By The Grace of God
Bishop of The Metropolitanate
of Australia and New Zealand of The Serbian Orthodox Church
Beloved monastics, clergy, all sons and daughters, faithful spiritual children of our Holy Church in Australia and New Zealand, from a paternal heart overflowing with Paschal joy, We greet all of you on this great and most radiant Feast of Feasts exclaiming in the inspired words of the Holy Damascus:
O Christ, great and most holy Pascha,
O Wisdom, Word and Power of God!
Grant that we may more perfectly partake of You
in the never-ending day of Your Kingdom.
(Paschal Canon—Song 9)
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Truly, beloved, let us rejoice exceedingly, for today, in the never-ending day of His Kingdom, the Risen Lord offers us the unique ability to come into touch with Him. He, the pre-eternal Wisdom and Word of God, Power and Love, grants us the opportunity that with Him we may commune and partake of the victory in which he defeated the last enemy of humanity – death – having destroyed death by His death and is risen from the dead!
Pascha is the Feast of Feasts! It is the crown of all feasts and indeed, their very meaning. Without Pascha and the Paschal truth – that fills us all with hope and gives meaning to our life – in the words of the Apostle Paul, “our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (I Cor. 15:14). Precisely because of this the great Apostle wrote to the first Christians: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile . . . Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all persons most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:17-20).
Only those who refuse to believe in the reality of the Resurrection of Christ fall away from His grace. According to the Holy Apostle: “If therefore you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9). For every Orthodox Christian this is not merely a given pledge rather the source of our joy in the Resurrection of Christ which we receive as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The joy of faith, therefore, means rediscovering life itself. The joy of faith also means discovering a pure heart in which God can be seen and in which one will recognise the other in the community of Christ’s love.
Persons that distance themselves from God distance themselves from their very self and their salvation, for they simply lose sight of how to order their relation with their brother, with their neighbour. Therefore, as noted the Elder Nikanor of Chilandar, the old folk saying renders itself applicable: “Who will not have his brother as brother, desires a foreigner as master.” Every human discord comes from those who separate brother from brother, sister from sister, those who separate us from our unity and community of faith.
There lies the response to the question why do believers finds it easier to bear life’s temptations, for their faith inspires strength, hope and love, knowing that they are never alone or left by themselves. The core of our faith is the Risen Christ, who is amongst us and is always present, personally bound by His love for each of us. Therefore, for us believers, directing our gaze toward Him also means a deeper understanding of our very existence.
In just the opposite, hopelessly rushing about in darkness without the light of the Resurrection of the Lord, nowadays many experience tremendous terror, pain and suffering from violence that spreads with the speed of light pulling into itself the rest of the world which helplessly stands by and watches. How will we show our care for those people, for those brothers and sisters and children when we are so far removed from them and their crisis? It is natural to despair about our inability to help the victims of distant conflicts; however our human solidarity is the way that follows God’s commandment to love one another. And here it is good to begin by our personal encounter with the people around us, with our neighbours, to love one another even as He loves us.
For, we are all pilgrims searching for truth in this life which is filled with enormous misery. Faith in Christ assumes that we have trust and that we allow Him, who is Truth, to direct us on the path toward His full revelation. “For now we see as in a mirror – dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully . . .” (I Cor. 13:12), stated the wise Apostle. The Risen Saviour does not belong only to the past; He is there for us every day. In His name the Father sends the Holy Spirit, who gives us to live life in abundance teaching us all things (cf. John 14:26). Thereby we pray “that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you – and you in Him – by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 1:12).
Therefore, with the fullness of Christ’s Holy Church, our firm community and sure source of our faith, hope and love, let us from all our heart exclaim:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
TRULY, HE IS RISEN!
Given in Sydney, at Pascha in the Year 2014
Your fervent intercessor before the Risen Christ,
Bishop of the Metropolitanate of Australia and New Zealand