By the Mercy of God
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church
Grace, Peace and Mercy
from the Savior Christ Born in Bethlehem
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.
At the Phanar, Holy Christmas 2010
+ BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople
Your fervent intercessor before God