December 20, 2004
Protocol Number: 1138
BY THE MERCY OF GOD
ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE
NEW ROME AND
TO THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH
GRACE, MERCY AND PEACE
FROM CHRIST THE SAVIOUR,
BORN IN BETHLEHEM
Beloved Brethren and Children in the Lord,
It is with amazement and full of wonder that we are brought face to face, particularly during these days, with the incarnation of the Son and Word of God, Who was born of a Virgin and laid in a manger of animals, something inconceivable for both mankind and the angelic orders. And whilst the faithful celebrate festively this joyful event, namely that by divine condescension a Saviour was born to us this day, descending unto us from His great majesty, natural, social and spiritual earthquakes and conflicts shatter mankind, that distanced itself from Christ, bringing thus turmoil and trouble to the life of all those who love peace.
In the search of new forms and relations, social structures are being destabilised; spiritual quests are derailed in self-destructing cults and unprecedented natural disasters occur in different places on earth. All around us one can see disorder and confusion, murders and devastation; the vision of peace seems to be unwelcome and oppressed. Uncertainty, anxiety, depression, lack of meaning, inexplicability of what is taking place, frequent indifference and many a times even hate have established themselves within the soul of most people.
Millions of our fellow human beings find themselves struggling, both morally and physically, and are trapped beneath this natural, social and spiritual wreckage; many of them, unable to cope with this situation, are stricken with various psychological and physical injuries. Many seek out the guilty and engage in vindictive acts against those whom in their opinion are responsible for their troubles. Others, unable to approach those responsible, manifest their dissatisfaction through acts of terrorism directed against the innocent. Some even exploit this destabilization and attempt to profit from it at the expense of their fellow human beings. And others, having entrenched themselves behind their wealth, or their power, live within a particular secluded world, neither feeling the pain of others, nor willing to ease their pain.
All of these people have not learnt of the salvation through the newborn Christ. In many cases, out of despair and certainty that there cannot be any redemption from the dominion of evil, they do not even seek out salvation. They strive by way of their own worldly powers for the solution of their problems and many times resort to the powers of evil itself, which when invoked, increase both confusion and pain.
We, beloved children in the Lord, believe and know well that salvation is to be found nowhere else, but in Christ, and that there is no other name by which we may be saved other than the name of Jesus Christ. Our certainty is not shaken by the fact that the Saviour of the world appeared on Earth as a humble man, a weak infant, a lamb carrying the sin of the world, and accepting the cross and death. We are not alarmed by the fact that most of the people do not accept the message of love and humility, which, as He taught us, we must accept in order to be saved.
Having in mind the example of our Saviour, we recognise the saving power of humility and of love that are voluntarily crucified � these two supernatural attributes of the Divinity, which fallen humanity imitates with difficulty. With much love and humility, we repeat to all, the saving message of Christ, proclaimed not only by words, but also through actual application and sacrifice onto death, conquered by the Resurrection. For the sacrifice out of love is sealed by the death of Christ, but the transformation of the world is not brought to an end by the death of the one who loves, but by the surpassing of his death through the Resurrection. And this is the content of salvation about which we are speaking. Death will never have dominion over us because Jesus Christ, Who is newly born, has trampled it and abrogated its power.
A Saviour has been born to us this day! He did not come in power as humanly appraised, but in the power of virtue radiating His supreme power, the power of humility of the One Who is majestic and almighty, the Incomparable power of love sacrificed selflessly and without ulterior motives. We do not have delusions and false hopes that the world in its entirety will soon accept these truths. We know, however and we proclaim that if it does not accept them, and does not put them into practice, it will continue to live in the torment of mutual destruction, of moral derailment, of the absence of meaning to life, of falsehood and of pain.
For this reason and with much love and great humility, we appeal first to the faithful to invite Christ to be born in our hearts, not as a simple emotional sensation of worldly euphoria of a short lived and fleeting duration, but as a radical change of our psyche, as a rebirth in Christ, such a change that the divine attributes of love and humility may constitute the fundamental elements of our existence. Further, with such ardent love and humility, we invite all our fellow human beings, whether they know Christ or not, to draw near to Jesus Christ Who was incarnate, as a guileless lamb for their salvation, in order to receive from Him peace in their hearts, knowledge of the purpose of life, negation of pain, eternity and joy of life with Him, which is inalienable and surpasses everything imaginable.
May Christ, through the intercessions of the Most Holy Theotokos, who gave her own flesh to the Saviour Christ, and of our Holy predecessors Sts. John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian, whose sacred relics have recently been returned to our Church, as well as of all the Saints, be born in the manger of all our hearts and reside there permanently so that we may live with Him the joy of His presence, His indescribable love and His extraordinary humility. Amen.
At the Phanar, Christmas 2004
Your fervent supplicant before God,
Bartholomew of Constantinople
To be read in the churches during the Divine Liturgy of the Feast of the Nativity, following the reading of the Holy Gospel