Archdiocese of Orthodox Parishes in Western Europe – Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople
Dear Fathers, beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Year after year, the approach of the Feast of Christ’s Nativity fills with joy Christians who are preparing to celebrate this solemn Mystery. And it is right to so rejoice, for the prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled: today, “unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9.6). In truth, the feast we are celebrating today is the feast of the God Who gives Himself by becoming incarnate and humbled for the life of the world. This is precisely what the Apostle John the Theologian declares, saying: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Without this sacrificial gift from God, humanity would never have been able to truly know God and unite with Him, as much as this is possible for human nature, and so have access to the Heavenly Kingdom.
This gift, generously offered to all mankind by the merciful God, calls for a generous response in return from all of creation. On this festive Day the Church proclaims in its hymnody: “What shall we offer you, O Christ, Who appear as a Man on earth? Each of Your creatures offers You its thanksgiving: the Angels – a hymn, the heavens – the star, the Magi – gifts, the shepherds – worship, the earth – a cave, the desert – a manger, and we – a virgin Mother. O God eternal, have mercy on us!” (4th Sticheron of the Lucernary). And the Church continues to this day to offer thanksgiving, celebrating the Eucharist, in which, remembering everything that was done for us in the Mystery of salvation in Christ, it offers to God that which belongs to Him, and comes from Him, “on behalf of all and for all”.
Yet the event joyfully celebrated today, with all its cosmic and eternal implications, invites us to respond concretely with a generous gift, each day of our lives. First, each of us, as a priest of creation, is called to give thanks to the Creator for the gift of creation. This means that we have to recognize the world we inhabit as a gift from God for which we must be grateful. For this reason, we are invited to lead a life which is “Eucharistic” and “ascetic”, since the created world is not our possession, but a gift from God, which effectively means that we must be respectful and responsible vis-à-vis the material creation, avoiding pollution and waste.
Furthermore, we must be generous every day of our lives by seeing, in every human being created “in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1: 26-27), the image of Christ Who gives Himself to us. Each time we support a human being we encounter in our daily lives by our kindness, our generosity, our moral support and our material assistance, we are responding to the generous gift of God incarnate, since, as He Himself told us, “inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).
Finally, we should also support the Church which is the Body of Christ, the extension of the incarnation of God through the centuries, which, through its missionary initiatives and, especially by the celebration of the Sacraments, without which the mystical union with Christ through God’s grace would be impossible, incarnates in our lives the saving Mystery of Christ. For without our synergistic commitment and support, the Church cannot effectively accomplish this divine and essential mission in the world.
Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, Beloved in Christ, I wish, for all of us, that the joy of this celebration may truly reflect the incarnation of God in our everyday lives. Extending to you my best wishes on the occasion of the Nativity of Christ and the New Year, I implore upon you all the blessing of God incarnate, and wish that each of us may say, together with the Apostle Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
+ Job, Archbishop of Telmessos, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch
Paris, the Cathedral of Saint Alexander of the Neva,
December 25, 2014 / January 7, 2015.