firsthand how communities disintegrate, how churches are weakened, how family life is shaken, how entire nations and civilizations perish. We see how things that were unimaginable 5 or 10 years ago are now becoming the fashion and, even worse, the norm. The changes around us are so rapid that we do not have time to grasp them, let alone their significance, understand them and, if necessary, prevent and stop them.
The whole world is in a mad race on a road that leads to the abyss. Everywhere you look, humanity is suffering greatly. What are the causes of this disfigurement and disappointment? What is driving us in this race? The unprecedented upheaval of the values that form the basis of society! The denial, questioning and reversal of the most elementary data of humanity! Nothing escapes uninfluenced, untainted!
A digital ecosystem that isolates, alienates, and robs people of empathy and depth. We are less and less able to have deep relationships and conversations with our fellow human beings. We do professional tasks, we work and earn some money that is worth less and less, but otherwise we prefer to escape with our thoughts into the chained images on our phone screens, checking the latest notifications on social networks or writing in Messenger. All this, even when we are at home with our loved ones or meeting with friends and colleagues. We can not go more than a few minutes without glancing at our phone, and often even when we are participating in Divine Liturgy. We avoid our neighbor, and by extension, ourselves. We avoid our beloved God Himself. And where will we end up if we continue like this? We will end up as poor puppets, manipulated by perfected algorithms, in a society that idolizes technology and that refers to artificial intelligence as the ancient pagans referred to false oracles.
Fellow Orthodox Christians,
Many of us are internally divided, barricaded in antagonistic groups that find in their own righteousness a justification for hating the other and desiring his destruction. Where are the peacemakers today? One hears only the call for more death and more destruction. The powers of dehumanization are trying to disfigure your face, dear brother and dear sister, they are trying to take you ideologically, to deprive you of love, of faith, of all the grace of God and to compromise your innocence, to control your future and your choices, to create for you an illusory freedom, to offer you hatred as love and a peace that is really war.
And what can we do then?
Let us struggle spiritually, day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment, as St. Paul the Apostle exhorts us: „ Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”. (Ephesians 6: 10-12)
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, it is time to stand up and fight for the recovery of your dignity, your freedom and your humanity restored in Christ. It is time to recover the voice of conscience. It is time to be close to your fellow human beings. To be mother and father to your children. To be brother and sister. To be son and daughter to your parents. To fight until your last breath so that the remnants of humanity remain alive in you: Love, faith, hope.
It’s time to put down your smartphone, get off the hypnotizing merry-go-round of algorithms and look your neighbor in the eye: your father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, friends, travel or work colleagues. Take their hand in yours and tell them that you love them, that you appreciate them. Show them that you recognize them, that you see their image created by God, embrace them and tell them from your heart: Christ is risen!
By doing this, we will be those little lights, perhaps dim and pale, but alive and burning, that will not be extinguished even if the “power of darkness” comes again over the whole world. Lights in the darkness that testify that the sacrifice of Christ, our Savior on the Cross was not in vain for us.
So be it! Grace and peace be multiplied unto you! (2 Peter 1: 2)
Well-wisher and fervent intercessor,
Your servant, brother and friend,
† Bishop Macarie
Issued at the diocesan residence in Stockholm, the Kingdom of Sweden, on the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, in the year of salvation 2023