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“Christ’s incarnation is my own recreation”[1]

Beloved brothers and sisters, dear children in the Lord,

We praise and glorify the God in Trinity, who deemed us worthy once again this year to reach the great feast of the Nativity in the flesh of the Son and Word of God the Father in “little Bethlehem.”

The holy Church is celebrating with fullness of joy, for Christ “assumed flesh” through His incarnation[2] and rendered the Church “an adornment for the world.”[3] Indeed, the entire human race, and even “all of creation,” rejoices over this divine blessing. “All of creation is today filled with joy because Christ is born of a Virgin.”[4]

In contrast to the “unmoved mover” of the ancient Greeks, our God is the communion of love and lovingly moves in time toward humankind and the world. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us.” (1 John 4.10)

The pre-eternal Word of the Father, who granted “being” to humankind, now grants us “well being” through His incarnation. “This is the reason behind the feast; this is why we celebrate today: namely, God’s descent to us so that we might ascend—or return—to God . . . in order that, by laying aside the old man, we may assume the new man; and in order that, by dying to Adam, we might therefore live in Christ; in order that we might be with Christ, be crucified with Him, be buried with Him, and arise with Him.”[5] The way of deification through grace is henceforth open to everyone coming into the world. All of us are “capable of containing God.” “There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free man, neither male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3.28)

Unfortunately, the Gospel of Christmas is once again proclaimed to a world where the racket of weapons is heard, where unprovoked violence against individuals and peoples is enacted, and where inequality and social justice prevail. It is unbearable to witness the state of countless children, victims of military conflict, irregular situations, manifold exploitations, persecutions and discriminations, as well as hunger, poverty and painful dispossession.

Last April, we had the opportunity in Lesbos to witness with our own eyes—together with His Holiness Pope Francis of Rome and His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece—the tragic circumstances of refugees and immigrants, and especially the acute problems of the suffering children, innocents and defenseless victims of military violence, as well as the racial and religious discrimination and injustice, all of which are constantly increasing.

The feast of God’s Word, who became an infant—the child Jesus, whose disappearance is pursued by worldly authority, according to the Evangelist Matthew (Matt 2.13)—is a reminder and invitation for us to care for children, to protect these vulnerable victims and to respect the sacredness of childhood.

Of course, children and sensitive souls are also threatened in economically developed and politically stable countries of the world, whether by the immense crisis of marriage and family, or by diverse interventions as well as the use of physical or spiritual force. A child’s soul is altered by the influential consumption of electronic media, especially television and the internet, and by the radical transformation of communication. Unbridled economics transfigures them from a young age into consumers, while the pursuit of pleasure rapidly vanishes their innocence.

In light of these dangers, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church addressed children and young people “with particular love and affection” (Prov. 8) by including the following in its Encyclical:

Amid the medley of mutually contradictory definitions of childhood, our most holy Church presents the words of our Lord: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18.3) and “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (Luke 18.17), as well as what our Savior says about those who “prevent” (Luke 18.16) children from approaching Him and about those who “scandalize” them (Matt 18.6).

The mystery of Christmas is crystallized in the words of the festive Kontakion: “For us, a new child was born, God before all ages.” The divine Word as child and the child as God is revealed to the world with “the pure heart” and simplicity of a child. Children comprehend truths, which “wise and prudent” people are unable to approach. As Elytis observes in his poem From one’s neighbor: “You can build Jerusalem out of children alone!”

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,

We appeal to all of you to respect the identity and sacredness of childhood. In light of the global refugee crisis that especially affects the rights of children; in light of the plague of child mortality, hunger and child labor, child abuse and psychological violence, as well as the dangers of altering children’s souls through their uncontrolled exposure to the influence of contemporary electronic means of communication and their subjection to consumerism, we declare 2017 as the Year of Protection of the Sacredness of Childhood, inviting everyone to recognize and respect the rights and integrity of children.

As underlined in another significant document of the Holy and Great Council, the Church of Christ does not look to “judging and condemning the world” with its word (John 3.17; 12.47), “but rather to offer to the world the guidance of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, namely, the hope and assurance that evil, no matter its form, does not have the last word in history and must not be allowed to dictate its course.”[6]

Therefore, we venerate our Savior with humility and compunction, for He has visited us from on high; we praise with divine song the immensity of the sacred Incarnation; we kneel down before the All-Holy Theotokos, who holds the child Jesus; and we address from the sleepless Phanar the festive greeting to all children of the Church of Constantinople, both near and afar: “Christ is born; glorify Him. Christ has come from heaven; come out to meet Him,” together with our paternal wishes and patriarchal prayer.

“Be strong in the grace of Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 2.1) Let us all strive together with faith and sincere love in the good struggle of new life in the Church, adhering to all that the Lord has commanded. For He is with us “all the days of our life, to the end of the ages.” (Matt 28.20)

[1] Gregory the Theologian, Moral Poems 34.

[2] John Chrysostom, Homily before Exile PG 52.429.

[3] Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John 6.

[4] Christmas Matins.

[5] Gregory the Theologian, Homily 38 on Epiphany, namely the Nativity of the Savior.

[6] The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World, introduction.

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The sweetness of the holy night of Christmas once again embraces the world. In the midst of human toil and suffering, crisis and challenge, greed and hatred, anxiety and despair, the mystery of the divine incarnation presents the same charm as a truly tangible and ever contemporary reality, urging “the inhabitants of the world to learn righteousness” (cf. Is. 26:9), for “today our Savior is born” (Luke 2:11).

Unfortunately, however, in our age, many people think like Herod, that illicit and utter slayer of children, annihilating their fellow human beings in manifold ways. When Herod’s self-centeredness distorted his mind as an earthly leader, he was paradoxically threatened by the birth of an innocent Child. Therefore, Herod chose the annihilation of the Child as the most appropriate way of protecting his earthly power.

To escape his murderous intentions, the Infant Jesus, about whom the angels spoke, was forced to flee to Egypt, becoming (as we might say in today’s terminology) a “political refugee,” together with Mary, his most-holy mother and Theotokos, as well as the righteous Joseph.

In our time, which is considered a time of progress, many children are forced to flee as refugees with their parents in order to save their lives, which are undermined by diverse enemies. This is truly a disgrace for the entire human race.

For this reason, on the occasion of the nativity of the Child Jesus, our genuine Redeemer and Savior, we proclaim from the most-holy Apostolic, Patriarchal and Ecumenical Throne that every society must guarantee the safe development of children and respect their right to life, education and normal upbringing, which may be secured by their nurture and formation within the context of the traditional family, based on the principles of love, compassion, peace and solidarity, which are gifts offered to us today by the incarnate Lord.

The newborn Savior invites everyone to receive this message of salvation for all people. It is true that, in the long course of human history, people experienced many migrations and settlements. Yet we would have hoped that, after two world wars as well as numerous proclamations for peace by church and political leaders and institutions, modern societies would be able to secure the peaceful coexistence of people in their own lands. Unfortunately events have shown otherwise and shattered our hopes, because huge masses are today obliged to set out on a bitter road as refugees in the face of annihilation.

This ever-escalating situation, with the constantly swelling wave of refugees, increases the responsibility of those of us who are still blessed to live in peace and some comfort, in order not to remain insensitive to the daily drama of thousands of our fellow human beings. Instead, we are called to express our practical solidarity and love, knowing that every gesture of love toward them is ultimately attributed to the newborn and incarnate Son of God, who came to the world neither as king and ruler, nor as tyrant or aristocrat, but rather as a naked and defenseless Infant in a tiny manger, homeless like many thousands of people at this very moment, and forced from his earliest years to migrate to a distant land in order to survive the hatred of Herod. The innocent blood of today’s refugee infants spills onto the earth and into the sea, while Herod’s insecure soul “bears the guilt.”

This divine Infant, born in Bethlehem and headed to Egypt, is the authentic guardian of today’s refugees, who are persecuted by modern-day Herods. This Child Jesus, our God, “became weak to the weak” (cf. 1 Cor. 9:22), in every way becoming like us who are weak, wearied, at risk, as refugees. Our support and assistance to the persecuted and displaced, irrespective of race, ethnicity and religion, resembles the most precious gifts of the wise men to the newborn Lord, like the invaluable treasures of “gold and frankincense and myrrh” (cf. Matt. 2:11), an inviolable and permanent spiritual wealth that remains incorrupt to the ages and awaits us in the heavenly kingdom.

Let each of us offer whatever we can to our refugee brothers and sisters, in whom we see the person of Jesus Christ. Let us offer the precious gifts of love, sacrifice and compassion to the small Child Christ born in Bethlehem, imitating his tender mercy. And let us worship him with the angels, the wise men and the simple shepherds, as we cry out “glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all people” (Luke 2:14), together with all the saints.

May the grace and abundant mercy of the refugee Infant Jesus be with you all!

Christmas 2015

Your Fervent Supplicant before God

 

* To be read from the pulpit on the Feast of the Nativity

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,
“Christ is descending from the heavens; let us meet Him!”

God has appeared on earth and, at the same time, we have seen the perfect man together with the inconceivable value of the human person. Today especially, we experience the condition of humanity after the fall, as we daily affirm with the Psalmist that “all have gone stray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good – no, not one!” (Psalm 13.3; Rom. 3.12-13)

Before the incarnation of Christ, humanity could never imagine the inconceivable value of the human person, which was weakened and distorted after the fall. Only the most illumined people could perceive, even before the time of Christ, the value of the human person and the response to the Psalmist’s question: “What is man that God would remember him?” (Psalm 8.5), which they proclaimed in the Psalmist’s words: “You have made man a little lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8.6)

Ιt is this supreme value of the human person that the divine-human Lord revealed. And since that time, we each year have heard repeated declarations on the same subject by states, governments and social groups as well international treaties about respecting the human person and human rights.

We witness with great surprise the constantly repeated “drama of Bethlehem.” It is a drama because it is no longer a joyous event when we ignore the Son and Word of God born in a manger, when humanity as His creation is not respected as a “divine image.”

Our holy Orthodox Church and its theology teach us that humanity and the human body deserve the utmost respect because they were united to God in the incarnate Lord. Therefore, all of us are obliged to intensify our efforts for the supreme value of the human person to be respected by everyone.

It is with great sorrow and deep regret that the Ecumenical Patriarchate follows the ongoing and increasing waves of violence and brutality, which continue to plague various regions of our planet and especially the entire Middle East, and in particular the native Christians there, often in the name of religion. We will never cease to declare to all from this Sacred Center of Orthodoxy – to our brother Primates of the Orthodox and other Christian Churches, the leaders and representatives of other religions, the heads of state and every person of good will everywhere, but above all to our fellow human beings that, whether motivated or not by others, place their own lives at risk in order to deprive others of their lives; for they, too, are created by God – that there can be no form of true and genuine religiosity or spirituality without love toward the human person. Any ideological, social or religious expression that either despises humanity created in the image of God or else teaches and permits the death of our fellow human beings, especially in the savage and primitive ways that we see, surely has nothing to do with the God of love.

Dear brothers and sisters, as we turn our attention to the situation prevailing in our world today, we condemn the tragic events stemming from hatred of other religions and enmity toward people, which we witness so frighteningly close to us as we hear and see the terror so readily through social media. In response, we offer as the only powerful antidote to contemporary violence the “ultimate poverty” of God, which always acts as love and which surprised the wise men and the entire world. This is the mystical power of God, the mystical power of the Orthodox Church, and the mystical power of the Christian faith. This is the power that conquers and overcomes every form of violence and evil through love.

This is our humble assessment of world affairs this Christmas. We pray that everyone may experience the joy of utmost respect for the human person, of our fellow human being. We also pray for the cessation of every form of violence, which can only be overcome through the love promoted and provided by the “angel of great counsel,” the “prince of peace,” our Savior Christ.

May the grace, boundless mercy and goodwill of the newly-born and incarnate Lord of glory, peace and love be with you all.

Christmas 2014
Your fervent supplicant to God,

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”
(Isaiah 9.5)

Many centuries ago, the Prophet foresaw and announced with enthusiasm and joy the birth of the child Jesus from the ever-Virgin Mary. Naturally, even then, there was no period of census by Augustus Caesar, no place to stay for the safety of the Holy Virgin who was carrying a child by the Holy Spirit. So the holy Joseph as her betrothed and protector was obliged to lead her to a cave, a manger with animals, “in order to give birth to a child.”

Heaven and earth received them, offering thanks to their Creator: “The angels offered the hymn; the heavens a star; the wise men gifts; the shepherds a miracle; the earth a cave; the desert a manger; and we the Mother Virgin.” The shepherds were keeping watch over their flock, protecting them throughout the night, while the angels were witnessing the Mystery in ecstasy, singing hymns to God. (From Vespers of the Nativity)

The sweetness of the Holy Night of Christmas once again embraces the world. And in the midst of human trial and pain, of unending crises, of passion and enmity, of concern and despair, it presents the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word as a genuine and timely solution. For He descended as dew in a field of cotton inside the womb of the ever-Virgin Mary in order to give rise to righteousness and much peace. (See Ps. 71.7)

In the silence and peace of that sacred night of Christmas, Jesus Christ – being without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, immaterial, ever existing and the same – enters the drama of history bearing flesh, being insignificant, simple, poor and unknown. At the same time, he comes as a “wonderful, counselor, almighty, prince of peace, everlasting father.” (Is. 9.6) Indeed, he comes as a human being, born of a Virgin Mother, to solve the complexity of sin and grant resolution to the impasse of life’s anxiety through His grace and mercy, while providing destiny, value, content, as well as an exemplary ethos and model for the human adventure.

The Lord assumed and sanctified all of human nature. The pre-eternal God condescended to become for us an embryo and be borne inside the womb of the Theotokos. In so doing, He both honored human life from its earliest stage and taught us respect toward humankind from its earliest conception. The Creator of all accepted to be born as an infant and be nurtured by a Virgin. In so doing, He honored both virginity and motherhood, spiritual and natural. This is why St. Gregory the Theologian exhorts: “O women, be as virgins, so that you may become mothers of Christ.” (Homily XXXVIII on Epiphany, PG36.313A)

So the Lord appointed the marriage of male and female in the blessed family. The institution of Christian family constitutes the cell of life and an incubator for the spiritual and physical health and development of children. Therefore, the manifold support of the institution of the family comprises the obligation of the Church and responsibility of leadership in every country.

In order for a child to be raised in a healthy and natural way, there needs to be a family where man and woman live in harmony as one body, one flesh, and one soul, submitting to one another.

We are certain that all spiritual and ecclesiastical, much like the vigilant shepherds of old, but also the leaders of our world, know and accept this divine truth and reality, which we once again proclaim from the Ecumenical Patriarchate during this Christmas period. We must all encourage the creation and function of natural families, which can produce citizens that are spiritually healthy and joyful, filled with sentiments of security, based on the feeling of safety provided by a strong and protective father as well as a nurturing and loving mother. We need families where God might find rest. We invite and urge the entire plenitude of our holy Orthodox Church to live in a manner that is worthy of their calling and do everything that is possible to support the institution of marriage.

Brothers and sisters, “the night is far gone; the day is at hand.” (Rom. 6.12) The shepherds are already headed toward Bethlehem in order to proclaim the miracle. They are inviting us to follow them “like other star-gazing wise men filled with joy” (From the Christmas Troparion of the 4th Ode), bringing “worthy gifts” “such as fine gold to the King of ages, incense to the God of all, and myrrh to the immortal that lay dead for three days.” (Anatolios, Vesperal Hymn at Christmas) That is to say, the gifts of love and our faith, which test us as Christians, especially as Orthodox Christians, in the ethos and tradition of the family, the Fathers, and the Church, which has always practiced the Orthodox way through the centuries and to this day holds together our blessed society, whose cell for sacred life and growth is the family.

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in Christ,
2013 years have passed since the birth of Christ in the flesh
2013 years have passed and, like then, Christ continues to be persecuted in the person of the weak by Herod and all kinds of contemporary Herods
2013 years have passed and Jesus is persecuted in the person of Christians in Syria and elsewhere
2013 years have passed and Christ still flees like a refugee not only in Egypt, but also in Lebanon, Europe, America and elsewhere, seeking security in an insecure world
2013 years have passed and the child Jesus remains imprisoned with the two hierarchs in Syria, Paul (Yazigi) and Youhanna (Ibrahim), as well as the Orthodox nuns and many other known and unknown Christians
2013 years have passed and Christ is crucified with those who are tortured and killed in order not to betray their faith in Him
2013 years have passed and Jesus is daily put to death in the person of thousands of embryos, whose parents prevent from being born
2013 years have passed and Christ is mocked and ridiculed in the person of unfortunate children, who experience the crisis of the family, destitution and poverty.

It is this human pain, sorrow and affliction that our Lord came and once more comes to assume during this Christmas season. After all, He said: “As you have done to one of these, the least of my brothers and sisters,” you have done to me.” (Matt. 25.40-41) It is for these that He was born of a Virgin, for these that He became human, for these that He suffered, was crucified and arose from the dead. That is to say: for all of us. Thus, let each of us lift up our personal cross in order to find grace and mercy when we seek His assistance. Then, the born Emmanuel, our Savior and Lord, will “be with us.” Amen.

“Christ is born, glorify Him; Christ is on earth, exalt Him.”

Let us rejoice in gladness for the ineffable condescension of God.The angels precede us singing: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will among all people.”

Yet, on earth we behold and experience wars and threats of wars. Still, the joyful announcement is in no way annulled. Peace has truly come to earth through reconciliation between God and people in the person of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, however, we human beings have not been reconciled, despite God’s sacred will. We retain a hateful disposition for one another. We discriminate against one another by means of fanaticism with regard to religious and political convictions, by means of greed in the acquisition of material goods, and through expansionism in the exercise of political power. These are the reasons why we come into conflict with one another.

With his Decree of Milan issued in 313AD, the enlightened Roman emperor, St. Constantine the Great, instituted freedom in the practice of the Christian faith, alongside freedom in the practice of every other religion. Sadly, with the passing since then of precisely 1700 years, we continue to see religious persecution against Christians and other Christian minorities in various places.

Moreover, economic competition is spreading globally, as is the pursuit of ephemeral profit, which is promoted as a principal target. The gloomy consequences of the overconcentration of wealth in the hands of the few and the financial desolation of the vast human masses are ignored. This disproportion, which is described worldwide as a financial crisis, is essentially the product of a moral crisis. Nevertheless, humankind is regrettably not attributing the proper significance to this moral crisis. In order to justify this indifference, people invoke the notion of free trade. But free trade is not a license for crime. And criminal conduct is far more than what is recorded in penal codes. It includes what cannot be foreseen by the prescription of statutory laws, such as the confiscation of people’s wealth by supposedly legitimate means. Inasmuch, therefore, as the law cannot be formally imposed, the actions of a minority of citizens are often expressed in an unrestrained manner, provoking disruption in social justice and peace.

From the Ecumenical Patriarchate, then, we have been closely following the “signs of the times,” which everywhere echo the “sounds” of “war and turmoil” – with “nation rising against nation, dominion against dominion, great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues, alongside dreadful phenomena and heavenly portents.” (Luke 21.10-12) In many ways, we are experiencing what St. Basil wrote about “the two types of love: one is feeling sorrow and concern upon seeing one’s beloved harmed; the other is rejoicing and striving to benefit one’s beloved. Anyone who demonstrates neither of these categories clearly does not love one’s brother or sister. (Basil the Great, Shorter Rules, PG31.1200A) This is why, from this sacred See and Center of Orthodoxy, we proclaim the impending new year as the Year of Global Solidarity.

It is our hope that in this way we may be able to sensitize sufficient hearts among humankind regarding the immense and extensive problem of poverty and the need to assume the necessary measures to comfort the hungry and misfortunate.

As your spiritual father and church leader, we ask for the support of all persons and governments of good will in order that we may realize the Lord’s peace on earth – the peace announced by the angels and granted by the infant Jesus. If we truly desire this peace, which transcends all understanding, we are obliged to pursue it palpably instead of being indifferent to the spiritual and material vulnerability of our brothers and sisters, for whom Christ was born.

Love and peace are the essential features of the Lord’s disciples and of every Christian. So let us encourage one another during this Year of Global Solidarity to make every conscious effort – as individuals and nations – for the reduction of the inhumane consequences created by the vast inequalities as well as the recognition by all people of the rights of the weakest among us in order that everyone may enjoy the essential goods necessary for human life. Thus, we shall indeed witness – at least to the degree that it is humanly possible – the realization of peace on earth.

Together with all of material and spiritual creation, we venerate the nativity of the Son and Word of God from the Virgin Mary, bowing down before the newborn Jesus – our illumination and salvation, our advocate in life – and wondering like the Psalmist “Whom shall we fear? Of whom shall we be afraid?” (Ps. 26.1) as Christians, since “to us is born today a savior” (Luke 2.11), “the Lord of hosts, the king of glory.” (Ps. 23.10)

We hope earnestly and pray fervently that the dawning 2013 will be for everyone a year of global solidarity, freedom, reconciliation, good will, peace and joy. May the pre-eternal Word of the Father, who was born in a manger, who united angels and human beings into one order, establishing peace on earth, grant to all people patience, hope and strength, while blessing the world with the divine gifts of His love. Amen.

At the Phanar, Christmas 2012

Your fervent supplicant before God

“Christ is born again and the Angels sing once more:
‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among all.’ ”
(Luke 2.14-15)

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,

The angels chant these three majestic proclamations and yet the great majority of human beings, although celebrating the feast of Christmas, cannot perceive the significance of the angelic song, instead asking themselves whether God is truly glorified today or why God should even be glorified; where can one discern on earth the peace that is announced, and why should contemporary humanity live with good will?

It is because, in reality, most people do not glorify God – either in their deeds or through their words. Many of them doubt the very existence of God and God’s presence in their lives. There are also many people that attribute responsibility to God for the misfortunate occurrences in their lives. However, those who grumble against God err profoundly, since evil does not derive from Him. On the contrary, the loving incarnation of the divine Son and Word, together with the consequent events of His Crucifixion and Resurrection, reshape the human person to its former beauty, granting eternal life and the peace that surpasses all understanding, while rendering human beings co-heirs of the heavenly kingdom. This act of divine condescension, though embracing the ultimate humiliation, is in itself capable of glorifying humanity. Thus, even if many people fail to glorify God in their hearts, nevertheless glory is rendered – by all creation and all things that take place among humans – unto Him who dwells in the highest. We too, then, gratefully cry out with the Angels, “Glory to God in the highest,” for the immensity of His works and the incomprehensibility of His love for us.

Yet people also query the second angelic proclamation: “And on earth peace.” How can we speak of peace on earth when almost half of the planet finds itself either in the act of or in preparation for war? The sweet tone of the angelic proclamation regarding “peace on earth” is of course primarily a divine pledge that, if people adhere to the way indicated by the new-born Child, they will acquire internal peace and peaceful coexistence. But, alas, most people are moved and drawn by the cymbals of war, ignoring the sound of the pledge for peace on earth. We are not referring here to those who passionately support the use of weapons, but especially to those who transform gentle competition to unequal conflict, seeking the annihilation of any opposition. In this respect, war is experienced as reality among members of rival social groups and parties of all kinds – whether racial, political, partisan, financial, ideological, religious, athletic or any other kind, where the intense mindset of members is converted into militant rather than peaceful. However, this does not refute the truth proclaimed by the Angels, that – through the Nativity of Christ and the acceptance of His teachings – peace will indeed prevail on earth. Christ came bearing peace; and if His peace does not prevail in the world, then responsibility lies with those who fail to accept and embrace this peace, not with the God who grants it.

Since this is the stance of contemporary humanity in light of the peace offered by God, it is hardly surprising that good will is rare among people. The good intention of God toward humanity is assured, just as the favorable consequences of divine love are in principle apparent for all human beings and particularly tangible for all those who accept the angelic proclamations in practice. By contrast, for those who reject these proclamations and are given to exploiting and abusing others, the consequences are experienced as a crisis of stress and anxiety, as a crisis of economy and meaning, and finally as existential uncertainty.

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,

All the proclamations of the Angels during the birth of the Lord are realities that exist and are experienced today in fullness by those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Divine-Human Savior of the world. Let us begin from this year to live Christmas in a way that pleases God, the giver of all good things, so that we might experience in our hearts the transcendent peace and the loving good will of God toward us. Let us render ourselves as loving human beings in our relationship to God and other people, becoming sharing persons rather than selfish individuals. Let us remove the masks that estrange and divide us from God and His human image, our fellow human being. And let us fulfill our destiny in the likeness of God by practicing our faith in Him. Let us, too, proclaim the angelic song to humankind, which is suffering terribly and cannot discover Peace and Good Will through its conventional ways. The only way of overcoming war and all forms of crisis, such as the financial one that plagues our world, is our Lord Jesus Christ, who assured us that His is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Therefore, we glorify God in the highest and Jesus Christ who condescended to dwell among us. And we proclaim with the Angels that Peace is accessible and truly exists on earth and within our hearts because we have been reconciled to God through His good will to assume flesh by His birth in the manger.

So let us experience the joy of the Nativity of Jesus Christ and the foretaste of all the benefits announced by the threefold proclamation of the Angels. Amen.

At the Phanar, Christmas 2011

Beloved brother concelebrants and blessed children in the Lord,

Within the somber atmosphere that recently prevails throughout the world with the diverse affliction of the financial, social, moral and especially spiritual crisis, which has created increasing frustration, bitterness, confusion, anxiety, disappointment and fear among many people with regard to the future, the voice of the Church sounds sweet:

Come, O faithful, let us raise our minds to things divine and behold the heavenly condescension that has appeared to us from above in Bethlehem …
(Hymn from the 6th Hour, Christmas)

The unshakeable belief of Christians is that God does not simply or indifferently observe from above the journey of humanity, which He has personally created according to His image and likeness. This is why the incarnation of His only-begotten Son and Word was from the very beginning His “good will,” His original intention. His “pre-eternal will” was precisely to assume in His person, in an act of extreme love, the human nature that He created in order to render it “a participant of divine nature.” (2 Peter 1.4) Indeed, God willed this prior to the “fall” of Adam and Eve, even before their very creation! Following the “fall” of Adam and Eve, the “pre-eternal will” of the Incarnation embraced the Cross, the Sacred Passion, the Life-giving Death, the Descent into Hades, and the Resurrection after three days. In this way, the sin that infiltrated human nature thereby infecting everything and the death that surreptitiously penetrated life were completely and definitively dispelled, while humanity was able to enjoy the fullness of the Paternal and eternal heritage.

However, the divine condescension of Christmas is not restricted to things related to eternity. It also includes things related to our earthly journey. Christ came into the world in order to spread the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven and to initiate us into this Kingdom. Yet, He also came in order to help and heal human weakness. He miraculously and repeatedly fed the multitudes who listened to His word; He cleansed lepers; He supported paralytics; He granted light to the blind, hearing to the deaf and speech to the dumb; He delivered the demonized of impure spirits, resurrected the dead, supported the rights of the oppressed and abandoned; He condemned illegal wealth, heartlessness to the poor, hypocrisy and “hubris” in human relations; He offered Himself as an example of voluntary self-emptying sacrifice for the sake of others!

Perhaps this dimension of the message of divine incarnation should be particularly emphasized this year. Many of our friends and colleagues are experiencing terrible trials from the current crisis. There are countless numbers of unemployed, nouveau poor, homeless, young people with “cropped” dreams. Nevertheless, Bethlehem is translated as a “House of Bread!” Therefore, as faithful Christians, we owe all of our troubled brothers and sisters not only the “essential bread” – that is to say, Christ, who lies in swaddling clothes in the simple manger of Bethlehem – but also the daily tangible bread of survival and all that “pertains to the bodily needs.” (James 2.16) Now is the time for a practical application of the Gospel message with a dignified sense of responsibility! Now is the time for a clear and exact implementation of the words of the Apostle: “Show me your faith with works!” (James 2.18) Now is the time and the opportunity for us “to raise our minds to things divine” to the height of the royal virtue of Love, which brings us closer to God.

This is what we proclaim to all the children of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from this sacred and martyric See, the Church of the Poor of Christ, and we invoke upon all of you the divine condescension and the boundless mercy, as well as the peace and grace of the Only-Begotten Son and Word of God, who for our sake was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. To Him belong the glory, power, honor and worship, with the Father and the Spirit, to the ages of ages. Amen.

+ BARTHOLOMEW
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome,
and Ecumenical Patriarch

Fervent supplicant of all before God