BELGRADE, May 29, 2003 (SOC) -- The Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Church reports that His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Pavle forwarded to His Beatitude Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece a letter in which he extended greetings to the participants of a solemn convocation in Athens marking the550th Anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople, and to which, His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral is the delegated representative of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Excerpts taken from the letter include:
550 years have passed since the fall of Constantinople, the See of the Eastern Roman Empire. Constantinople is perhaps the only city in the world for which it suffices to say -- The City, and it is known of which one speaks. That truth has been retained even today in the Turkish official name for Constantinople as "Istanbul" (Eijthnpolin, literally "To The City"). To go to Constantinople meant going to The City, which for over 1,000 years played an exceptional role in the historical events of Europe and Asia, and the entire Christian Oikoumeni. Constantinople was the First City and the world capitol, which from its very inception was a Christian city. That is the city in which "Symphonia" (Symphony) was conceived as the unique manifestation of Church and state relations, formulated on the basis of the Old Testament concept of the kingdom and the priesthood, the Royal and Priestly offices, as well as the New Testament principle: "To Caesar Caesar's, and to God God's". In harmony with that principle and according to the example of the Roman Empire, the Balkan and Slav nations were formulated and their ethos, as well as the life of the new Local Orthodox Churches through the ages. As the See of the Constantinopolitan Archbishopric, of the Archbishop who was second in honor in the Church, and following the schism of the Western Church -- the first, Constantinople was the city of the Ecumenical Councils, which continue even until today to mold Christian understanding and Theological thought.
It is the city of Aghia Sophia, that miraculous temple, which according to the words of the newly-glorified Saint of the Orthodox Church Nicholai of Ochrid and Zhicha is "the most faithful and most glorious exposition of Christian doctrine, Christian celebration". "It", according to the same Godly-wise Saint, "manifests the beginning and the end of the world". "It is," he continues, "the heart of the Orthodox people and their soul; their eternal hope and inspiration". The name alone, Aghia Sophia, means the Incarnate God, the eternal Wisdom of God, and the physical structure of the temple represents a testimony to the revelation of the Mystery of the Incarnation.
Viewing the Fall of Constantinople in that spirit and everything that follows it to this day represent the visible and tangible participation of not only The City, but also the Church of God in the mystery of Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection, in the mystery of Christ's Kenosis and the Kenosis of His Divino-Human Body -- the Church. As such, this Holy City is also the confirmation and eschatological truth of the Church, that "we have no city, which remains here, but wait for The City, which is to come". The horrific event of the Fall itself falls into the domain of the unreachable judgments of the Wisdom of God, which transcend human understanding, represents the open wound of the Orthodox Christian conscience, but it is also a confirmation of the eternal truth, that the "image of this world" is passing, while at the same time a confirmation of the indestructibility of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, according to the promise of Christ.
Remembering, therefore, the Fall of Constantinople, we venerate the wounds of the Crucified Lord and confirm ourselves in the power of His Resurrection, witnessing before all peoples Him as the Stone, which the builders rejected and reject, and He has become the "Cornerstone, and this is marvelous in our eyes". In that name we offer brotherly veneration to Your Beatitude and to all the participants in the convocation marking the 550th Anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople, greeting you with the joyous Paschal greeting:
"CHRIST IS RISEN!"
[OEA Translation: Washington, DC]