by His All Holiness
Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW
during his visit to the University of Tartu (Estonia) on
" The Search for Meaning" (October 30, 2000

Most Eminent Chancellor
Learned professors
Most Reverend Metropolitan Stephanos of the Orthodox Church of Estonia
Honorable dignitaries
Distinguished guests
Beloved students,

We are filled with great emotion as we stand among you, at the invitation of your love, in order to address you with a heartfelt greeting and bring to you the blessing and love of the Orthodox Church of distant Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, about which you may perhaps have heard during your studies or else you may have a confused understanding that there was once an institution which in the remote past of the Byzantine Empire played some role in the ecclesiastical events of that period.
Indeed, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is an institution dating sixteen entire centuries. During the Second Ecumenical Council, which was held in 381AD, the Bishops of the then united Christian Church granted to the Patriarchate of Constantinople equal "primacy of honor" and service in the Church as the Pope of Rome. After the schism between the Eastern and Western Church, which took place in the 11th century of the Christian era, the Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch remained the only "first among equals" in the Orthodox Eastern Church, an attribute which he preserves to this day in spite of the diverse historical adventures of the areas within its jurisdiction,
The Ecumenical Patriarch bas never claimed a primacy of administration or authority among the Orthodox Churches nor has it imagined itself to be enveloped with infallible authority. All of the Ecumenical Patriarchs considered and consider themselves as charged with the heavy burden of service to all of the Orthodox Churches, a service which is rendered indispensable when the latter are unable of themselves to resolve certain problems, when a coordination of chair activities becomes necessary, when Churches or some of their members resort to them seeking intervention in order to regulate significant matters which could not be successfully settled in any other way.
An example of such intervention is the re-structuring and re-functioning of the Autonomous Orthodox Church of Estonia, which was requested by both the state and the Orthodox ecclesiastical authorities of Estonia. As known, in 1923, by means of an official Act of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, called a Patriarchal and Synodical Tome, following the petition of the then Archbishop of the Orthodox Church in Estonia, numbering at the time 240,6100 members, this Church was proclaimed autonomous, with the agreement also of the then Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow who had recognized its autonomous state already from 1920. However, according to the sacred cannons which govern all the Orthodox Churches and which were established by the Ecumenical Councils and prevailed in their tradition, autonomy and autocephaly, the two levels of self-government for a local Church, are granted by Ecumenical Councils, or, in the case where these cannot be convened, they are granted by the first in seniority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which declared the Orthodox Church in Estonia autonomous, a fact recognized since then throughout the Orthodox world. This autonomy was forcefully and uncanonically abolished by the known dramatic conditions during the decade of the 1940's, and our predecessor Patriarch Demetrios was obliged to suspend temporarily in 1978 the validity of the Patriarchal and Synodical Tome of 1923. However, now that the irregular period which led to the aforementioned temporary suspension has came to an end; the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in response to the request of the greater majority of the Estonian Orthodox people and of the State of Estonia, as well, following consultation with the Patriarchate of Moscow reinstated the validity of the Patriarchal and Synodical Tome of 1923 and restored the autonomy of the Orthodox Church in Estonia. The agreement between the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow rested in each parish choosing freely whether it would belong to the autonomous Orthodox Church in Estonia or to the Patriarchate of Moscow. Therefore, the parishes chose whatever each preferred and in this way the autonomous functioning and spiritual jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in Estonia was restored, but only over the parishes which chose voluntarily to belong to it. Consequently, the state authorities of Estonia, themselves applied the prevailing legislation, without any further involvement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and registered the Autonomous Orthodox Church of Estonia in the proper official state books, returning to the Church the property which it lawfully possessed prior to 1940 and which had in the meanwhile been owned by the state.
It is all too clear that the Ecumenical Patriarchate received nothing, nor was it possible for it to receive anything from this property, or from any other Estonian source. Rather it expended and toiled much for the restoration of the autonomy of the Orthodox Church in Estonia, while at the same time being the target of many unfavorable and inaccurate comments front those who have misinterpreted its good, entirely selfless, and sacrificial intentions.
In spite of all this, and with full knowledge of these adverse consequences, the Ecumenical Patriarchate assumed the cross of duty and love, and acted appropriately, rejoicing with the joy of the Orthodox and other Estonian people, without in any way retaining bitterness or enmity towards those who attack it. Rather, it fervently prays, according to the example of the Lord, that God may enlighten them to understand the truth, and that He may forgive them for all that they say and do out of ignorance for this truth.
We say those things by way of an introduction, so that you may appreciate the occasion of our visit here and of our involvement in events and certain current affairs in Estonia.
Now, what could we offer to your love from the treasures of the Orthodox Church, concerning matters of permanent and not simply of fleeting interest? We have chosen to offer to you the Orthodox Christian response to the question posed by those who seek the meaning of life and of the world.
Therefore, as we turn our attention at this point to the search for meaning, we have the following to say to you. On a vehicle floating in space, like a gigantic space ship which revolves around the sun, while at the same time spinning around himself and drifting in the titanic, rhythmical movements of the galactic system to which he belongs, there dwells a living being, microscopic in comparison to the universal dimensions, a living being called the human being.
Without this human being even comprehending it, he too participates in the aforementioned movements and receives the influence of forces that are difficult to trace, forces of gravity, electromagnetic forces of radiation, of numerous frequency waves, sound waves, radio-energy, some of which he too transmits.
He is influenced and he influences the environment. He spans an extremely brief period of time in relation to the age of the universe, and thereafter sees his body becoming inactive. However, he resists the idea that his essence is contained in the minimal matter of a human body, because he sees within himself another spiritual force which, at the blink of an eye, in zero time, traverses the universe, prevented by no barrier and seeking to came into communion with a supreme super-celestial being, with which he feels that he has some relationship.
He feels that he is not a simple unit in a boundless universe, that just as he exists in personal communion with his fellow human beings, so also does he exist in communion with some other non-human being, a communion that is not material and not of universal relations such as movement, rhythm, waves, solidification and liquidation, but a communion of persons, of dialogue and an attraction beyond nature.
In his titanic, intellectual endeavor to investigate the macrocosm and the microcosm within which he exists, the human being conceives ideas, makes hypotheses, develops theories, confirms opinions, rejects perceptions of his imagination, dreams, compares, struggles within partial knowledge and complete ignorance, by nature thirsts for knowledge, according to Aristotle, and denies accepting the Socratic "I know nothing."
Alter anxiously trying for millennia to research the first cause and reason for existence, the purpose of himself and of all other beings, he hears those with greater expertise saying that the universe was created in a moment of time that is inconceivably minuscule, through a super-gigantic explosion called the "Big Bang" and that all of this boundlessly large world received its existence, was regulated, and functions in order to serve the boundlessly small man who lives on a planet, earth, which may be compared with the smallest particle of universal dust.
What is the meaning of this event? Why do all these things occur? Why is a human being born, leading a cycle of life, leaving and surviving only in the memory of his fellow human beings? Why is it that, beyond his natural relationship with the environment, he feels that he also has a particular relationship with his self, namely the possibility of self-conscience, as well as the possibility of experiencing a sense of joy, sorrow, love, hatred, anger, meekness, anxiety, and peace, and numerous others, such as the possibility to want or not to want, to choose whether to enact or not a particular deed, thereby traveling a way that is not predetermined like the perpetually similar motion of the stars, but rather determined by his own will?
This is the great question about the meaning of existence and about the meaning of all those conditions which accompany it. We shall attempt to offer an Orthodox answer to this question, after we have first clarified the sources of our knowledge.
We know, therefore that we shall present a response from revelation and not from our own invention. This revelation was given gradually through the centuries to our fellow human beings who sought selflessly and with intense desire the super-celestial being which we call God. The revelation came, not through their own efforts but at the initiative of God alone, and it was completed through Jesus Christ, being partially recorded in the Holy Scriptures. Since then, it is revealed through the Holy Spirit in many souls which are properly prepared through the purification of the mind and of the heart, through selfless love and through faith as divine wisdom and direct knowledge. So we do not conceal from you that we are addressing you as faithful and not as scientists. However, we assure you that we have experiential evidence of the truthfulness of our words, based on an inner assurance that is undeniable and to which we attribute full credence, like the absolute credibility that we attribute to the words of Jesus Christ, to the Holy Scripture that is rightly interpreted according to the teaching and experience of the Orthodox Church, and to the consensus of the Holy Fathers. Therefore we avoid any subjectivism, checking our experiences in light of the experience of the entire Orthodox Church.
On the basis of these spiritual sources of knowledge and such methods of checking this knowledge, we accept the following principles.
God is a personal being. He is comprised of three persons that we call Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These persons are bound among themselves through complete love, because their nature is love, namely the personal

attraction and binding disposition of interpenetration and communion or sharing, which by its very existence renders these persons blessed.
Moving out of love, these three persons, the Triune God, created the lifeless natural universe and the living humans person according to the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26), namely, in the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa "God created human nature to share in every good'' (Migne, P.G. 44: 184B). God created man to share in His own divine blessedness. Thus the purpose of human creation is for man to become a participant in the joy and blessedness of God. However, "God made the divine image not to shine immediately in the creation, but gradually and in stages ... so that man could be led to perfection" (the same, P.G. 44: 25A). This means that man, who was from the outset endowed with the divine characteristics of intelligence, freedom, love, and all the others, was obliged to struggle in order to reach the likeness of the archetype of which he was an image.
The way that God recommended to the first-created couple in order for man to reach this divine likeness was love, which would be revealed in practical terms, through their conformation to a suggestion or commandment. The conformation to the divine will out of love would render man like the Triune God, in Whom each person, while always having a particular will as being a separate person, yet it always absolutely identifies its will out of love to the will of the other two in such a way that, all the members of the Holy Trinity have the same will.
Nevertheless, Adam and Eve did not remain faithful in their love for God. Upon hearing the suggestion of an evil thought which told them that they could, become as gods if they disobeyed: the commandment, namely by denying love and interrupting their personal relationship of love with the Creator, and without using their mind to discern the baseless and deceptive nature of this suggestion, they violated the commandment, that is to say they rejected the bond of love, they willingly cut themselves off from the love of God and wanted to become as gods independently of God and His love.
As St. Gregory of Nyssa again characteristically says: " "Therefore, since this love was no longer present, the whole character of the image was distorted" (PG44: 137C). Thus, the archetypal image of God in man was transformed, changed and corrupted, because the element of love was lost from it, as being the basic and fundamental trait of God. God cannot be conceived without love? And man without love is no longer an image of God, but rather a corrupt and incomplete copy of this image. This transformation and change, this corruption of the image of God in the human person which derive from the lack therein of the element of love, is accompanied by spiritual death, namely a break in the loving communion between God and man, as well as by the wandering of man far from paradisiacal blessedness in which the person who truly loves God dwells.
The break in the loving personal relationship between God and man, as well as the consequential fall or failure of the first-created from their original state could not be restored by human effort, inasmuch as it became an acquired element of the human race which was transmitted by inheritance. Each person bears within himself the death of love. And, while each person also preserves some memory of this love and experiences certain elements of it, such as the elements of motherly affection, of familial ties, of friendly bonds etc..., yet he is unable alone and of himself to render himself anew as the original image of humanity which bore love within itself. Following the rejection of love by the first-created and until the tune of Christ, no person has achieved the resurrection within himself of love to the fullness described by the Apostle Paul in his well-known passage from the thirteenth chapter of his first Letter to the Corinthians. This love, which "never ends" and which "does not seeks its own" and reaches the point of sacrifice on the part of the one who loves for the sake of the one who is loved (see John 15: 13), the only love which "casts out fear" (1 John 4: 18) and likens man to God who is first and foremost love (1 John 4: 8); this love was non-existent and unachievable for man after the fall.
Therefore, it was necessary for some bearer of this love to become humans for a new Adam to be created who would have this love, so that those born of Him would inherit the characteristic of love as a possibility, as an image of the archetype, enabling them through some way and; series of stages to reach the fullest possible human likeness to God, that is to say enabling them to reach a state which, once achieved, would again render man a participant in the divine, blessedness which lies in personal love, which is tantamount to life in God which is by definition eternal.
There has never existed nor will there ever exist any other such bearer of this complete love then God Himself. Consequently, the incarnation of God Himself was the only way to return love to the human race. Indeed, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son and Word of God, when the fullness of time came, was born of the Virgin Mary and became fully man, without ceasing to be fully God, in His very essence the bearer of complete love. Proof of His complete love was His self-emptying during His incarnation for the sake of humanity. This signifies how it was necessary out of love for humanity to accept even His foreseen and certain death for our sake. For when the first-created, while yet in the paradise of love, killed his love for God through disobedience, it was not possible for him not also to kill the love of God which was once again being returned to him in the person of the Divine-Human Jesus Christ, now that he had lost his capacity to love. Therefore, the Word of God accepted to become fully man while yet remaining full of divine love, which was the only motive for His incarnation, in order to return love to man; love as a possibility and as a characteristic also of human nature, as man was originally created. And so he became a new Adam, completely human inasmuch as. He also contained love in Himself, the love which God had planted in the old Adam but which that first ancestor of ours unfortunately put to death.
Thus, whomever desires to attain to the likeness of God must henceforth be able to be regenerated by the new ancestor, the new Adam, Jesus Christ, in order to inherit from Him love as a characteristic of his new existence,
and he must practice love by conforming out of love to the suggestions or commandments of God, in order to be perfected in love, to be deified, to live a personal love with all other persons - both the divine persons of the Holy Trinity and all other human persons in the world, both living and asleep .in the Lord, loved and hated, friends and enemies - and in this way, by entering into love, to be found in the eternity of divine blessedness, which is nothing else than the perception of the absolute personal love of God for man.
Such is the purpose and this is the meaning of life. In this perspective, the human life of the faithful Christian is a life of joy and triumphant song. The One who loves us exists and is accessible. It is Christ. The One w ho introduces us to the love of the Father, exists and desires to introduce us to this love. It is Christ. The One who removes all of the barriers preventing love is Christ, who takes away the sins of the world. The One who has opened the closed way of love invites us to follow Him.
Of course not all follow. Some of those who do not follow once again desire to put love to death and they trouble us in so many ways. These are the tribulations that the faithful endure from the enemies of faith and love. Yet these tribulations do not deprive the faithful of the joy of victory, because they perceive its sure hope. The Lord, our irrefutable bearer of truth, assures us that our joy cannot be removed from within us by anyone; and the Apostle of Christ tells us about the peace "which surpasses all understanding," and about that superb state where we are "as dying, yet behold we live; as punished, yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Cor. 6: 9).
We rejoice because we love and because perfect love never ends, because no one can remove love from our being, and so no one can deprive us of joy. Love is the only meaning of life, the only purpose of the world.
lf you love, you care for your fellow human being. You make sure that you comfort his pain. You work to create only what gives joy to those who are sorrowful. You work for that which gives health to the sick, nourishment to the hungry, truth to the deceived. You work for knowledge, order, harmony, regulation, peace, life, education, for the environment, and for every good deed.
You do not seek to receive. You are happy when you give, you perceive the truth of the blessedness of giving, and so the faithful become, according to the Apostle, "as poor, yet making many people rich; as having nothing, and yet as possessing everything" (2 Cor. 6: 10).
We were created small in body, yet great in spirit, and the greatest in terms of vocation. Deification, namely our likeness to God according to love is the goal and meaning of our life. It is the only way of joy and happiness, which satisfies the deepest desires of the human person. For a human person truly exists only in the bond of love towards another person.
The words of God at the moment of the creation of Adam, that "it is not good for man to be alone" (Gen 2: 18), have a deeper meaning than that usually attributed to them. Their meaning lies in the fact that, alone, man cannot be joyful and blessed. For man seeks the other person with whom the inner love seeks to be related. Whoever is convinced of this seeking and loves humanity and God has found the meaning and purpose of life.
We pray that all of us will discover this purpose through Christ, whose grace and rich mercy be with you all. Amen.

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