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Christmas message, 2005


By 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 is born.

This year, Christmas arrives to find all humanity once again restless, unsatisfied, and troubled in various ways.

It is therefore no exaggeration to say that people do not feel ‘safe’ anywhere today, regardless of which country or region of the earth they live in.

Nor do they feel ‘content’ today, even though our earth has never before known so many and various good things (in food, health, education, development and recreation).

Science and technology now enable us all the possibility of living like ‘small gods’! And yet we can no longer enjoy anything, because it appears that we have not appreciated anything correctly. We have lost our proper relationship with nature, with our fellow human being and, above all, with God.

As a worldwide community, which has now become ‘one neighbourhood’, we have unfortunately become a single pitiful group who suffer hardships as well as cause them. As strange as it may sound, nobody can state with certainty who is essentially more pitiful: the victimizers or the victims?

Of course we are informed – and frustrated – about the unbelievable sufferings in the so-called ‘undeveloped world’ (economic devastation, epidemics involving untreatable diseases, and massive death tolls through hunger or natural disasters). But the tragedy does not stop here! Even in countries of economic ‘abundance’ and countless ‘luxuries’, perceptive analysts are now recording the alarming proportions of psychosis and paranoia, such that the border between ‘happiness’ and ‘sadness’ seems very blurred indeed.

What, then, is to blame for the universal ‘misfortune’ of the modern world? How can we find some balance in our disturbed ‘relations’?

It is this precise problem – of ‘relationships’ – that the Feasts of the 12 Days of Christmas seek to address in terms of salvation. For they interpret and proclaim the astonishing truth of the Birth of God. And, by extension, the final Re-birth of the human person.

The hymns of Christmas - which are poetic forms of theology written by the greatest hymnographers of the Christian world – assist us to ‘enjoy’ the  Mystery of the Birth of God which, amidst the uncertainty of our mortal life, truly sounds like a ‘strange Mystery’.

Perhaps we cannot easily imagine just how ‘paradoxical’ and ‘unbelievable’ are the messages contained in the awe-inspiring melody which informs both believers and non-believers each year that “CHRIST IS BORN”!

However, if we carefully consider that brief confession in the form of a doxology, we will have already prepared our souls to see all things in a totally different light. To see, in other words, as completely ‘changed’ the world that has tired us. The world that has angered us. The world that has terrorized us.

When we chant “CHRIST IS BORN”, we are confessing one Birth which radically changed the history of the world. A Birth which has united the Earth to the Heavens forever!

For it was not a birth like all others, which begin and finish in time. If that were the case, we would simply say ‘Christ was born’. But we instead say “HE IS BORN”! This signifies

A ‘Mystery’ without boundaries!

Without limitations.

Without exclusions.

Without fanaticism.

The ‘embrace’ of God, which was opened in Bethlehem through the pure and Ever-Virgin Mary, had, and still has, the pre-eternal purpose of ‘sheltering’ and ‘transfiguring’ every person who comes into the world.

Orthodoxy, remaining faithful to the doctrines and teachings of the Ecumenical Councils, did not accept to ‘monopolize’ God Incarnate for only one people. For one place. For only one language.

However, in order for all people and all cultures to ‘fit’ into the boundless Love of the One God, we must all share all goods of this world (be they material, educational or spiritual) like the pieces of ‘Antidoron’. And the Antidoron (literally meaning ‘instead of the Holy Gifts’, which we receive in the Eucharist) invites all people into a family relationship with ‘common gratitude’.

Only in this way will the paradoxical ‘Birth of God’ be ‘continued’ within each mortal person. That Birth which determines the ‘rebirth of the human person’!

This is at least the official teaching of the Church concerning God Incarnate. Moreover, this is how the greatest ‘Mystics’ from among the Church Fathers formulated the teaching.

St Maximos the Confessor characteristically said that, according to the example of the Mother of God (Theotokos), every faithful person – whether man or woman – should apply their own personal humility and obedience in order to ‘bear’ God the Word in the flesh, thereby becoming a ‘bearer of Christ’ (Christotokos and Christoforos).

We could not convey a brighter or more comforting ‘message’ today to our inconsolable world, than this most sacred faith, prayer and expectation of becoming ‘God-like by grace’.

To the God of Love, who came as an infant for all people, be glory and worship to the ages!

Christmas 2005


With fervent prayers to God

Archbishop STYLIANOS
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia

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