To all the clergy, monastics and faithful, of our God-saved
Metropolitanate of Australia and New Zealand
We are exceedingly joyous for the opportunity to address you with this Archpastoral Encyclical on the occasion of the all-joyous Feast of the Holy Nativity of the God-child Christ, the Feast of God’s solicitude, mercy and love towards mankind, and the world.
The Feast of the Holy Nativity is a Feast which brings us into fellowship, into the immortal embrace with God and each other, our fellow neighbours.
As a Feast of God’s love and providence for man and the world, Christmas is the atmosphere within which man as an icon of God is called to exist, to fulfil and make meaning of his life.
God is born in a cave, a cold and gloomy place, a place akin to a tomb. It can be said that He is born in a place that most vividly illustrates the condition of humankind’s heart and spirit, the atmosphere within which man found himself after his separation from God, his exodus from God’s secure embrace.
On Christmas, Christ the God-child is born in a small, and in the eyes of the world, geographically unimportant town called Bethlehem. Through His birth, however, as prophesied by the prophet (Micah 5:2), Bethlehem becomes a place of great importance, the centre of the world, which is visited by three Kings; Stargazers, three mysterious representatives of humankind, who fall down in veneration before the Son of Righteousness and the Star which gives birth to a new constellation of wisdom and knowledge, from which man receives his full measure and growth according to his God-given potential.
The Nativity of the Lord brings light and warmth into the darkness and coldness of the human heart, transforming it, leading us who sat in the darkness of ignorance to see a great light (Mathew 4, 16).
The experience of our everyday life points to our human journey as being frequently filled with dissatisfaction, emptiness, stress and disappointment.
Contemporary man in seeking meaning and content in life, by trying to make his day, week, month and year meaningful, often seeks happiness in the numerous technologically advanced and spiritually promising false deities of this world, both ancient and contemporary. The end result as is clearly evident, however, is that modern man remains exhausted and overburdened.
In the colourful presentation of consumerist, secularised and ‘refashioned Christmas’ with all its presents, advertising, seasonal sales and its Santa Clauses, the cave of Bethlehem has been marginalised and overshadowed and the voice of the Godchild Christ silenced. Yet, through the mouth of Orthodoxy He speaks to humanity this Christmas Eve uttering His salvific message: “I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mathew 11, 28-30).
In the depth of his being man cannot be satisfied with the transitory, the limited. Man is created for eternal life, to be a ‘god among gods’, as the psalmist writes (Ps 82: 6) through graceful communion with God.
This Christmas we are once again reminded of the importance and sacredness of the family, as a small church and healthy nucleus in society. Today the family unit is under tremendous pressure brought about by an unnatural busy lifestyle thrust upon it. One in which the family struggles to find time for itself, for fellowship and the proper upbringing of its children. For this reason, we call on our parents this Nativity to be good stewards of time. Find time for each other and especially for your children. Plant into their hearts the seed of eternal values and the true meaning of life revealed to us in the God-child Christ.
Let us be mindful of Christ’s warning to adults: “Let the children come to me” (Mathew 19,14). Let us not, through carelessness become an obstacle to our children on their path to meeting Christ.
Their acquaintance with Him is enacted in the Church, who’s mystical Head is Christ, in the Holy mysteries and virtuous life. The reality of this relationship should continue in our homes, which are called to be an extension of the Church. It is of paramount importance that our children meet Christ, for them to experience His beauty, His love and His peace; His meaning and His values which the world cannot offer.
Let us not take away from our children their most significant Signpost in life. Let us remember the many times we have regretted not acquainting our children with Christ earlier before they have fallen astray.
In the spirit of Christian co-suffering we remember this Christmas our Serbian brethren in crucified Kosovo and Metohija who are constantly under threat of persecution and annihilation.
Our greatest gift and contribution to crucified Kosovo is in keeping alight the flame of St Lazar’s Testament, which is none other than the New Testament given to us in Christ, burning in our hearts and in the hearts of our children on this fifth continent. Kosovo is lost the moment our Serbian people begin to forget its Holy sanctuaries and its Testament.
We call upon all our faithful of the Church of St. Sava across Australia and New Zealand to live in harmony and love with one another. Division amongst the Serbian people is a great defeat to our national being, and in like manner, the weakening of its prosperity and future survival in this land. Let us not place our personal interests above the interests of the mission of our Holy Church in this blessed land.
Let us be a light to the world. Let us spread the joy of Christ’s Nativity among us and the world around us.
In fraternal love, I extend my sincere and heartfelt greetings to you all this blessed Christmas, greeting you with the all-joyous greeting
CHRIST IS BORN – INDEED HE IS BORN!
BISHOP OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH