the mercy of God Archbishop of Constantinople
New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch:
unto the entire plentitude of the Church
Grace, Mercy and Peace from Christ our Saviour
Born in Bethlehem
"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given."
Beloved Brethren and Most Dear Children in Christ, we have returned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, from our lengthy journey and visit to the flock of the Holy and Great Church of Christ throughout the Oikoumene.
Over the past few years, as we have travelled through the countries of Europe and Asia, to Australia and most recently America, we have experienced the unforgettable blessing and joy of meeting so many beloved people. We have seen faces shining with the light of hope, but also faces darkened by clouds full of tears and despair.
The countenances of young and old alike remain deeply engraved in our heart. We have seen many adults heavy laden with life's responsibilities and we have seen young people full of high hopes of a good career. We have seen the sick and infirm on their bed of suffering and the aged at the twilight of their life. We have heard the cries of young children, who are the hope for the renewal of our People.
We have tangibly experienced just how small our world really is and just how fleeting life can be. We have seen how the light of hope and expectation shines in the eyes of people of all ages. And we have seen how much pain, suffering, and injustice exist in the world. We have seen how our weakness and sinfulness can demean the beauty of life, which by the love of God is capable of becoming paradise and all of us one loving family.
But amidst all of mankind's trials and tribulations, there comes the birth of a child, a divine gift to every family. Such a child is the harbinger of great joy and graces every family with the certainty, that through him the family grows, is blessed and has hope. In this spirit of empathy and true understanding we should like to address to all of you sincere words of thankfulness and consolation. Having been graced by the joy of your love during our journey, we desire to give you something back in return. And that which we want to offer you, and which is not possible for us to do fully, comes as a gift from heaven itself.
From one end of the world to the other, amidst the entire human family, that joyous message resounds: "For unto us a Child is born, a Son is given . . . . and His name shall be called the Angel of Great Counsel, Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God . . . ".
He is the expectation of the Nations. He is the joy of all children. He is the gladness of mothers. He is the sanctification of our human nature. He is God born of a Virgin Mother. What greater marvel has the world ever seen?
Let all creation leap for joy and all those born on earth rejoice! With the incarnation of God the Logos and His assumption and deification of our human nature, we have all become brothers. We can hope. We are encouraged. We draw strength. We feel tangible love. We marvel at the divine Child, Who through humility joins the fellowship of man.
He is born in a cave. He reclines in a manger. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes. He enters into our poverty, our isolation, our desolation. He does not come as a mere visitor. He comes to become man, and endures all the sufferings of the flesh, save sin. He suffers the icy cold of winter, the helplessness of poverty, the hatred of Herod, the bitterness of exile, the flight into Egypt, the hardships endured by His All Holy Mother and His foster father. He comes and He saves us. Emmanuel is born! God is born, and He abides with us. And so, we live the miracle, not only one where God makes man, but where the All Holy, Pure Virgin gives birth to God. Therefore, let heaven and earth be filled with the Angels' hymn: Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace! Glory and divine peace reign in heaven and on earth! Uncreated glory and unending peace reign in the palace and sanctuary of peace, the liturgical world of the Church. This peace and glory reign in the heart of every person of faith, who entrusts all of his life and places it in the hands of the incarnate Word of God. For without the Lord - the God-Man - without Emmanuel, we are alone. We are powerless, frail, and barren. But now we are children of God, brethren and co-heirs with Christ.
At this time of the universal joy of Christmas, we send not letters written by a man, but we announce to you the Message of the God-Man: "Thou hast dawned, O Christ, from the Virgin, Thou Noetic Sun of Righteousness."
This Sun enlightens everything under the sun. He gives light to the ends of the earth and to the depths of the human soul. Whether you celebrate Christmas in the Northern or Southern hemisphere, during winter or summer, we all need the deifying love and grace of the Incarnate God.
We pray with all our heart that "the young Child, the Pre-eternal God" will abundantly bestow on all of you this love and grace, so that you may enter joyfully into the new year of His goodness. And may you be counted worthy to be more prepared to celebrate the millennial observance of the two thousand years of that great day in the history of the world, the Nativity of the Saviour of us all, the God-Man our Lord Jesus Christ.
May His grace and infinite mercy be with you all.