the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
to all the Clergy and devout faithful
of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
Brother Concelebrants and beloved children in Christ who
Christmas this year once again finds us uneasy and
fearful; especially fearful. For, quite simply, the 12
months that passed since last Christmas did not bring any
sign of peace to the people or to the nations.
Last year, we may have been distressed about the imminent
war on Iraq, but at least there was a faint hope back then
that it could have been postponed. There was even hope that
it could have been cancelled, had they not found the
notorious weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein was
suspected of having.
There was also the hope, right up until the last moment
that good sense would have prevailed (that which prefers
dialogue to confrontation and negotiation more than
This year without there being a planned or continually
open war in any particular country anguish is all around.
There is a feeling of uncertainty all over the world. There
are no longer the weak and the powerful, and no longer big
and small people. We are all equally 'exposed' in
everything, and unprotected from everything. Our only
'protector' at the last moment is the Lord God Himself!
Who can possibly foresee the next terrorism attacks, and
where or how many their victims will be? Who has the power
or the method of preventing them?
Amidst this unprecedented and 'blurred' atmosphere, we
remember Christmas during our childhood years with nostalgia
and pain. These were the years when things were somewhat
more tranquil and peaceful, and when Christians could still
go to Church with a clear conscience to praise the 'Prince
of peace' and sing Carols, celebrating also outside the
Church building that 'God is among us'.
Today, who would dare to claim that 'God is among us'?
Instead of bearing witness to His presence, Christmas rather
shows, in an unspoken way, the 'absence' of God from the
world, and from the Christian world in particular.
Which cunning devices and vain ambitions primarily
materialism and greed has the Church not imitated today
from the world of decay and apostasy?
How is the Church to act prophetically and guide the
world socially on the path of peace and justice, when it
itself has become more 'irreverent' than the world?
The blind love of power on the part of Church leaders
appears not to have been moved, or instructed, by the
humility and 'nakedness' of the Christ child in the
However, the natural course of things cannot be
overturned. God Himself has foreseen and designed this.
When the Church competes or imitates or conforms to the
world, using the same means in order to achieve the same
'goods', it does not simply become a part of the fallen
world. It does not become a poor 'copy' or a 'caricature' of
the world. It, in fact, becomes a scandal and provocation
perhaps even a 'curse' of the world. This is because the
'sinful' example of the Church leads the world on a more
destructive course than that which it could have reached by
In order to understand more clearly how tragically absent
(or rather how provocatively present) the Church is in the
world today, we only need to look at one tangible
Christmas, as we confess, is the appearance of God in the
flesh. This means that 'human flesh' from within the manger
was elevated and proclaimed to be the most sacred symbol of
life; the most fragile and precious substance in history. It
is above 'flags' and 'borders', narrow minded nationalism or
other ideologies. And it is especially above and beyond
economic factors and the 'prosperity' of the few at the
expense of the many. There can be no stability or prosperity
in safety when the human body is suffering in any part of the
When the Gospel proclaims that "the Word became flesh and
dwelt among us" (John 1:14), it is really saying that nobody
can any longer approach God, or speak about God and the
human person, without first serving the human body to the
point of sanctifying it!
And yet, 'flesh' is the first victim of irreverence and
our unprecedented inhuman behaviour. Racism wars, the plight
of refugees, sickness, slavery, prostitution, drug and
alcohol abuse, the ruthless exploitation of helpless
children, among other examples, all target the flesh first
of all. Through the flesh, they ruin the soul (if there are
many people who believe there is a soul!).
They therefore crucify the entire person through the
flesh, thereby dishonouring the whole world and, at the same
time, God the Creator.
One could then ask, 'What is the Church of East and West,
which celebrates Christmas every year, really doing or
initiating so as to protect human flesh from the organised
interests of an inconsolable world?
With which courageous and specific actions has the Church
stood up to the 'Herod' of our times? In other words to any
secular authority which openly or covertly attempts to
mistreat, intimidate or defile both God and the human
When will we finally listen to the lamentations of Rachel
who represents the earth as a whole "weeping for her
children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no
more" (Matt 2:18)?
Unfortunately although the tyrants of modern times have
more blood on their hands than ever before, they are no
longer 'red-handed'! And they lock people up in 'white
cells'. Advanced technology and trickery of the 'workers of
evil' cause death everywhere, without showing any visible
traces of the crime.
Yet, the human body, is tormented on the street,
homeless, without shelter, starving, and thrashed about
between alcoholism and drugs. It cannot be hidden even in the
'bright' cities of the so called developed world.
This 'exposed' and 'dishonoured' human flesh, which moves
around as a ruin of a 'betrayed' soul, awaits the fulfilment
of Christmas. Even if it does not know it, or believe it, or
hope for it.
May those of us Christians who at least still believe
that 'a child has been born to us, the pre eternal God'
(Christmas hymn), be enabled year by year to have more
sincere humility and a more creative presence in the modern
Perhaps only in this way will we both Clergy and lay
people restore our relationship with the Lord and God of
history, who was Born, Died and Rose for all people.
With fervent prayers to the Lord in Christ who is
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in