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 you on this great and most radiant Feast of Feasts with the inspiring words of Saint John the Theologian:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them; He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Most beloved, in order for the Risen Christ, who is the source of life, life in abundance, of eternal life, to open our spiritual eyes and hone all of our God-given senses, we must consciously opt for a life in Christ. For He first loved us, creating us as an extension of Himself – His Love – in this world and in this age. But this world, which the Lord has created and sealed with His love and beauty (Gen. 1:31), requires us to cooperate fully with the Triumphant God-Man so that we can joyfully enter the dwelling of God and be His people and that He would be with us and we would live according to the will of His Heavenly Father, and in His victory.
However, in this world there continue to be numerous difficulties and travails as many do not desire to accept God's love and thereby His victory over the last enemy – death! They prefer to live in their own right without the Lord. The laws and order of the Creator have been forgotten in many modern societies. Even here amongst us in Australia and New Zealand many are those who may have unwittingly become accomplices in the contemporary heresy of secularism, that is those who live in the world as people of the world, and not as laity with God and according to God's salvific will. Prayer, which is more and more banned in public space, is understood as the exhausting pursuit of vain religions, rather than an unlimited time and space in which to stop and fill our lungs with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; in which we breathe freely with the true faith; and responsibly contemplate and fulfill ourselves in His love.
The sense of the man himself and thus the community, marriage, parenthood and family, which are the unshakeable foundations of every healthy, wholesome society originate from our Heavenly Father and find their perfection in the iconic likeness of the intercommunion of the Holy Life-creating Trinity. Today, the meaning of life itself is quickly removed and is replaced by distorted societal shadows in which it is difficult to recognise the people of God, those that are gathered around Him in His dwelling. Instead of gathering around the holiness of life in His tabernacle, our children today are taught about self-seclusion within a so-called "Safe space" in which a mother and father are no longer required; in which marriage that is according to God's will is no longer essential; in which brother and sister are no longer an integral part of our existence. Man in this world is only an individual, one which lives by and for itself as a self-sufficient and lonely being, without the mutual sharing of God-given gifts and life, completely devoid of the sanctity of a community.
Only in the Church, which is our Mother, is there still room for our freedom. Although, according to the Holy Apostle Paul, we need to know how "to behave in the House of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). Only in the Church, even though we bare the scars of this world, can we make decisions about ourselves and others according to proper criteria and answer the question: What kind of hope can the Church offer in defense against such rampant secularism? Knowing that for our sake Christ allowed the powers of this world to nail Him to the wood of the cross and that for our sake He gave Himself in perfect obedience to His Father even to the point of death itself, in order to destroy Hades and arise from the dead. Encountering the Risen Christ we learn that the Lord has removed the shackles of selfishness and individuality, so that we can realise ourselves as person. Our understanding of personhood is one in which "person" represents an event of irreducible uniqueness and freedom from the balance of created nature. Only man can live life as a self-offering being who offers himself in love. An individual is not capable of sharing their gifts, not having another with which to realise an interpersonal relationship. "For Cain" according to the Holy Despot Stephen Lazarevich "extraneous to love, said to Abel, 'Let us go out into the field'." (Slovo ljubve – Gen. 4:8). Indeed, the greatest good is not the happiness of an individual, but a life of gratitude, joy and giving of self.
"For the former things have passed away", the sinfulness of this age, and we become aware, our much beloved spiritual children, that precisely here and now "a new heaven and a new earth . . . the Holy City, New Jerusalem" is realised, one in which the Risen Lord will "wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more." Therefore, singing from the heart, "Shine! Shine! New Jerusalem! For the glory of the Lord has shone upon you. Rejoice now and be glad, O Zion. . ." We joyfully greet you, for Life reigns!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
TRULY, HE IS RISEN!
Given in Sydney, at Pascha in the Year 2016
Your fervent intercessor before the Risen Christ,
Bishop of the Metropolitanate of Australia and New Zealand