BY THE GRACE OF GOD
BISHOP OF THE METROPOLITANATE OF
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
GOD'S PEACE — CHRIST IS BORN!
What shall we offer You, O Christ,
Who for our sakes have appeared on earth as a man?
Every creature made by You offers You thanks:
The Angels offer a hymn; the heavens, a star;
The Wise Men, gifts; the shepherds, their wonder;
The earth, its cave; the wilderness, a manger,
And we offer You a Virgin Mother!
(Nativity Vesperal Hymn)
To our much beloved Clergy and Monastics, Sons and Daughters,
Our dear Spiritual Children,
On today's great and most radiant feast of the Nativity of Christ, our Holy Church proclaims the "good news of a great joy which will come to all the people" (Lk. 2:10-11) – Christ the God-man, most beloved faithful, is incarnate in the flesh. The one that existed before the beginning of time is now born in time of the Ever Virgin Mary and constantly being born in human hearts, seeking a place for Himself in each of us – without exception. Let us offer Him, therefore, instead of a dark cave, an honourable heart and instead of a hardened manger, a humble soul that He, as a stranger in this world from birth may enter and abide in the Holy Spirit. Let us offer ourselves to Him for only then will we be able from our whole heart, which is filled with Him, and all our soul, which is illumined by Him, to joyfully and truly exclaim "God's Peace – Christ is born"!
In this past year of our salvation, we solemnly celebrated the centenary of the Great War whose outcome foresaw the end of all wars even to our present day. Sadly, we are still witnessing great unrest in the Middle East, in Egypt, in Ukraine and Syria, and indeed throughout the world. Such that we presently seek after today's wise, learned men and scholars, who seek God today, as those sages of the past, who posed the question: "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him" (Matt. 2:2). Where are those who even today follow the Star of Bethlehem to find Christ – the Sun of Righteousness and discover the mystery of the gifts the Wise Men from the East presented the Divine Child – the secret of gold, frankincense and myrrh?
And we, what shall we offer you, O Christ, who for our sake have appeared on earth as a man? Shall we offer the King of all ages, gold with its glittering shine? Or sweet smelling incense to Him who is God of all? Or melancholy myrrh which is prepared for Him from birth itself for His three-day burial – for death, which alone was defeated in Him and with Him can be overcome in us. The answer to all these questions is simple, but it requires personal sacrifice from each of us, the constant opening up of our own soul and the living of a life according to the Gospel. We must offer ourselves to Him, to open our lives to Him, to make room for Him. For the Newborn Lord, even in this coming year, provides an opportunity and offers us the opportunity to abide in us. As He said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20). Only through Christ and with Christ will we truly experience the grace and joy that the Saviour of the world brings – the future age of His Kingdom!
However, to contemporary people this seems like "blind" faith in which believing means accepting without understanding. We have recently witnessed in Sydney precisely such blindness. Truly, such a narrowly comprehended, instead of a living faith becomes the conceptual foundation of all totalitarianism in which people are constantly trying to replace the immense and exceedingly broad Kingdom of Heaven with their ordinary, in reality minuscule and constricted empires, which only lead us to death. That is precisely why Orthodoxy constantly emphasizes the future age of the Kingdom of God as the measure and criterion of all. For the Kingdom of Heaven which we await begins here and now.
In fact what we do in the present will bear its reflection and final conclusion in eternity! For this cause man, as an iconic Christ-like being, is called and summoned into eternity, not unto death. As in the case of Christ the Divine Child everything begins with His conception and from that moment the Divine Child seeks His abode in man. Thus, the Orthodox faith can only begin with a personal quest for truth, but when a man touches Divine Grace, true faith becomes the calm acceptance of the unfathomable truth of revelation. The perspective of a person of faith becomes the perspective of the Newborn Saviour. According to the words of a contemporary Orthodox thinker, Fr Radovan Bigovic, it is the perspective "of us ourselves, of other people, of things around us, of humanity, of history, of the universe, of God Himself." This essential faith becomes the "light that permeates and illumines the totality of human life."
With paternal prayer that the Newborn Lord will touch the hearts of all, to abide in the soul of every human being; that He may sanctify and enlighten all of us together, and bestow a blessed New Year illumined by the light of the knowledge of God; to bestow upon us a New Year filled with mutual love, peace and unity, we invoke blessings and His love upon all of you, joyfully exclaiming:
GOD'S PEACE — CHRIST IS BORN!
TRULY, HE IS BORN!
Given in Sydney at Christmas in the Year 2014
Your earnest intercessor before the crib of the Divine Infant Christ,
Bishop of the Metropolitanate Australia and New Zealand