Homily on the Sunday of Pascha by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)
"And the world did not know Him" (John 1:1-17)
At this holy instant, my beloved, I sense the need to offer from the heart the paschal greeting to everyone.
The Gospel which we heard is the greatest Gospel reading of the whole year. It is the beginning of the Gospel of John. The Evangelist John, who, the night of the Mystical Supper, reclined upon the breast of Christ and heard the beating of His heart, who flies to the heights of theology, and who speaks on the great mystery of the divine incarnation.
I will not discuss the whole reading, just a few words I will say regarding the verse: "And the world did not know Him" (John 1:11), that the world did not recognize Christ. What does this say?
The earth which we inhabit, my beloved, among the many great stars, is a grain of sand. And however, this little planet, has incomparable worth. It is, as an astronomer put it, the "diamond" of creation. Because only on this planet are the corresponding requirements for man to live on, man which is the brilliant handiwork of God. Here the Creator placed man. However, as the Scripture says and as the traditions of all peoples bear witness to, man fell from that height. And this fall was such that, even the great spirits of the philosophers and teachers of antiquity, despite all their efforts, could not offer significant help to correct them. Man sighed. The only way of salvation was that God descended to earth. O, the mystery! Do you believe it? You are a Christian. You don't believe it? You are not a Christian.
"God descended to earth?" someone would ask.
Yes, my beloved, it is a fact. The Sun touched the earth, and the earth was not burned. Why was it not burned? Because He did not descend visibly, but had the covering of the human flesh. He was hidden. He appeared as a humble man upon this earth. He was numbered among us. Through this He gave the evidence that He is God. He showed forth wonders and the holiness of His life. He shows it to this day to everyone through His teaching, a teaching which would force even a faithless person to say: even if there are rational beings on other planets, it is impossible that they have a faith higher than that which was taught by Jesus Christ.
Christ is the God-man. And one would expect that, when God would appear in the likeness of man, then the whole earth would receive Him and believe in Him. And what happened? Did they believe? Only a small amount, the least minority. Read the Gospel: a few shepherds in Bethlehem, some simple fishermen who were casting their nets in lake Gennesaret, a few humble women, some innocent children who put their hands on their heads, these humble and insignificant people, they believed in Him. The others, the great ones, the elite, the intelligentsia, those who pretended to be philosophers and poets, the cream of the crop of society, they, with few exceptions, did not believe in Christ. They stood against the Nazarene. They put their hands on Him, they slandered Him, they said harsh words regarding Him, they said that He had a demon, they named Him furthermore Beelzebub (the King of the Angels they named the king of the demons!), and ultimately, they crucified Him. This was the reception that the world gave Him. This is what the phrase means: "And the world did not know Him". The world of scribes, Pharisees, archpriests, great and uplifted people, this world "did not know" Jesus Christ.
Something similar Homer mentions in the Odyssey. Odysseus the King of Ithaca, left gloriously from his island. All of his people followed him to the waterfront. Later, he lost his way. After the Trojan War, he took the road to return, but was endangered on the seas. Later, after 20 years, having been shipwrecked, exhausted by the severities of this great adventure, he returned to Ithaca as a simple man. No one recognized him then. Only an aged dog recognized him and wagged its tail, as if to say: "My master, welcome back!" This is a great lesson. All of those suitors, who consumed the wealth of the small kingdom, appeared lower than a dog. Something similar occurred with Christ. The King of the world descended to earth. And who recognized Him? Bring to mind the beautiful icon of the Nativity, a little ass and an ox, these animals recognized Him, as Isaiah says: "The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner's manger, but Israel does not know
But, from then, they will say, twenty centuries have passed, roughly 80 generations. Yes, well, in His time they did not know Him, but now, however, now that His religion has reached the whole planet, and length of the globe, and the Christians number one billion, but did things change? How can you say, "and the world did not know Him"?
Oh, my brethren! A preliminary survey says that all those are Christians. But, if we look deeper, with the criteria of the Gospel, you will see that the Christians, not according to number or identification, are few. The multitude of the West don't count. They have adorned a bastard Christianity, which stands in stark contrast and a great chasm from the Church of Christ, of Orthodoxy. But maybe the Orthodox of the East, evil lies, are all consistent with their baptism and their requirements? The police are tiring writing on all the IDs, when will we ever see it, "Orthodox Christian". Therefore, take away those Christians according to ID and outward form, the Christians who remember their identity only on the great feasts, while they forget it the rest of the time. Tell me how many are the Christians of conscience (Stalin even said: "I fear those Christians of conscience"). How many are they? It is not the mass or the number, but the quality that has worth. How many are the true Christians? Few. One Queen of Holland, Vilelmini, did a study and wrote a book with the title: "Christ the Unknown". There it says that, after so many centuries, so many struggles and efforts of missionaries, in Europe, Christ remains unknown.
Maybe this is hyperbolic?
No. Mankind does not know Christ, because it did not love Him. A person who loves, desires to be numbered together with Him, seeks opportunities to come to know Him. If we loved Christ, we would open His Gospel and come to know His holy words. If we loved Christ, we would come continuously to Church to worship Him. If we loved Christ, above all, we would follow His holy commandments, and first of all "Love one another" (John 13:34).
But, let us leave, my brethren, the other world, and let us ask, in our little country, what is happening? "The world did not know Him". Does Greece "know Him"? Without desiring to spread melancholy, I will answer. How are we celebrating Pascha today? Is the center of our concern Christ? Or is it a gastronomic feast of Bacchus or Aphrodite? Today, in homes, from the great halls to little huts, what are they discussing? Will they discuss Christ? O! stretch out your ears. Today they will discuss everything else (political, erotic, marriages, scandals, money, markets, sports...) They do not speak about Christ. And if you hear the word "Christ", you will hear it as a blasphemy! In reality, "the world does not know Him".
But let us not be pessimistic. There is yet the "little flock" (Luke 12:32). Children, young people, women, men. They are the minority. But they are a little yeast, which has the ability to make the whole lump rise, the whole of our people. Then, the great Unknown One will become known, and our fatherland will worship the risen Christ, Whom, children, hymn and exalt supremely unto all the ages.
(delivered in the Holy Church of St. Panteleimon, Florina, on the night of 4/18/82, translation of text from source)