Bishop Irinej of Australia and New Zealand: Hierarchal Paschal Encyclical
BY THE GRACE OF GOD
BISHOP OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
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 joy in the Risen Lord, We greet all of you on this Great Feast of Feasts exclaiming with the words of the Paschal hymnographer John of Damascus:
Let us purify our senses,
and in the unapproachable light of the Resurrection,
we shall see Christ shining forth
and we shall clearly hear Him say: ‘Rejoice!'
as we sing the triumphal song -
(Paschal Canon-Song 1
from St Gregory the Theologian-Paschal Sermon 45)
CHRIST IS RISEN!
In the light of the Resurrection, in that unapproachable light, which has shown forth from His life-giving tomb, despite all of our personal misfortunes and sorrows, our sufferings, qualms and of life's difficulties, we reveal the measureless source of our joy and the fount of eternal hope! There is no sorrow, states the Holy Confessor Barnabas, to which sin is not the source. Therefore, to be freed of sin is to be wed unto joy. For Christ is risen from the dead, bestowing life upon us, and destroying unjust death, which entered through sin into the world, once and for ever, transforming it into the gift of His life!
Beloved, this unbelievable news precisely requires of us a fundamental change in life, as for us a joyous heart is life! Leave behind yourselves, all of life's sorrow and all despair (Sirach 30:22-23) and enter today into the light of Christ's Resurrection! For that uncreated Divine Light, which has shown forth even from before the creation of the world, and as an inextinguishable ember buried under ashes at once bursts forth into flame, so also the light of Christ once again reveals in us the joy of life itself. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete (1 John 1:4).
That joy stems from a true encounter with Christ and with our neighbours. ‘My joy, Christ is Risen!' cries out to us that great Russian man of God, our Venerable Father Seraphim of Sarov. To that we would add this contemplation from the Journal of a contemporary Orthodox Theologian, Father Alexander Schmemann: Joy about nothing concrete, joy from beyond; the joy of God's presence touching the soul. And the experience of this touch, of this joy (which will never be taken away since it has become the deepest part of the soul) will determine the course, the direction of one's thoughts and one's relationship to life. For the Holy Spirit, which Christ breathed upon His Holy Apostles (John 20:22), confirms the joy of the Risen Lord within the core of our being and sustains us on the path which leads to life, for He is our Life-giver.
Within us, thereby, spontaneous joy can suddenly arise from an unexpected encounter, from an enduring friendship, viewing an artistic creation or even from the very beauty of nature. Joy which is likened unto the tender innocence of little children; an encounter with those who suffer poverty and a multitude of misfortunes, yet those who despite everything have not remained discouraged. Precisely such and similar encounters require of us a conscientious, sober choice i.e. a determination for the unending joy of the Resurrected Lord who bestows life upon all.
The Holy Apostle Paul ceaselessly invites us to eternal joy in all circumstances (I Thess. 5:16) and in that joy that our gentleness be known before all persons (Philipp. 4:4). He reveals the source of that joy, which does not depend on that which is transient or circumstances which can drastically change from day to day, such as is clearly evident in the recent floods, earthquakes and tsunami; rather it originates from trust in the Lord who has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Therefore, what is expected of us, beloved, is to experience, each of us in our unique personal way, an authentic expression of our faith within the community of this world; a community which becomes perfected in the liturgical community of His love. However, as mere persons we are never certain as to what is authentic, for it is not given unto us to know the fullness of truth, as we are sinful and possessed of all of our human frailties. For this reason, the Risen Saviour is our only measure, the way, the truth and the life (John14:6).
Our joy, rejoice today and always and from all your heart with the plenitude of Christ's Holy Church, exclaim:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
TRULY, HE IS RISEN!
Given in Sydney, at Pascha in the Year 2011
Your fervent intercessor before the Risen Christ,
Bishop of Australia and New Zealand
Bishop-Administrator of the Diocese for Australia and New Zealand
New Gracanica Metropolitanate