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On the Sunday that occurs on or immediately after the eighteenth of this month, we celebrate all those who from ages past have been well-pleasing to God, beginning from Adam even unto Joseph the Betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos, according to genealogy, as the Evangelist Luke hath recorded historically (Luke 3:23-38); we also commemorate the Prophets and Prophetesses, and especially the Prophet Daniel and the Holy Three Children.
Parish Council on duty:
Peter Angelakos, John Argiropoulos, Anna Merkel, Medon Michaelides, Chris Nichols, Peter Synoyannis, Eleni Varvoutis
By the Mercy of God Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
And Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plentitude of the Church
Grace, Mercy and Peace
From the Savior Christ Born in Bethlehem
* * *
“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 313 AD, 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
+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
Reverend Clergy and the Faithful of the Holy and God-protected Metropolis of Atlanta
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“How shall I tell of this great mystery? He who is without flesh becomes incarnate;
the Word puts on a body; the invisible is seen; He whom no hand can touch is handled;
and He who knows no beginning now begins to be.
The Son of God becomes the Son of man: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.”
On the great occasion of the joyful Feast of the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I greet you with love and joy and I glorify our Lord Jesus Christ for blessing me with the great opportunity to serve you, the Faithful of our Holy Metropolis of Atlanta, as we share in the joy of His Blessed Nativity. In the midst of all the problems, difficulties and uncertainty of our broken and sinful world, the Feast of the Nativity brings us God’s message of comfort and joy: “God is with us!” No matter how profound the darkness surrounding us seems, we see the light of our Savior, the true Light that shines in the darkness.
Our human minds will never understand the Mystery of the Incarnation. We know from the Holy Scripture and the Fathers that the birth of Christ was the coming of God’s Word into our human flesh, and an expression of His infinite mercy and love for all mankind. Out of His Divine love and compassion, our Creator accepted our human condition in every way, in order to show us how to become one with Him. With His birth on earth as a little baby, Christ has sanctified every aspect of human life – from conception to death and resurrection. He came into the world to share His joy and His love with us, and to show us how to live in holiness and peace.
As St. Gregory the Theologian said, “This is our holy day. This is what we celebrate today: God’s coming to mankind — so that we might come to God; or to put it more suitably: so that we might return to God; so that we might put off the old man and put on the new, and so that just as we have all died in Adam, we may come to new life in Christ, that we may be born again with Christ, and be crucified along with him, and be buried with Him, and resurrect along with Him.”
We have been called by God out of the darkness and into the light of His Holy Nativity, to put on “compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience” that the peace of Christ may rule in our hearts, that heavenly peace we hear in the song of the angels. By His birth and incarnation we were invited to be friends of God once again, as the angels sang rejoicing: “Peace on earth and good will among men.” As St. Gregory Palamas tells us, “With the incarnation and birth of Christ the Messiah into the world, universal joy and peace have been granted to the world. Listen to the end of the song of the Angel, the deliverer of the good news, and you will discover it – it says: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men (Luke 2:14); for God came in the flesh in order to bring His peace to the world and to reconcile it with the Most-High Father.”
How blessed then are we who have received the Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s birth, of “God with us.” For we can recognize and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and thereby catch a glimpse of that heavenly joy that God has prepared in His Kingdom for all those who love Him.
With joyful and grateful hearts, we thank our Almighty God that He has given us the opportunity to once more celebrate His miraculous Birth. Praying that this Holy Feast Day will be a blessing to you and your families, I remain With paternal blessings and much love in our Incarnate Lord,
Metropolitan of Atlanta