Through the mercy and care of the Most High,
Bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of Northern Europe,
To my beloved fellow priests, to those who strive ascetically in the holy monasteries and to the chosen people of God, grace, peace and joy from the Crucified and Risen Christ, and from my side, a parental and brotherly embrace with the paschal greeting: Christ is risen!
Reverend servants of the Holy Altar,
Dear fellow-supplicant Brothers and Sisters,
The Great Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection shows that “God so loved the world, that he gave his Only-Begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Christ offers up Himself (Hebrews 7:27) as an unblemished sacrifice (Hebrews 9:14) once and for all (Hebrews 7:27) to take away the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28), that is the sins of us who believe in Him.
What do we owe to this supreme sacrifice? We say it and we confess it every time in the Divine Liturgy: let us entrust ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God. Here is how we answer God, Who is love, the God Who gave His Only Son to gain us to life and salvation. We respond by offering in return a sacrifice, though without shedding of blood, a collective sacrifice, because we are not only involved as individuals but as members of each other. We answer by offering ourselves, as well as one another, because salvation is not given to us alone, but together with our fellow men. I offer myself to my brother for the sake of Christ and in Christ, and Christ, receiving our sacrifice, raises us, saves us, and covers us with mercy, love and light. He brings us fulfillment and transfigures us, He makes us God-like.
This is the call of our God and the only saving way: to offer ourselves to the Savior Christ. In our family life, in our social life, this must be the ultimate goal: how to draw ourselves closer to Christ and how to bring others closer to Christ, be they parents, spouses, children, friends or colleagues. If we lose sight of this ultimate goal, then we lose sight of the very essence of life. We lose sight of our purpose. If we entertain relationships only for our comfort or just because they are inevitable, then we are not alive before God.
How can we do that, namely to bring both ourselves and the others to Christ? As far as we are concerned, things seem simpler, for we have control over our own selves, we have free will. It is up to us to dedicate ourselves to the spiritual life, to dedicate ourselves to the prayer of repentance, to partake of the grace that comes through the holy services of the Church, to read the Holy Scriptures, to examine our brother in need and to fulfill the Savior’s commandments. But how can we do this with our fellow men, without imposing on their freedom, without coercing them? We do this especially by taking our fellow man to our heart, if we care for his salvation, if we begin to pray for him, if we build our relationship with our fellow, whoever he is, not only on the natural elements of human relationships, but rather on the spiritual ones, those related to eternal life, if we see our brother and his life as a stakes of our eternity. By doing so, we will gain awareness in the relationship with others, that is, a state of “permanent alert” through which we may be available anytime to our fellow man for salvation. Without atacking him with unnecessary theories or uninvited advice, we will be there if needed. Thus, God will work through us for the life and salvation of our brother. He works both in our lives and in the lives of our fellow men.
Dear brothers and sisters
for whom Christ has sacrificed Himself,
If we do not entrust ourselves and one another, fully, to the Savior Christ, then we will sacrifice one another for the idols of this world. There is no third alternative for Christians! Either we are with and in Christ, or we are with the mammon, the “ruler of this world,” who “has nothing” in Christ (John 14:30). In ancient times, the prophets of the chosen people wept with bitter tears for the fall of the Jews into idolatry, resulting in human sacrifices! “They attached themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead […], they mingled with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood.” (Ps 106:28,35-38).
Today, we no longer offer a sacrifice to Baal by slaughtering our own children. But we lose them spiritually and we sacrifice them to the new idols of the postmodern society of consumption! We let them burn in the fire of passions, stirred up by the debauched sensuality of this age! We abandom them to ideologies of all kinds, which lead them to the most terrible slavery of the mind, which can no longer differentiate between normal and abnormal, between natural and what is against nature, between man and woman, between life and death!
How did we get here? It is because we do not bring ourselves before Christ. And if we do not offer ourselves to Him, then how are we to bring others, be they even our own family? We sacrifice our own children, our own wife or our own husband to Baal-Peor, because we ourselves are looking for something else in our lives. We want wealth, material comfort, appreciation and recognition in this world, more than we want spiritual fulfillment and a well-received response to our prayer of repentance. We conform more to the demands of this world than to what Christ expects of us. Let us make an experiment: let us examine ourselves and see how much effort, how much time, how many words, how much thought, how much energy, how much action do we spend in order to make ourselves acceptable, delightful, worthy to be rewarded in this world and for worldly purposes, and how much effort and self-inquiry, how much dedication to prayer and repentance do we have in order to be well-pleasing to God, to genuinely feel that we are living members of the Church?
My beloved spiritual sons and daughters,
I’m convinced that most of you are not enjoying or seeking for a luxurious material life. Most of you work very hard in order to secure a life as decent as possible according to the standards of today’s world. But here is the problem: that the standards of this world are no longer natural. They no longer conform to our nature. It is unnatural to have to work all day and to see your children’s face only in the evening, when you are too tired to offer them a smile, a warm embrace, a welcoming heart. It is unnatural to have no time for your wife or your husband and the whole family relationship to be limited to things of strict necessity. It is unnatural to be unable to sit quietly with your friends to discuss not about bills or the latest mobile phones or tablets, but about eternal life, about the soul, about friendship! Unfortunately, in the world we live in, family, friendship and any lofty aspiration of the human soul are trampled down and sacrificed! We receive, instead, surrogates and drugs, that is, vain pleasures of consumption, and addictions that act as anesthetics to overcome the pains of the heart. This is the “contract” that this world proposes to us: give me your soul and the souls of those in your household, and I will give you, in return, strong sensations that will make you forget your true vocation, will silence the voice of conscience and the tremble of your heart. We clearly see that this stance against nature begins to be transferred to things that until now seemed to be self-understood: the distinction between woman and man, the definition and meaning of marriage, of the family. The two aspects are interwoven and rely on each other: on the one hand, the slavery of the consumer society and on the other hand, the total dissolution of the person in postmodern ideologies.
How can we get out of this new, terrible and ultimate slavery? By doing everything in our power to stay away from signing this “contract” with the world, by being aware that our soul and the souls of those near us have been redeemed with the most precious blood of the Savior Christ (1 Peter 1: 18-19). Why should we throw to the mammon our soul, for which God has given His Only Son to sacrifice? Why should we sacrifice to Baal-Peor the souls of our children, of our spouses and friends for whom Christ was crucified and rose from the dead? We should not look for a change in the world for the better, but on the contrary. The Christian in today’s world resembles a fish that lives in a polluted river. The other fish do not realize the river is polluted, some even adapt by growing malformations, but the Christian, if he is conscious, realizes that he lives in poisonous, toxic water. And, although he realizes that, he cannot keep himself away, he can not change the river. He is also soaked with toxic water.
Likewise with us: because of the pressures around us, because of the exigencies and expectations that the world has from us and which come into direct conflict with our Christian vocation, we are soaked with secularism. The Christian is caught in the middle here. On the one hand, he has to move in the rhythm of the world if he wants to remain in the society, with a respectable status, if it wants to sustain his family. On the other hand, if he moves entirely in the rhythm of this world, he loses his heart, his soul. Going back to the metaphor, it is clear that we can not jump out of the river to change it. We need to learn to swim against the current since, as the river advances towards the cascade, which is the final collapse, it becomes more and more toxic. We have to swim in the opposite direction, not to follow the world. This state is a terrible slavery, but we know that God is faithful to those who pray earnestly to be delivered, according to the words of the Psalmist: “Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the South” (Psalm 125: 4).
We live in times of tribulation for Christians. There is a persecution which, for the time being, is diminished and sometimes masked, though more visible in social interactions. We are marginalized, slandered, stigmatized, hated for the testimony we give in the world about family, life, homeland. We are hated for our Christ, whom we refuse to transform into a modern idol, under the pretence of defending the non-values of “tolerance,” “diversity,” “equality,” these empty slogans that hide behind them hate for God’s creation.
And the only weapon blessed by God which we can use against this assault of wickedness is gentleness. The gentleness which stems from the firmness and dignity of the Son of God who responded to Pontius Pontus, the Pharisees and the scribes, to Simon-Peter when he cut Malhus’s right ear in the Gethsemane Garden, then to the one who struck Him in the cheek before the Sanhedrin, the gentleness with which He prayed on the Cross. Our weapon is the gentleness with which St. Archdeacon and Protomartyr Stephen testified before the Sanhedrin and then prayed for his murderers. Let us therefore make haste to receive this gift of the Holy Spirit, for only so armed can we cross the darkness of this age which is contrary to our God who is Love.
Wishing you all good and profitable things, your servant, brother, friend, and fervent supplicant,
† Father Bishop Macarie
Given in the Episcopal Residence in Stockholm, Kingdom of Sweden, at the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, in the year of salvation 2018.