BY THE GRACE OF GOD
BISHOP OF THE METROPOLITANATE OF
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
GOD'S PEACE — CHRIST IS BORN!
Most beloved Clergy and Monastics, Sons and Daughters,
Our dear Spiritual Children,
How can a womb contain Him whom nothing can contain?
How can He remain in His Father's bosom, yet rest in His mother's arms?
It is His good pleasure to accomplish this. . .
(Nativity Matinal Kathisma Hymn)
God in His Providence deigned, and it is truly according to His good will, that the birth of а child be a great source of joy. For all of us who anticipate that child, its birth evokes boundless love – tenderness – toward that newborn life! As such we celebrate the birth of Christ according to the flesh with hymns of praise and joyful songs. For His birth is the source and foundation of our salvation as He, God before all ages, is "born as a little Child". Christ is born, beloved, glorify Him!
The great prophet Zechariah invites us to await with song the Divine Child, saying: "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, says the Lord", but the prophet continues: "Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation" (Zech. 2:10 & 13). Standing, thereby, with an upright heart before this great deed of the Lord – the incarnation of sacrificial Love – requires a perfect union of praise and silence. Hence, even the Most Holy Theotokos, who "brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn . . . kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk. 2:7 & 19). She, therefore, our Protector and Helper through her temptations and tribulations sets an example for all of us; always in silence but firmly, unshakeably and peacefully standing with faith in God's promise that He will save us.
St Cyril of Alexandria later, in the fifth century, states: "Let what cannot be spoken be worshipped in silence". And so with every Christian and in every true Christian community silence and peace, glory and joy follow one another: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men" (Lk. 2:14) sing the celestial choirs of angels. Sadly, in today's superficial world in which we live, joy is exchanged for shallow merriment and song from the silence of a joyful heart for charivari, posing the question: "Is there any room at all for the Divine Child and space wherein He could affect salvation"?
Albeit today, in this epoch of the Information Age, a person's life is so consumed with the clamour of destructive information and polluted by the noise of disinformation that the obvious truth of Christ's birth cannot readily be discerned. It is precisely in this induced fog that the understanding of community and family – that essential, meaningful foundation of our society, marriage, parenting and children themselves is distorted. For every child deserves to be brought up in the manner of Christ, both in the arms of its father and mother. Today, we Christians who live in Australia and New Zealand are invited to set a personal example of an exemplary marriage and family and thereby fight for the sanctity of marriage and with it, the family.
In like manner, we should not forget that Orthodoxy has a heightened eschatological sense of awareness. This means that our lives are not only that which we momentarily are, or that which we momentarily are doing, but before all else that which we can become and that which we will be when the Lord comes again and fulfils all our shortcomings. Only then, in the future Kingdom of God will we be perfected, without flaw or error. But the path of a human as a Christ-like being, toward that future Kingdom of God begins, not with death, rather with birth. And precisely here the Divine Child seeks His abode. As such, from the very beginning faith is not so much an individual seeking of truth in solitude, as much as it is a matter of community and accepting the new-born Saviour in one's personal life and in the world in which we live.
In offering prayerful regards that the Lord will open our spiritual senses, may we perceive the meaning of His coming amongst us during this festal season and throughout the forthcoming New Year. In rediscovering our path to salvation, may we welcome each other as heaven greeted the earth, with the voice of the angels, proclaimed the coming of the world's long-awaited Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, by joyfully exclaiming:
GOD'S PEACE — CHRIST IS BORN!
TRULY, HE IS BORN!
Given in Sydney at Christmas in the Year 2015
Your earnest intercessor before the crib of the Divine Infant Christ,
Bishop of the Metropolitanate Australia and New Zealand