14. April 2009 – 15:01
BY THE GRACE OF GOD
THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX
BISHOP OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
Addressing you: beloved monastics, clergy, all sons and daughters, the faithful spiritual children of our Holy Church, with a heart resounding and overflowing with joy in the victory of the inextinguishable light over the death-bearing darkness of sin, the great and victory-bearing Feast of Feasts – The Resurrection of Christ, We wholeheartedly greet all of you with the salvific Christian greeting:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Shine, shine – let us all sing –
O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!
Exalt now and be glad, o Zion; and rejoice, O Pure Theotokos
in the Resurrection of your Son!
(Paschal Irmos – 9th Canon)
And again, We reiterate, sing dear spiritual children, for the Resurrection has brought forth joy in abundance! Together with the Most Holy Theotokos let us rejoice in the Resurrection of her Offspring, convinced that the Lord will fulfill the promise given to us, His disciples and friends (Jn. 15:14) and that the answer will radiate out of the life-giving Tomb in response to the lament of His Mother, and to our sorrows and bitter tears: For I shall arise and be glorified with eternal glory as God and I shall exalt all who magnify you in faith and in love (Irmos of Holy and Great Saturday-9th Canon). And that is truly the joy of Zion, the joy of those persons who live and desire to live on the Mount of the Lord and to maintain an indissoluble bond with the Risen Lord.
Therefore, exalt today for we are surrounded by the radiance and brilliance of the New Jerusalem – that Heavenly Kingdom – which is revealed in the celebration of every Divine Liturgy, and especially today’s – Paschal Liturgy. Truly, the Divine Liturgy is bestowed upon us as a visible gift of that inextinguishable light of the Eighth Day, that day which stands apart from time and space, in eternity. Zion exalts, for even the hills and mountains and all that God has created rejoice, and we exalt in Zion and rejoice in our One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and indivisible Orthodox Church!
We rejoice in the Church, for, according to the words of the famous Theologian, Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, we know that the Church is not an institution with Sacraments; but rather a Sacrament with institutions, wherein we experience the world being made the Kingdom of God through Christ. Also, precisely for the sake of our salvation, Fr. Alexander’s warning is revealed unto us: You will not save the Church; rather the Church will save you! And that we could comprehend this as something which is essential to our daily lives, it is good to call to remembrance the Proverbs of Solomon wherein it is stated: Where there is no vision, the people perish (29:18).
Therefore, in the Church, outside of which there is no salvation, a person of faith cannot and will not perish. It is never too late for anyone to repent and believe, for this generous Master receives the last as the first. It is necessary to open our ears and hearts and our entire being unto the hearing of faith. Then, when we open up ourselves so that the Divine Logos may abide in us (cf. Jn. 1:14), truly the light of the Risen Lord will shine upon us. Let us extend a hand of reconciliation to one another, embrace each other and forgive all by the Resurrection. Only then will we be able to preserve that which we already are. And the paradox of our holy Christian Faith is found exactly in that: if we do not open up ourselves, if we do not come out of our self-sufficiency, we will not be able to preserve anything. And precisely such a sacrifice of love is impossible without the Resurrection.
Inspired by the sacrificial love of the Theotokos – the Mother of the Light, let us hasten to our Mother Church as to the ship of our salvation, so that we may sail upon the waters of a clear vision of ourselves, our identity, our vocation and our holy mission, both as individual members of the Church, according to our Baptism, and as one holy Body of Christ’s Church. This is the holy Faith which we have received through Tradition and which We impart unto you, our beloved faithful, not only for preservation, but also for enrichment and advancement. Truly, this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith (I Jn. 5:4) and that is the only and unique source of our entire joy and fullness of our Christian victory – the victory of the Risen Lord! Therefore today, as all creation rejoices in the victory of love over death (cf. Songs 8:6), We greet you with the victorious greeting:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
TRULY, HE IS RISEN!
Given in Sydney, at Pascha in the Year 2009
Your fervent intercessor before the Risen Christ,
Bishop of Australia and New Zealand
Administrator of the Diocese for Australia and New Zealand
New Gracanica Metropolitanate