The Jerusalem Patriarchate – December 2016- January 2017
The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ celebrates today a “strange and paradoxical” mystery and this it proclaims “in great joy” across the world. The Church celebrates the extraordinary event that God the Father, Creator and Ruler of the universe, acting on extreme love and compassion, recreated and reshaped man impaired by sin, in the face of His Only-Begotten Son and Logos. “But when the set time had fully come” (Galatians 4,4) during the reign of Cesar Octavian August, the Son and Word of God was born in flesh, in Bethlehem, Judea, incarnate through the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary in Nazareth, Galilee. Jesus Christ, “though in the form of God, took the form a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phl. 2, 6-7). “Made of woman, made under the law, that we might receive adoption” (Galatians 4,4) and “become children of God” (John 1, 12).
Such was God’s economy for the restoration of humanity. According to Father Athanasius the Great, “the bodiless and imperishable and intangible Word of God was incarnate so that we may become deified; He revealed himself through a body, so that we may receive the favour of the Father; and He tolerated human hybris so that we may inherit eternity”.
Humanity is invited to witness and participate in this divine mystery. Simple shepherds are called by a horde of angels, singing in Bethlehem “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace” (Luke 2, 14). They are called to the manger, to see the newborn Christ. But also, the Persian Kings, servants of science, are called “by heaven through a star to the baby in the manger, amazed not by sceptres and thrones, but by extreme poverty – a dilapidated cave wherein shone the richness of His divinity”.
Throughout His entire life on earth the Lord had lived in poverty and out of sin. He identified Himself with man until death. He escaped the risk of Herod’s authoritarian mania, not by His divine power or through violence, but by investing Himself in human weakness, fleeing from Bethlehem to Egypt wherefrom he was invited by an angel to Nazareth, hence the eponym “Nazarene”. He was baptized by John in the river Jordan and went on to mark human life and history with the new period of grace, of the New Testament, during which He healed the ill, resurrected the dead and offered His crucified body to God, before rising from the dead to meet those believing in Him.
After ascending to heaven, the Lord assigned the work of peace, pardon, reconciliation, justice, blessing and salvation, to His disciples and apostles, His Body, the Church. Through the centuries, the Church constitutes the revelation of the kingdom of God, introduced to man by the lord of peace, the Incarnate Jesus Christ. The Church beautifies the morals of men, proclaims peace to those near and far, love for thy neighbour but also thy enemy, for the transformation of the fallen world in heaven, the return of the deceived man to original beauty and his participation in the glory of Christ by God.
The Jerusalemite Mother of Churches attests the mystery of the angelic hymn “peace on earth to those with whom God is placed”, there where it was revealed. On this day of Christ’s birth in flesh, the Church experiences the event in this sacred cave and this Basilica that offers blessing and protection to all inhabitants of the Holy Land, especially those in Bethlehem.
From this sacred monument we denounce every act of terrorist or war violence, every act of conquest or usurpation of foreign territory, disrespect to the sacred beliefs of religions, torturing men and exploiting captives, especially women and children, and we appeal to Christians in the Holy Land, to stay in their ancestral residences in the Middle East. To our pious flock as well as to pilgrims to the Holy Land, we wish the grace, power, peace and blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ, incarnate through the Ever Virgin Mary for our sake.
In the Holy City of Bethlehem, CHRISTMAS 2016
Ardent Blesser in the Lord,
Patriarch of Jerusalem