†M I H A I L
By the Grace of God
Bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of Australia and New Zeeland
To the Revered Fathers and Right-believing Pious Faithfull,
Grace, Mercy and Peace from Christ, our Lord,
and from us, hierarchal and paternal blessings!
“But the angel answered and said to the women,
‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus, who was Crucified.
He is not here; for He is risen, as He said’.” (Matt. 28:5-6)
My beloved faithful,
Christ is Risen!
Just as we have gathered here today, in the church of the Living God, to listen the voice of the Gospel which tells us that Jesus Christ is risen, in the same manner, the myrhbearing women listened to the voice of the angel who told them that “Jesus, who was crucified is risen as He foretold.” The news of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is proclaimed, thus, from the very beginning and it has as the root and foundation the Divine Revelation in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Incarnate.
In this way, Christ, our Lord, on one hand, has revealed to us the Father and showed us that we are sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father. This act is fulfilled at the moment when the human person received the Sacrament of Baptism, and thus becomes a child of God through Grace and more so, between Christ and the baptized Christian is established a relationship of communion, which is real, personal and actualized. On the other hand, Christ shows us that during his earthly ministry, that we must be like Him in our lives on earth to live before the Heavenly Father a worthy life, for Christ was Himself the Only begotten Son of Father who came into the world to save us and to illumine for us the way towards the Kingdom of God.
It is a continuous path of ascent towards the heights of the Christian virtues which God reveals to us, “since the love of God is the first and the greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:35-39). And because, “we have received the commandment to love God, we have rooted in us the power to love, and the proof for this does not exist outside of the human being, since every man can learn it from himself and in himself. That is because, all of us by nature are beings desiring what is good and beautiful, even though most of the time, we seem to look at something else as being good and beautiful… but truly inexpressible and indescribable is the brightness of the divine beauties,” says St Basil the Great.[i]
The second great commandment is “the love for our neighbor.” Even Christ, Himself, teaches us how to love the ones near us. He out of love for mankind, has fed the hungry and thirsty, has brought joy to those in sorrows and compassion to the afflicted, has given His blessing and peace to the whole creation, and even more, “He took to bear our weaknesses and suffering and took upon Himself our sickness and became sick because of our sins, and by His bruise we are healed” (Isaiah 53). He rescued us from the curse, suffering unjust judgment and trial, mocking, scourging and crucifixion on the Cross, all for the purpose to bring us, human beings, back to eternal life.
We chant during the service of the Holy and Great Passions: “You have stretched your hands to unite the things separated from old, with the wrapping in the burial cloth, O Saviour, and through the tomb you have loosed the ones who were held in the bonds of old, who were crying to you: There is none holy like you, O Lord!” This “is the day which was prefigured mystically, the great Moses who said: ‘and God has blessed the seventh day, for this is the blessed Sabbath; the day of rest, in which He rested from all His works, even the Only Begotten, the Son of God, through the order of death, has rested bodily in the grave. But He returned once more to what He was, through the Resurrection, giving us eternal life as a lover of mankind.”[ii]
And thus, let us ponder upon this as David the psalmist once did, and let us ask ourselves: “what shall I render to the Lord for all He has given me?” (Ps. 115:3). And to answer it, we shall listen to the Great Basil, the Archbishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia, who says: “He is so good that He does not ask in return anything, but He is simply satisfied with just being loved by us for all He has given us.”[iii] Therefore, my beloved ones, it is fitting for us to begin to take care of our souls, to be sad and mourn for the wickedness of our lives from before, to fight for good and righteous deeds in the future and not to dwell in laziness and to postpone for later the accomplishment of good things, because otherwise, we will be found unworthy by the One who is going to demand our souls. “Now is the appropriate time, now is the day of salvation” reminds us St Paul the Apostle (II Cor. 6:2), for this is the time for repentance and patience, and then comes the time for reward and mercy. For God is now the helper for all those who turn to Him from the path of wickedness, but then, He will be the firm judge of the deeds, words and thoughts of the human race. Now we enjoy his long-bearing patience and compassion, but then, we will know and see His righteous judgment, when will be risen for the dead, “some for eternal condemnation, while others for eternal life.” [iv] As clearly St Paul says, “for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (I Thess. 4: 14).
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This is our faith, that Christ is risen from the dead to annihilate sin and to resurrect us too from the bondage of death.
Such is the confession of our faith that we make through love for Christ, our Lord, everyday of our lives. This year 2010, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, at the recommendation of His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel, has decided to dedicate it, in honor and remembrance, of the holy martyrs and confessors of the Church who have died under persecution for the Orthodox faith and beliefs – as the Year of the Symbol of Faith, the Creed and of the Autocephaly of our Romanian Orthodox Church. All those people have followed the example of the Teacher, Christ our Lord, confessing without fear and with joy their faith in Him and that “He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father who was born before the ages. Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten but not created, of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made. Who for us, men, and our salvation came down from the heavens and was incarnated from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became Man. And was crucified for us in the days of Pontius Pilate and suffered and was buried. And he rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures. And he ascended into heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end…”
With humility, the saints have searched in their lives, holiness, goodness, meekness and love which He had, obeying the word which He gave to His disciples before His Passions and Death: “as I have showed you, and I have done unto you, you, yourselves, also do” (John 13:15). Therefore, today, being strengthened by this very saving faith, we confess that Jesus Christ was not swallowed up by death but that He rose from the dead and enters into communion with every single one of us since the holiness of Christ is no longer only a role model to look up to, but rather comes inside of us and enters our being, sanctifying us, washing us of the sins through the holy sacraments of the Church.
Through prayer and good deeds, every Christian strengthens this bond with Christ who rose from the dead within the Christian community and ascends towards holiness, receiving a new image, one that is transfigured and deeply spiritual. This bond between the Risen Christ and the Church remains eternally real for us, since Christ came to save and renew the whole world. In Christ and in the Church, we have become the people of God; but we have to commit through deep faith and empowered by the divine grace to fight against the sinful actions. And since we bear the title of “Christians”, St. Athanasios the Great directs us “to teach that the Crucified Christ is the Lord of Glory (I Cor. 1:24) and the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, and if anyone doubts that He is God, let him be put to shame by the confession of Thomas, who having touched the One Crucified then confessed that He is the Lord and his God (John 20:28). And let him who doubts be shamed by God, Who after washing the feet of His disciples said: ‘You called Me Lord and Teacher and well you say, for I am’ (John 13:13). For the same human body which He had, with that same body He bent down to wash the feet, with that same body He was lifted up on the cross to lift our sins (I Peter 2:24); in the same body He was confessed to be the Master of creation by the sun who retreated its rays and by the earth which trembled, by the stones that split and by the crowds of people who recognized that the One Crucified is truly the Son of God. He, thus, was crucified on the Cross and after the Resurrection, we have seen his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).[v]
Beloved Spiritual Sons and Daughters,
Keep with reverence the grace which was given to you and do not permit this grace to be something ordinary in our lives. It is the treasure of the highest value, it is the true faith, the orthodox faith, in the Resurrection of the Lord which we now confess holding a lit candle in our hands. This precious pearl must not be measured by any human measurements. Do not expect that it should be something logic or easily understood by those who are not able to comprehend what is beyond human thinking or that it could be grasped in a different form than that which the Holy Orthodox Church had always proclaimed. Let us not forget that we are the “leaven which raises the entire dough” and always be comforted by the words of the Lord who says: “Do not be afraid, my little flock, for behold your Father willed for you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Therefore, as your spiritual father, we pray for you all, the pious and Orthodox faithful of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zeeland, that being strengthened in faith and struggle against the adversary; you must not forget that Christ constantly reminds us: “Be of good cheer! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
On the occasion of this Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, we wish you peace and good health, help and mercy for your families in all the good and useful endeavors along with the Paschal greeting: “Christ is Risen!”
Rejoice with therefore with exceeding joy for “Christ is risen from the dead, trembling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
Your fervent intercessor before the Lord,
† M I H A I L
Bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zeeland
Published in ROEANZ.com.au, Duminică, 11 Aprilie 2010