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Christmas message, 2002


By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout faithful of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese 

Brother Concelebrants and beloved children in Christ who is born.

The Birth of Christ, who is the divine Word incarnate, took place in time, and is described in the theology of the Fathers of the Church as a ‘Second Creation'! And rightly so. This is because it does not simply refer to an isolated event in history, no matter how great and marvellous that may be. It literally has to do with 'transmutation', with the complete overturning of Creation, and the whole of history.

For this very reason, Christmas is not - and should never be considered to be - a Feast of only one faith, or of one people. It is the new 'birthday' of the entire Creation, and the beginning of a new humanity. This conviction is strongly underlined by the sacred hymnography of the Church, which reverently exhorts us to,

"Sing to the Lord all the earth
and in joy let the people offer praise
for He Is glorified

However, there is not only a distance between this exhortation, on the one hand, and the response of those who are called, on the other (which is the distance between the feasible and the ideal). There is in fact an unbridgeable gap between the two.

This gap is not the result of a rejection on the part of the non-believers. Such a rejection could be considered under certain conditions, at least for a while, as a further 'possibility' for evangelism and missionary work 'in the name of the Lord'. Yet the rejection unfortunately comes from within. From the tired - if not dangerously slumbering - consciences of supposedly faithful people.

If organised groups of the Moslem and Christian world are clashing with each other at the present time on the world stage in an effort to destroy each other, this does not in itself prove the Huntington theory to be true.

It is not of course our faith in Christ which truly provokes Moslems. For, we cannot ignore that the Koran has substantially borrowed from Judaism and Christianity! Therefore that which mainly provokes and infuriates, not only non-Christians, but also those who believe in Christ, is the recruited hypocrisy and the militant unfaithfulness of those who are supposed to be baptised Christians. As well as the boldness of those Jews who have dangerously adopted a Pharisaic attitude.

Today, no one can overlook that the most subversive political, socio-economic or philosophical systems in history did not in fact come from Islam, or from any Eastern religion. They were formulated, taught and imposed by either Christian or Jewish people of Europe and America, and moreover, with the audacity of bringing 'salvation' all of humankind!

With the burden of that past and such a provocative present, the two ‘people of the Bible' – Jews and Christians - could not possibly influence the followers of other religions in a positive way. Especially those intensely struggling peoples who believe in the joy 'that is to come' rather than in the joy 'of this world', as do the faithful of Islam.

This is precisely the reason why in recent times more than a few intellectuals and artists - mainly from western Christendom - have easily converted to and joined Eastern religions.

If those same people had learned about genuine Christianity from authentic sources, they themselves would never have accepted this step backward in spiritual terms.

This is because the genuine Christian is never resentful nor vindictive, even when he or she suffers injustice. Rather, Christians willingly 'take upon themselves' the mistakes, shortcomings. and even the crimes, of fellow human beings, preferring the proverbial 'self blame' of the person who has been renewed in God. In so doing, they are the first to seek the mercy and forgiveness of God, for themselves as much as for others!

Also in saying 'sell-blame', we do not mean here a 'rhetorical ' or 'pietistic' generosity of feelings! On the contrary, we refer to a deep and realistic conviction that, if the genuine Christian had sufficiently exercised his duties within his immediate environment, he would have almost miraculously warded off any 'misconduct' of fellow human beings, whether believers or not, by giving a vibrant example.

We thereby understand why the Apostle Paul, echoing the great Prophet Isaiah, bitterly denounces the fact that “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom 2:24).

Modern sociologists who come from Christian societies, have for some time described this inner ‘betrayal' and 'decline' in a more concise manner, by speaking of a 'post-Christian' epoch and society. This means in very simple terms that we were the first to reject God Incarnate, and we are now only dealing with His 'legend', like a coin that is no longer in use!

With such lamentable circumstances of historical Christianity, what then of the triumphant cry of the hymnographer which invites us to “sing to the Lord all the earth"? How are we to deal, above all, with the words "in joy let the people offer praise for He is glorified'?

Does not all of this sound today like a provocation and mockery, if not an unacceptable blasphemy, for the consciences of all vigilant and honourable people?

In spite of this, saying that "HE IS GLORIFIED" at Christmas directly corresponds to Christ's words "IT IS FINISHED" spoken from the Cross.

The process of renewing and making incorrupt the fallen world and humanity, is always mystically brought forth in the 'absolute measure' of utter humility of the Incarnate God and Word, something which is even more dramatically expressed by the image of the 'Slaughtered Lamb' found in the Book of Revelation.

To God who became man for our sake, belongs all worship and glory unto the ages. Amen With fervent prayers to the Lord in Christ who is Born

With fervent prayers for all of you.

Archbishop STYLIANOS
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia

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