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A Solemn Christmas at the Ecumenical Patriarchate

CONSTANTINOPLE – The Great Feast of the Nativity of Christ was solemnly celebrated at the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint George in the Phanar, officiated by His All Holiness  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew assisted by Metropolitans Chrysostomos of Myra, Theoliptos of Iconion, Stefanos of Kallioupolis, and Madytos, and Athenagoras of Kydonia.

The Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod, Archimandrite Ioakeim, read the Patriarchal Encyclical for Christmas, in which His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew proclaimed among other things the following:

“The incarnation of the Word reveals the content, direction, and purpose of human existence. The all-perfect God subsists as perfect man, so that we may be able to exist ‘in the manner of God.’ ‘For God became human in order that we might become deified.’ In the profound formulation of St. Gregory the Theologian, man is ‘commanded to become God, a divinized being.’ Such is the supreme dignity afforded to humankind, which renders our existence an insurmountable honor. In Christ, all people are called to salvation. Before God, ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free man, neither male nor female; for everyone is one in Christ Jesus,’ according to the divinely inspired theology of the Apostle Paul. This is a decisive reversal in the field of anthropology, the hierarchy of values, and the perception of ethos. Since that time, whosoever insults humankind also defies God. ‘For there is nothing as sacred as man, in whose nature God participated.

In another instance the Patriarch proclaimed:

“The perilous pandemic has shattered much of what we have taken for granted, revealing the limits of the ‘titanism’ of the contemporary ‘man-god’ and demonstrating the power of solidarity. Alongside the indisputable truth that our world comprises a whole, that our problems are common, and that their solution demands a joint action and agenda, what was supremely manifested was the value of the personal contribution, the love of the Good Samaritan, which surpasses every human standard. The Church actively supports – in deed and in word – our suffering brothers and sisters, while praying for them, their relatives and all those responsible for their care, and at the same time proclaiming that the healing of the sick – as a temporary victory over death – pertains to transcendence and to the ultimate abolition of death in Christ.

“Unfortunately, the healthcare crisis has not allowed the development of activities foreseen for 2020, as ‘the year of pastoral renewal and due concern for the youth.’ We hope that the coming year will render possible the realization of planned initiatives for the new generation. We know from experience that, when our young men and women are approached with understanding and love, they reveal their creative talents and enthusiastically contribute to such initiatives. In the end, youth is a particularly ‘religious’ time in our life – filled with dreams, visions, and deep existential pursuits, with a vibrant hope for a new world of fraternity. It is this ‘new creation’ – the ‘new heavens and new earth . . . where righteousness dwells’ that the Church of Christ proclaims as good news and reflects in its journey to the Kingdom.

“In the Church, man is completely renewed and not just ‘assisted’. There, man ‘lives in the truth’ and experiences his divine destiny. As the Holy and Great Council of Orthodoxy declared, in the Church ‘every person constitutes a unique entity, destined for personal communion with God.’ We share the divinely-given conviction that our present life is not our entire life, and that evil and negativity do not have the final word in history. Our Savior is not a deus ex machina that intervenes and annihilates troubles, while simultaneously abolishing our freedom, as if this was a ‘condemnation’ from which we need to be delivered. For us Christians, the unparalleled Patristic words hold true: ‘The mystery of salvation pertains to those who are willing to be saved, not to those who are coerced.’ The truth of the freedom in Christ is tested through the Cross, which is the way to the Resurrection.”

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