Homily: Be Nice, Don’t Judge

Sunday, January 28 (January 15, OS): Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee; Venn. Paul of Thebes (341), and John Calabytes (450); Monk-martyr Pansophius (249-251); Ven. Prochorus and Ven. Gabriel (XI)

Epistle: 2 Timothy 3:10-15
Gospel: Luke 18:10-14

For the world the Christian life is reduced to two “virtues:” be nice and don’t judge. The second of these–not judging–is in the service of the first, being nice. Nice people don’t judge and judgy people aren’t nice.

publicanphariseeAnd yet, when we look closely at these we discover that those who tell Christian to not be “so judgy,” are themselves willing to make all manner of moral judgments.
The fact is, life requires us to make moral judgments. Failing to do so doesn’t lead to “being nice” but to moral anarchy in which life is anything but nice–must less, justice and peaceful–for any of us.

The wealthy and the strong, the clever and the cruel, might be able to live–and even thrive–in a world without moral judgment. But especially for those who are poor or weak, sick or infirm in body or mind, such a world is anything but nice. It is Hell on earth.

“But,” I hear people responding, “doesn’t Jesus tell us in the Gospel that we aren’t to judge?” (Matthew 7:1-3) Isn’t this what the parable we just heard tell us?

The moral problem in the parable is not that the Pharisee makes moral judgment but what does with these judgments. Everything he says about the tax collector (who tradition tells us is Zacchaeus whose conversion we heard about last week) is true; he is a tax collector.

As for the others that the Pharisee mentions–”extortioners, unjust, adulterers”–all of these are certainly sinful. All of these are not just sins but serious and deadly sins that can rob a person of Heaven (see 1 John 5:17).

Where the Pharisee goes wrong is not in making moral judgments about others but in reducing people to their sins.

We have all of us at one time or another been in the situation where someone takes the opportunity of our failure to shame and humiliate us. This is done by the other making our offense the only thing that matters about us.

This is what the Pharisee does with the tax collector. He sees this man not as his neighbor, not as Zacchaeus a fellow Jew who is also loved by God and struggling to keep the Law. No. He is only a tax collector.

Looking a bit closer at the text, we see that not only does the Pharisee reduced his neighbor to their sin his life he does so in a way that works to his advantage at the expense of the other.

It is from this we must abstain.

We must not reduce people to their sins or indeed to any single aspect or even discrete constellation of characteristics. We must even abstain from, as the Pharisee does with himself, reducing people to their virtues real though they are.

The Pharisee is able to reduce people to their sins because he sees himself only in terms of his own virtue. Like his own virtues and good deeds, his neighbor’s sin is all that matters for him. And the deeper and wider truth of the other? This is lost.

We are none of us all bad or, for that matter, all good.

We are all of us a mix of “wheat and weeds” and will remain so until the Last Judgment (see Matthew 13:24-30). In this life while we must make discrete moral judgments about not only our actions but the actions of others as well, we must never confuse this judgment–true though it may be–with who the person is in the eyes of God.

St Paul is maybe the best illustration of what it means to see people in their fullness; to see them as God sees them.

The Apostle to the Gentile holds himself up to the Churches as an example to be imitated. “I urge you,” he tells the Corinthians, “imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16, NKJV). He does this not once but twice! “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

But notice what Paul doesn’t say.

He doesn’t say imitate his virtue.

He doesn’t say imitate his actions.

Instead, he reminds St Timothy that he has “carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, [and] afflictions.” Paul never hides his struggle whether they come because of the persecution of others (for example, Acts 9), unforeseen events (Acts 27:27-28:5) or his own sinfulness (2 Corinthians 12:6-8).

For St Paul, it is the whole of the Christian’s life–his virtues as well as his vices, his successes ever much as his failures–that serve as a witness to Christ (2 Corinthians 4:7).

He knows that he–and we, you and me–will sin: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He knows that sometimes to Gospel is preached out of “envy and strife” even as at other times it is preached “from goodwill.” While the “former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains” he says the latter do so “out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.”

But no matter why the preacher preaches–”way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached” and Paul rejoices (Philippians 1:15-18, NKJV).

To be a Christian means to understand that “all things work for the glory of God” (Romans 8:28). This makes it possible for us, like St John Chrysostom, to give glory to God for all things, not just good things.

And this gives us the courage to look at our neighbor–and ourselves–and see them (and ourselves)with God’s eyes. We are, in other words, able to love the person no matter how good or wicked they might be.

To get to this place, however, requires a particular kind of response from us to divine grace.

I fall into Pharisee’s sin not because of anything you’ve done. I fail to love you as you are because instead of seeing you, encountering you, I listen instead to my own, internal monologue, that constant running conversation I have with myself about, well, myself.
This internal monologue drowns out your voice and the Voice of God.

This internal chatter leads me to misunderstand God as well the world of persons, events, and things that make up my daily life.

And even though I’m the author of the monologue, it even causes me to misunderstand myself.

It is this last thing that is the source of all my moral failure and so silencing the monologue and cultivating a habit of inner silence, is how I cooperate with God as heals me of my sin.

The world tells us that as Christians we must “be nice” and “not judge” Let us take up their challenge but not on their terms but on those of the Gospel!

As we cultivate inner silence we become more and more able to see ourselves and others as God see us. It was because he cultivated inner silence that St Seraphim of Sarov was able to greet everyone he met by saying “My Joy! Christ is Risen!”

My brothers and sisters in Christ! Imagine what it would mean for your life and for the people around you if you thought of everyone a source of joy and a living revelation of the Resurrection of Christ!

You would be, as the world say, “nice” and not “judgy.” In fact, you would be unimaginable more than nice and do so much more good than simply not being judgy.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Homily: The Poverty of the Son

Sunday, January 7, 2018 (December 25, 2017, OS): The Nativity of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ; The Adoration of the Magi: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar.

Ss Cyril & Methodius Mission, Madison WI

Epistle: Galatians 4:4-7
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

6887711922_19d97768b5_bChrist is Born!

Poverty, economists remind us, is always relative. We need to avoid the temptation of thinking of poverty only in monetary terms. Limiting poverty to merely the absence of material wealth, we risk overlooking the fact that it is in the nature of human beings to be poor.

What I mean by this is that, in the beginning, when God “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7), He created Adam in need. We see this in the Hebrew word translated as “living being” or sometimes “living flesh,” nép̄eš a word that connotes “neediness.” It is sometimes used to describe things like a flute or the throat, things that function–are only themselves if you will–because they are empty.

As it comes from the hand of God, it is in Adam’s nature to be poor.

Far from being a hardship, this original poverty means that all that humanity has, all that Adam and all of his descendants have, we have as a gift of God. My natural talents, my spiritual gifts, my family, and my very existence all these are God’s gift to me even as all that you have is likewise His gift to you.

When in the hymnography of the Church we hear that the Son becomes poor for our sake. This isn’t primary referring to material wealth. If Jesus was born in a palace with the Theotokos lying in a bed of finest linen, attended by the best physicians and with midwives who washed the Newborn Child with water poured from vessels of gold, we would still say that the Son was born in poverty.

The simple reason for this is that to be human means to be empty or if you will to be poor. And while Adam rejects his own poverty, his own radical dependence on God, in the Incarnation the Son freely embraces all this “for us and for our salvation” as we say in the Creed.

In the faith of the Church, humanity’s poverty is a fitting vehicle for the revelation of God. Our poverty reflects the supra-abundance of the divine nature.

And this, in turn, means that Jesus not only reveals the Father to us, He reveals us to ourselves. To say that humanity is created in the image of God means that we are created according to the pattern of Jesus Christ Who is Himself the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” St Paul goes on to say of Jesus that

…by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything (Colossians 1:15-18, NKJV).

In becoming Man, the Son doesn’t cease to be God, He doesn’t cease to be the one through Whom all things are created and in Whom all “all things are held together.” Rather, in taking on our humanity, the Son takes on our poverty, our dependence on God. And as we see in the events of Holy Week, He also takes on our vulnerability to our indifference and cruelty.

It is God’s embrace of poverty that troubles “Herod the king … and all Jerusalem with him.” St John Chrysostom says that Herod and Jerusalem are troubled because like the Hebrew children in the desert they are in the grip of “idolatrous affections.” Once again they are more inclined toward “the fleshpots of bondage” than the offer of that “new freedom” that allows them to cry out “Abba! Father!”

Chrysostom goes on to say that Herod and all of Jerusalem “were on the point of having everything going their way.” Even though “they knew nothing” yet about the Incarnation, if they only “formed their judgments … on the basis of self-interest,” the fact that the mighty Persians came to worship this Newborn King should have strengthened their faith in God and their hope for liberation from Roman tyranny. That they were troubled the saint says means that their hearts were dull and marred by envy, (“The Gospel of Matthew,” Homily, 6.4 in ACCS: NT vol Ia: Matthew 1-13, pp. 22-23).

Like Herod and “all Jerusalem with him,” this same envy that often mars our own spiritual lives.

Like Herod and “all Jerusalem with him,” we are tempted to prefer the passing riches of man to the poverty of God.

Like Herod and “all Jerusalem with him,” like Adam, we are troubled because we reject the poverty that the Son willingly embraces.

And yet, for all that we fail, there is hope. As I said a moment ago, Jesus not only reveals the Father to us but us to ourselves. We see simultaneously in the Face of Jesus both God the Father and our own deepest identity.

To embrace the poverty of the Son doesn’t mean to become materially destitute. Rather it means to put all that we have at the service of glorifying God and reconciling humanity to the Father and with itself

As Orthodox Christians living in America, we are members of a painfully small community. As a new mission, we are the smallest Orthodox community in the city of Madison.

But given our location on the Isthmus, we have been given the great blessing of being at the heart of not only Madison but of the whole state of Wisconsin. God has set us aside as witness of His love to the most powerful voices in our city, our state and really in the nation. In calling us, God has blessed us and will continue to bless us if we remain faithful.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the required fidelity consists merely in this: to imitate the willing poverty of the Newborn Christ Child.

Christ is born!

+Fr Gregory

Homily: Spiritual Reading & Gratitude

Sunday, December 31 (December 18, OS): 30th Sunday after Pentecost: Sunday before Nativity, of the Holy Fathers; Martyr Sebastian at Rome and his companions (287); St. Modestus, archbishop of Jerusalem (4th c.). Ven. Florus, Bishop of Amisus (7th c.); Ven. Michael the Confessor at Constantinople (845).

Ss Cyril & Methodius Mission, Madison, WI

Epistle: Hebrew 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40
Gospel: Matthew 1:1-25

By divine grace, the broken men and women we hear about in today’s Gospel are all fit together as part of what St Augustine calls the divine catechesis. From Adam onward, Augustine says, God was slowly leading and purifying humanity until in the person of the Theotokos we are able to say “Yes” to Him and undo the disobedience of our First Parents.

As He has done from the beginning, God continues to for broken people together. Where once this was done to prepare humanity to receive His Son, now we are fit together as members of the Church. Once the Father fit broken people together to receive Christ. Today, He not only fits them together to become members Christ but to become alter Christus, or “another Christ.”

Having been joined to Christ’s Body the Church through Baptism, Chrismation, and Holy Communion, we are called by the Father to share in the Son’s work of reconciling humanity to God and so overcoming the power of sin and death in their lives and our own.

The practical question before us is this: How do we, personally, fulfill our great calling?

We have the sacraments, the worship of the Church and the ascetical disciplines of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and manual labor. These are–or at least should be–a part of every Christian’s life. But I want to focus this morning not on these but on another discipline much loved by the fathers of the Church. Spiritual reading.

When Augustine first meets St Ambrose, he is quite impressed that the bishop of Milan is sitting at his desk reading the Scriptures. The practice in the ancient world was not to read the Bible but to listen to it being read. But Ambrose doesn’t listen to Scripture, he reads it. Astonishing as this is to Augustine, he is even more impressed that Ambrose is reading silently. He is concentrating s intensely on the task at hand that he is reading without moving his lips!

The regular, even daily, reading of Scripture is the foundation of all spiritual reading. It’s also something that is often neglected. St John Chrysostom tells his listeners “to persevere continually in reading the divine Scriptures” because “it is not possible, not possible for anyone to be saved without continually taking advantage of spiritual reading” of the Bible.

He goes on to say that

Reading the Scriptures is a great means of security against sinning. The ignorance of Scripture is a great cliff and a deep abyss; to know nothing of the divine laws is a great betrayal of salvation. This has given birth to heresies, this has introduced a corrupt way of life, this has put down the things above. For it is impossible, impossible for anyone to depart without benefit if he reads continually with attention (On Wealth and Poverty, Saint Vladimir Press, pg. 58-60).

Together with the Scriptures, we can also read the Church Fathers. Their works are the biblical commentaries of the Orthodox Church. In their words, we discover not only the meaning of Scripture but also how it can apply to our lives.

With Scripture and the fathers, we can also add philosophy as well as the findings of the sciences. Again, this is something that the fathers recommend to us. Reflecting on the place of “pagan,” that is “secular” learning, St Basil the Great says “Just as it is the chief mission of the tree to bear its fruit in its season, though at the same time it puts forth for ornament the leaves which quiver on its boughs, even so, the real fruit of the soul is truth, yet it is not without advantage for it to embrace the pagan wisdom, as also leaves offer shelter to the fruit, and an appearance not untimely” (“Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature,” III).

Basil expands this to include not only philosophy and the sciences but also the great myths and poetry of the ancient world. In these, we find examples of both the virtues that lead to salvation and the vices that keep us from the Kingdom of Heaven. He goes so far as to say that when reading pagan literature we should we should “receive gladly those passages in which they praise virtue or condemn vice” (“Address,” IV).

Key to profitable spiritual reading, as St Basil suggests, is gratitude. I need to read with a grateful heart. To the grateful heart examples of vice are as profitable as virtue. The latter gives me examples to emulate, the former to avoid.

As I read with gratitude, my tendency to prefer my own judgment to the judgment of God will wane. This, in turn, will make it possible for me to recognize myself, my failures and successes, my vices and virtues, in what I read.

And slowly I begin to see how, like the ancestors of Christ, God has fit my brokenness into His plan of salvation not only for me but all humanity.

And, if I am inclined to do so, this growth in self-knowledge and understanding allows me to grow in a gracious and appreciative knowledge and understand others.

My brothers and sisters in Christ!  Spiritual reading helps us cultivate the habit of gratitude to God for even the smallest hint of His grace. Yes, like all humanity we are broken. Through spiritual reading, however, we learn to be open to the traces of grace not only in the things we read but in our lives and the lives of those we meet daily.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Homily: In Christ is All

Sunday, December 24, 2017 (December, 11 OS): 29th Sunday after Pentecost. Tone 4; The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers; Ven. Daniel the Stylite of Constantinople (490). Martyr Mirax of Egypt (640). Martyr Acepsius and Aeithalas at Arbela in Assyria (VII). Ven. Luke the New Stylite of Chalcedon (979). Ven. Nicon the Dry of Kyiv Caves (1101).

Epistle: Colossians 3:4-11

Gospel: Luke 14:16-24

The violence and compulsion that always seem to travel along with the Kingdom of God are wholly of my own making. Let me explain.

1211to1217sundayofforefathersSt John Chrysostom tells us that when we hear about God’s anger, we shouldn’t think that God’s anger is like our own. I get angry because I am offended or afraid. Even when my anger is righteous, there is something sinful mixed in. My anger always reflects my over-attachment to my own will, to my own plans and projects.

For God, however, “even if He punishes even if He takes vengeance, He does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving kindness.” This why Chrysostom concludes that when we sin we should be courageous and “trust in the power of repentance.” Why? Because God doesn’t react out a sense of His own wounded dignity but rather “with a view to our advantage, and to prevent our perverseness becoming worse by our making a practice of despising and neglecting Him.” While it may feel like an affront or even a punishment, what God does, He does not to “[avenge] Himself on account of our former deeds; but because He wishes to release us from our disorder” (An exhortation to Theodore after his fall,” 1, 4).

The more I have rebelled against God the more His will feel to me like an act of violence. The more I give my heart over to created reality rather than to God, the more it feels like, in the words of today’s parable, that God is “compel[ling]” me to “come into [His] house.

The more I love the creature more than the Creator, the more it will always feel as if God is compelling me, forcing me to do His will. The violence, however, is not committed by God.

Rather, I am the one who commits violence against myself. It isn’t God who violates my freedom or wounds my dignity. I do these things to myself when I resist His grace. When I refuse to, as St Paul says, “put to death” all that is earthly in me, I make Adam’s transgression my own and become my own worst enemy.

This is why it is important at times simply to stop. To take the time to keep silent, to pray and reflect on my life. I need to remind myself of all the ways in which I prefer the creature to the Creator and my own will to the will of God. To avoid harming myself I must, in the words from the Liturgy, live a “life of repentance.”

We need to pause at this point to avoid making the mistake of thinking that to prefer the Creator to the creature or the will of God to my own will, means to ignore the personal and work demands of everyday life. Nothing could be further from the truth!

In fact, what we need to do is learn to see the demands made on us in lightof the Gospel. The obligations that make up life are an intrinsic part of the everyday asceticism that God asks of us. Our daily obligations, the myriad little and great tasks of my life, must be seen within the wider context of the “Grace, mercy, and peace” that comes “from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (2 John 1:3, NKJV).

Here’s the great blessing that I often overlook in my short-sighted pursuit of my own will.

Apart from God, even the very best thing in my life will, even those things and people that bring me the greatest sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, will eventually become sources of bitter disappointment and division.

In Christ, the people and tasks in my life, my successes as well as my failures, all these become sources of healing, reconciliation, and communion.

In Christ, that is undertaken with a spirit gratitude to God, everything in my life becomes a moment of divine grace.

And as if this wasn’t enough…

In Christ, all that we do not only glorifies God but also is a step along the way to becoming more fully the man or woman God has created us to be.

Reflecting on the Magnificat, St Ambrose of Milan points out that “the human voice can[not] add anything to God.” Even the best of my accomplishments or the purest expression of my love, adds nothing to God. But, Ambrose reminds us, still we can say that God is “is magnified within us” because when “the soul does what is right and holy, it magnifies… God, in whose likeness it was created and, in magnifying the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is exalted” (Commentary on Luke, II, 19.26-27).

My brothers and sisters in Christ, when we “put off the old man with his deeds, and … put on the new man,” the myriad tasks and relationships of our lives take on a lasting and eternal character.

Likewise, as we set aside our own sinfulness–that, is through repentance–we are “renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created” me, we become more fully the men and women who God has created us to be.  And it is in this that we find the justice and peace and the mercy and love that is always escaping even the best of our merely human intentions.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

 

Patriarchal Proclamation of Christmas 2017

Prot. No. 1123

PATRIARCHAL PROCLAMATION FOR CHRISTMAS

BARTHOLOMEW
By God’s Mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church.
Grace, Mercy and Peace from the Savior Christ Born in Bethlehem.
* * *
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, dear children,

nativity_htmBy the grace of God, we are once again deemed worthy to reach the great feast of the birth of the divine Word in the flesh, who came into the world to grant us “well-being,”{1} remission of sin, of captivity to the works of the law and death, in order to grant us true life and great joy, which “no one can take from us.”{2}

We welcome the “all-perfect God,”{3}  who “brought love into the world,”{4}  who becomes “closer to us than we to ourselves.”{5}  Through kenosis, the divine Word condescends to the created beings in “a condescension inexplicable and incomprehensible.”{6} He “whom nothing can contain” is contained in the womb of the Virgin; the greatest exists in the least. This great chapter of our faith, of how the transcendent God “became human for humankind,”{7} while remaining an “inexpressible” mystery. “The great mystery of divine Incarnation ever remains a mystery.”{8}

This strange and paradoxical event, “which was hidden for ages and generations,”{9} is the foundation of the gift of human deification. “There is no salvation in anyone else; for there is no other human name beneath heaven through which we must be saved.”{10}

This is the supreme truth about salvation. That we belong to Christ. That everything is united in Christ. That our corruptible nature is refashioned in Christ, the image is restored and the road toward likeness is opened for all people. By assuming human nature, the divine Word establishes the unity of humanity through a common divine predestination and salvation. And it is not only humanity that is saved, but all of creation. Just as the fall of Adam and Eve impacts all of creation, so too the Incarnation of the Son and Word of God affects all of creation. “Creation is recognized as free when those who were once in darkness become children of light.”{11}  Basil the Great calls us to celebrate the holy Nativity of Christ as the “common feast of all creation,” as “the salvation of the world—humanity’s day of birth.”{12}

Once again, the words that “Christ is born” are unfortunately heard in a world filled with violence, perilous conflict, social inequality and contempt of foundational human rights. 2018 marks the completion of seventy years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, after the terrible experience and destruction of World War II, manifested the common and noble ideals that all peoples and countries must unwaveringly respect. However, the disregard of this Declaration continues, while various abuses and intentional misinterpretations of human rights undermine their respect and realization. We continue either not to learn from history or not to want to learn. Neither the tragic experience of violence and reduction of the human person, nor the proclamation of noble ideals have prevented the continuation of aggression and war, the exaltation of power and the exploitation of one another. Nor again have the domination of technology, the extraordinary achievements of science, and economic progress brought social justice and the peace that we so desire. Instead, in our time, the indulgence of the affluent has increased and globalization is destroying the conditions of social cohesion and harmony.

The Church cannot ignore these threats against the human person. “There is nothing as sacred as a human being, whose nature God Himself has shared.”{13}  We struggle for human dignity, for the protection of human freedom and justice, knowing full well that “true peace comes from God,”{14}  that the transcendent mystery of the Incarnation of divine Word and the gift of human deification reveals the truth about freedom and humanity’s divine destiny.

In the Church, we experience freedom through Christ, in Christ and with Christ. And the very summit of this freedom is the place of love, which “does not seek its own”{15} but “derives from a pure heart.”{16}  Whoever depends on himself, seeks his own will, and is self-sufficient—whoever pursues deification by himself and congratulates himself—only revolves around himself and his individual self-love and self-gratification; such a person only sees others as a suppression of individual freedom. Whereas freedom in Christ is always oriented to one’s neighbor, always directed toward the other, always speaks the truth in love. The aim of the believer is not to assert his or her rights, but rather “to follow and fulfill the rights of Christ”{17} in a spirit of humility and thanksgiving.

This truth about the life in Christ, about freedom as love and love as freedom, is the cornerstone and assurance for the future of humankind. When we build on this inspired ethos, we are able to confront the great challenges of our world, which threaten not only our well-being but our very survival.

The truth about the “God-man” is the response to the contemporary “man-god” and proof of our eternal destination proclaimed by the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Crete, 2016): “The Orthodox Church sets against the ‘man-god’ of the contemporary world the ‘God-man’ as the ultimate measure of all things. “We do not speak of a man who has been deified, but of God who has become man.” The Church reveals the saving truth of the God-man and His body, the Church, as the locus and mode of life in freedom, “speaking the truth in love,” and as participation even now on earth in the life of the resurrected Christ.”

The Incarnation of the divine Word is the affirmation and conviction that Christ personally guides history as a journey toward the heavenly kingdom. Of course, the journey of the Church toward the kingdom, which is not realized remotely or independently of historical reality—or its contradictions and adventures—has never been without difficulties. Nevertheless, it is in the midst of these difficulties that the Church witnesses to the truth and performs its sanctifying, pastoral and transfiguring mission. “Truth is the pillar and ground of the Church … The pillar of the universe is the Church … and this is a great mystery, a mystery of godliness.”{18}

Brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,

Let us celebrate together—with the grace of the divine Word, who dwelt in us, as well as with delight and fullness of joy—the feasts of the Twelve Days of Christmas. From the Phanar we pray that our Lord and Savior—who was incarnate out of condescension for all people—may in this coming new year grant everyone physical and spiritual health, along with peace and love for one another. May He protect His holy Church and bless the works of its ministry for the glory of His most-holy and most-praised Name.

Christmas 2017
Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before God

———————————————-
{1} Gregory the Theologian, Oration XXXVIII, on Theophany, namely the Nativity of the Savior, iii, PG 36, 313.
{2} John 10:18.
{3} Doxastikon of the Aposticha from the Great Vespers of Christmas.
{4} Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, vi, PG 150, 657.
{5} Ibid. vi PG 150, 660.
{6} John of Damascus, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, iii, 1, PG 94, 984.
{7} Maximus the Confessor, Various chapters on Theology and Economy concerning virtue and vice, First Century, 12, PG 90, 1184.
{8} Ibid.
{9} Col. 1:26.
{10} Acts 4:12.
{11} Iambic Katavasia on the Feast of Theophany, Ode VIII.
{12} Basil the Great, Homily on the Nativity of Christ, PG 31, 1472-73.
{13} Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, vi, PG 150, 649.
{14} John Chrysostom, On Corinthians 1, Homily I, 1, PG 61, 14.
{15} 1 Cor. 13:5.
{16} 1 Tim. 1:5.
{17} Theotokion, Aposticha of the Ainoi, October 12.
{18} John Chrysostom, On Timothy I, Homily XI, PG 62, 554.

Source: (Ecumenical Patriarchate)