Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Rhodes and
President of the Network of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
for Pastoral Health Care
“Today, all things are filled with joy. For Christ is born from the Virgin.” Because of this, today “the hosts of heaven are rejoicing, and the earth and humanity are gladdened. The Magi bring their gifts. The Shepherds proclaim the marvel. And we unceasingly cry aloud: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”
Beloved brethren and children in the Lord,
The celebration of the Incarnation of the Word of the Father, the Birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, who became man “of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary”, dominates all of the universe in different ways: with the decorating of houses and public areas that try to shed light on human darkness; with traditional dishes that awaken our senses and refer them to fond memories of the past, memories full of warm and loving care; with the purchasing of gifts that express the special feelings we have for our beloved ones; with the gathering of family and friends that generate the hope of union; with the hymns and carols that create an atmosphere of contrition; with the bells that joyfully ring in festivity, calling the faithful to journey with the Wise Men and the Shepherds to the liturgical event of the Eucharist, there where Christ is born and sacrifices Himself to unite us with the love of the Father. With the Incarnation of the Son of God, His sacrificial Crucifixion and the joyful Resurrection, “the Lord has sent redemption to His people”.
“I see here a strange and paradoxical mystery!” The Creator of Nature is united with creation and human nature participates in godliness and is totally surrounded by the love and grace of God. We characterize this action as a “mystery” because it surpasses every logical explanation. This “happening” cannot be limited to sentimentality, nor can it be described as a psychological experience. God’s existence is beyond human understanding. For the meaning of redemption and salvation through His philanthropy is not based on worldly standards. It goes beyond every “justice” that aims at satisfying individual needs, that eventually separates and isolates people, creating unresolved hostility, wars and calamities amongst them. At the end, it separates people from their Creator. “For He made the two conflicting groups one people and tore down […] whatever wall separated them and provoked animosity amongst them” (Eph. 2:4-15). Christ comes and brings the joyful message of peace to all peoples, whether they are close to God or far from Him (Eph.2:16-17). If we believe in Christ, all of us will be children of God and descendants of Abraham and inheritors of eternal life (Gal. 3:26-29).
The “strange mystery” that our hymnology describes is different from the “magical Christmas” that is promoted in our times. This “magic” promises an ephemeral pause from our daily life struggles and our boredom. It tries to entertain human pain, one’s isolation and the tensions that exist in our interpersonal relationships by promoting various entertaining “extremities”. It attempts to find something “new”, to generate existential renewal and verification, particularly with the accumulation of the abundance of gifts. What this “magic” essentially does is to put falsehood in place of God’s truth and to obligate Mankind to worship creation instead of the Creator (Rom. 1:25). In their attempt to live a “magical Christmas”, human beings become trapped in the illusions of their self, becoming their own self-idol. This strips them of the opportunity to come to know something else beyond their own being and that which they live. They live alone in a dream that only has dead ends, unable to find redemption from their torment.
God, who is the Spring of Life, seeing that Mankind has become self-enslaved into its own being and has distanced itself from Him, cannot abandon what He has fashioned, nor can He forget the work of His hands. But, because of His compassionate and deep love, He finds many ways to renew His creation. With the celebration of Christmas, the Son of God is incarnated and lives amongst us, offering us His Body and Blood. It is in this way, He makes us “changed beings” in the likeness of the image of His glory. Together with the Wise Men and the Shepherds, He invites us to meet Him and come to know Him in depth, and to place Him in the manger of our hearts. In return, He will free us from the delusion of idolatry and will take us to be at home with the Father, redeeming us from death. Then, the brilliance of Divine Light will enlighten every part of our life and, together with the angles, we will sing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Dear brethren and children in the Lord,
Let us celebrate the Birth of Christ with the sureness of faith in the Lord, the Emmanuel, whose name means “God is with us”. Let us pray that the presence of His grace will grant us true joy and that it will implant in us the hope of the spiritual renewal of our beings; that it will bring peace to our selves, to our society and to all the world; that it will kindle in our hearts the light of His life bearing love.
Wishing you a peaceful, blessed and gladsome Christmas,
Offering prayers for all to the Born Christ,