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Patriarchal Encyclical for Christmas 2013

Patriarchal Encyclical for Christmas

+ BARTHOLOMEW
By God’s Mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church:
Grace, mercy, and peace from the Savior Christ, born in Bethlehem

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 refuge not only in Egypt, but also in the 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.

Christmas 2013
+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before God

Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ 2013

Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ

December 25,2013
The Nativity of Christ

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given….” (Isaiah 9:6)

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the culmination of this blessed season with the glorious celebration of the Nativity of Christ, we give thanksgiving and praise to God for His abundant grace and for His superb gift of becoming one of us through His Incarnation. This is a feast of joy and light. It is a jubilation on a day and a moment when God because of His great love for us took our humanity upon Himself. Through our Lord’s conception and birth, He entered our human condition. He assumed the flesh and blood that He created. He became man so that He might offer to us power over sin and death and the gift of total liberation from evil.

On this day we celebrate God’s gift to us and to all of humanity and creation. This gift was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a child is given” (Isaiah 9:6). Through His gift, He offers us hope. In the darkness, the brilliant light of promise illumines a path to God through Christ. In our struggle against sin and the many challenges of life, He reveals to us how we can restore our communion with Him, and assures us that we will have the strength to complete our journey of faith. Through the Incarnation of Christ, we are shown the way to true and eternal life, and we become witnesses of the power of God to redeem what He created and loves.

We celebrate this Feast and this wondrous gift at a time when many throughout our world are in need of compassion and hope. We have seen massive destruction and loss due to recent natural disasters. We have witnessed the tragedy of violence within our communities and in nations around the world. We are acutely aware of the struggles of our brothers and sisters in Greece and Cyprus and in other places where economic challenges have burdened many. We are conscious of the ordeals of our Ecumenical Patriarchate due to severe restrictions on true religious freedom. We see around us the consequences when human dignity is devalued and life is exploited.

It is into the midst of the plight of humanity and these challenges that we carry the message of this Feast: For unto us a Child is born and unto us a Son is given! We share a Gospel of hope and promise. Christ has become man, and this unique gift to us has become the spiritual foundation for our offering to others in need. In gratitude to Him, in our compassion for our fellow human beings, and as a witness of the greatest gift of all, we offer to those who have lost everything, who carry the burden of despair, who suffer under conditions they cannot control or change, who have been victims of the abuse of others. They need to hear and see that God has given Himself to them, that His grace is revealed through Christ so that they might have hope and true life.

On this holy and blessed Feast of the Nativity of Christ, may our hearts be filled with joy as we receive and celebrate the gift of God and the gift of hope and life. May we also renew our commitment to share this gift with everyone. Let us give from our abundance so that others receive care and healing. Let us respond to the needs of those around us and throughout the world, so that the witness of God’s grace may shine in every place. And may our good and gracious God bless you and your families as you share in fellowship and prayer on this beautiful and sacred day.

With paternal love in Christ,

†DEMETRIOS
Archbishop of America

National Leadership 100 Sunday

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

October 27, 2013

National Leadership 100 Sunday

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7)

 To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America.

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this Sunday, October 27, following the Feast of Saint Iakovos on October 23, we give thanks to God for the faithful and steadfast members of Leadership 100 and celebrate the great achievements of the Leadership 100 Endowment Fund, which for over 29 years since its founding by Archbishop Iakovos of Blessed Memory, has continuously provided assistance to the ministries of our Church for the glory of God.  Through the expression of faith of the many members of Leadership 100 who have walked in the way of Our Lord, manifold gifts have been given to individuals and institutions with thanksgiving, rooting and building up lives in Him whom we serve.

Surely, Leadership 100 has demonstrated its establishment in the faith by the precious gifts to men called to the Holy Priesthood through scholarships offered at our beloved Holy Cross School of Theology, by the assistance provided to active clergy in relieving the burden of student loans and to retired clergy and their presvyteres. It has revealed the fruits of this faithfulness through the love and good works that have been given to our youth and young adults and families through ministries in the care centers of our Church and in our summer camps across the nation. Leadership 100 has also made manifest its faith through resources for more and more people through the preparation and publication of quality resources that broaden the work of the parishes and ministries of our Archdiocese. This steadfast confession of faith, rooted and built up in Christ, has generated persistence in a philanthropic spirit that has overcome many barriers in being carried around the world through Leadership 100’s generous gifts to relief efforts and missions.

We cherish with all who share through our Orthodox faith and Hellenic heritage the mission of Leadership 100 in appreciation of three decades of service. Leadership 100 will continue to witness to the essential role of our faith and the Church in meeting the needs of others. Through their love of God, the members of Leadership 100 will rightly abound in thanksgiving to God for their collective philanthropic efforts.

On this fifth commemoration of National Leadership 100 Sunday, I ask all of our parishes to honor Leadership 100’s faithful legacy of service and to recognize its members.  In celebrating the Feast of Saint Iakovos, may we recognize the blessings of God through their precious offerings. May we also highlight the accomplishments and mission of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund and give thanks to God for its vision and commitment for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and the promotion of His Holy Gospel.

With paternal love in Christ,

†DEMETRIOS

Archbishop of America

Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for OXI Day- October 28,2013

Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for OXI Day – October 28, 2013

 

What does the Lord seek from you but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America

 

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this day of October 28, we give thanks to God and we remember our valiant forbearers for their stand against the forces of tyranny in 1940.   For the people of Greece, their love of freedom after centuries of occupation helped them to recognize the heinous nature of the expansion of the Axis powers and to support heroically the “NO” given in reply by the prime minister when asked to surrender.  In the midst of overwhelming threats of violence and destruction, they also relied on their faith in God and on their affirmation of all that is just and true.

Certainly, the people of Greece knew that the attempt to occupy their beloved land was unjust.  The forces of the totalitarian regimes of the Axis had already taken life, liberty, and property in other countries, and the onslaught of fascism continued.  In response our ancestors sought to defend our homeland, to meet injustice with honor, and to support the response of “NO” with a willingness to sacrifice all for the cause of freedom.  They knew their character, identity, and faith would not allow them to step aside quietly and acquiesce to the demands of tyranny.

The response of the Greeks to the Fascist and Nazi Axis forces and the resistance to occupation was just, for it was a firm and bold recognition of evil.  They knew that ultimately this was a confrontation with powers that sought to strip people of their freedom, their dignity, and even their lives.  This just cause was also motivated by a love of family, of sacred and ancestral lands, and of the blessings of freedom.  Further, the stand of the people of Greece was not characterized by arrogance, disdain, and conceit.  These attributes of the Axis leaders and forces were met by a strong and humble people whose love of God and each other led them to act justly, seeking to uphold what was good and noble and placing their hope and future in the promises of God.

On this day the “NO” of October 28, 1940, and the heroic stand of the people of Greece inspires us and offers a witness to the world of the priority and character of justice in the face of great threats and adversity.  Throughout the world there are many struggles for power as well as movements against tyranny and injustice.  Through our faith in God and in our recognition of our cherished inheritance, we must discern what is just and what is not.  As Orthodox Christians, we are called to live and do justly, to confront the machinations of evil, and to do so in the grace of God with a love for life and for others who are created in His image and likeness.  Our just and holy ways should also be characterized by dignity and humility.  True, decent humility is not a sign of weakness, but of great strength and faith, revealing a deep and abiding trust in the sacredness of the human person and in the power and promises of God.  It is in this way that we will not only honor the legacy of our Greek forbearers, but we will also bring honor and glory to God as we allow His grace to prevail and as we bear witness to the truth of life and salvation in Him.

May His abundant blessings be upon all of our commemorations of this day, and may we continue to offer a bright witness of the sacrificial and just stand made by the people of Greece!

 

With paternal love in Christ,

†DEMETRIOS
Archbishop of America

Liturgical – Great and Holy Pascha

[WSB Cover:http://stdemetrios.org/weekly-sunday-bulletin-great-and-holy-pascha, Liturgical:http://stdemetrios.org/Liturgical-great-and-holy-pascha, Announcements:http://stdemetrios.org/announcements-great-and-holy-pascha]

Apolytikion of Pascha

Χριστός Άνέστη…
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs He has granted live.

2013 Patriarchal Encyclical for Pascha

† BARTHOLOMEW
By God’s mercy
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch

To the Plenitude of the Church
Grace, Peace and Mercy from Christ Risen in Glory

Beloved concelebrants and devout, god-loving children of the Church,

Christ is Risen!

 

The proclamation of the Resurrection by the myrrh-bearing women to the disciples of Christ was considered delirious. Yet, the word, formerly conceived as delirious, was confirmed as Truth. The risen Lord appeared to His disciples on several occasions.

In our time, the proclamation of the Resurrection is again considered delirious by rationalists. Nonetheless, we faithful not only believe in but also experience the Resurrection as a profoundly truthful fact. Indeed, if necessary, we seal our testimony with self-sacrifice because in the risen Christ we transcend death and are liberated from its fear. Our hearts are filled with joy when we repeat: The Lord has risen. Our saints, who have died according to the world, continue to live among us, responding to our petitions. The world that follows death is truer than the world that precedes death. Christ has risen and dwells among us. He has promised to be with us to the end of the world. And so He is – as our friend, brother, healer, who bestows all good things.

Blessed is our God, who has risen from the dead, granting eternal life to all people. O death, where is your sting? Christ has risen, revealing and ridiculing the one who formerly boasted without end to be a mockery. (See the Canon of St. John Damascene, 4th tone, 9th ode) Everything is filled with light and our hearts are replete with limitless joy.

And more than joy, they are filled with strength. For whoever believes in the Resurrection is unafraid of death; and whoever is unafraid of death is spiritually unyielding and unbending inasmuch as what may be the most terrible threat for the majority and for the disbelievers is of little significance to the Christian; for it is the entrance to life itself. The faithful Christian lives the Resurrection even prior to his or her natural death.

The consequence of experiencing the Resurrection is the transformation of the world. It inspires the soul. And an inspired soul also attracts other souls to its ways, when these souls are moved by the genuine joyous experience of immortality. Christ’s Resurrection and our own resurrection are not simply an abstract truth. They are a dogma of faith. They are a tangible reality. They are a force that overcomes the world despite the extremely harsh persecutions waged against it. “This is the victory, which has conquered the world, namely our faith” (1 John 5.4) in His Resurrection. Through the Resurrection, humanity is called to divinity through grace. Through the victory of the light of Resurrection over the impure passions, divine eros and a strange love, which surpasses human boundaries, are established in our souls.

Therefore, Christ is Risen! Our hearts are filled with the light and joy of the Resurrection. We approach the Risen Lord with authenticity and simplicity. For, as the royal Prophet David says, our God, who supervises our hearts from above, “will not despise a broken and contrite heart.” (Psalm 50.19)

The Resurrection is our strength, hope, joy, and delight. Through the Resurrection, we transcend pain and sorrow for all the evils of this natural, worldly life. The Resurrection is God’s response to the helplessness of wounded humanity before the suffering of worldly humanity.

We do not surrender to the difficulties and challenges of the modern world. The gathering of the Lord’s fearful disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem encourages us. We are not afraid because we love everyone, even as He loved us and gave His life for our sake. Mysteriously and invisibly, the Lord accompanies us. We only need to have – and we do have – love. For though love, we understand the power of the Mystery; we know the Mystery itself.

If others hesitate, “garnering their actions in thick sheaves” (Vespers of the Prodigal Son), yet we boast. And if we do not “winnow the chaff of our [sinful and passionate] actions with the wind of His loving-kindness or on the threshing floor of repentance,” the Risen Lord is Love and disperses all forms of darkness and fear that surrounds us, entering our hearts and our world, even when the doors are closed. He “remains with us” permanently through the cross of love. His calling is peace, and He grants us His peace. The powerful of this world pledge and promise peace, but can never produce or realize it. Whereas the power of divine Love, Peace and Wisdom remains beyond all human panic. It is not found on the margins of reality or the surface of human convictions. Instead, it is the heart of humanity, the center of life, the lord of life and death. It is Truth.

The incontestable transcendence of Power invisibly controls the reigns and directs all things, especially at a time when “the minds of so many lie in darkness.”

At this time of widespread dissolution throughout the world, the hope of all throughout the universe, the Wisdom of God, is the presence of the heavenly solution and harmony. At a time of collapse and anticipated death, we have the reality of Resurrection and the strength of our conviction in Christ.

The peace that derives from Him who trampled down death by death through his self-emptying, together with the joy of love, flow and heal our contemporary humanity that sighs and suffers as well as all of creation that groans and laments with us, who “await adoption and redemption” as well as “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8.20-23)

Truly the Lord is Risen, beloved fathers, brothers and sisters !

 

Holy Pascha 2013

†Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before God

Epistle Reading

Acts of the Apostles 1:1-8

IN THE FIRST BOOK, O Theophilos, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of lsrael?” He said to them, “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”

Gospel Reading

John 1:1-17
Great and Holy Pascha

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.

The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'”) And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.