Homily of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Doxology in Saint Nicholas Cathedral Tarpon Springs, FL - January 4
Jan 4, 2006
Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, beloved brother in Christ,
Your Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta,
Much beloved brother Hierarchs, Fathers,
Beloved and blessed Children in the Lord,
With much joy and emotion we again visit you, the people of Greek decent living in America, to celebrate with you the great Feast of Epiphany. You invited us, and we eagerly responded, for your love toward the Mother Church meets our love toward you in our hearts. This mutual love brings one closer to the other, for love is a unifying power, a power that unites people and brings forth harmonious coexistence and communion of the hearts.
Unfortunately, we live in a world that is individualistic to a great extent, where love has been mostly estranged and other egocentric sentiments prevail. However, egocentric individualism does not bring real happiness, even though it promises dominance over the world. True happiness derives only from love. Only love toward our fellow human being and for God fills our hearts with solace, gratification and true and unshakeable happiness. It brings us closer to one another, unifies us, makes us support each other, obliterates loneliness, and gives meaning to life and our struggles. Think how hard and rather lonely the battle of life is for that person who has no one to help him. In comparison, think how light the labors of a mother or father may seem to be when they struggle to help their children, or even for a person who toils in order to help his beloved, an ailing or a fellow human being in need.
Behold, beloved, the love of God, the greatest manifestation of which we celebrate during these holy days. The love of God made Him decide to come to us, to be born in the manger of Bethlehem as human, to help us live eternally and happily. How much happier will we be if we respond to this great love of God, if we grasp its deep meaning for our life, and if we offer our love in return to God and our fellow human beings with all our heart and mind!
How promising to our world are the words of Apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy, "God was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, believed on in the world, taken up in glory" (1 Tim. 3:16). God became known to people. He is no longer hiding, unapproachable and inaccessible. He took human flesh. We can see Him in the person of Jesus Christ. We can talk with Him, touch Him, and feel his presence with our senses. He is now as close to us as a brother and a friend. The Holy Spirit, Whose descent upon Jesus Christ at His baptism we celebrate these days, revealed to us that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God and true God. The apparition of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly voice vindicated our faith; the great and unprecedented mystery of God's love for the humble human being manifested by God's condescendence through His incarnation was also revealed to wondering angels.
This reality was heralded to the nations. It was no longer known only by the people of Israel, as the prophets of Israel had already prophesied. This joyful message is a cause for universal joy; it is the grace of God, which angels chanted in Bethlehem. People believed in the Gospel. Our forefathers and we believed in the teachings of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Apostles, and we continue to preach the Good News, inviting the whole world to believe that God appeared in human flesh because of His love for us. All of us practically experience the truth of this Good News, being baptized in Christ and by the abundant mercy and unfathomable philanthropy of the Incarnate Lord, becoming members of His body, namely of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Orthodox Church.
And, our gathering here today in this most sacred Holy Church of Saint Nicholas reveals the truth, that we indeed are members of the mystical Body of the Incarnate Lord. We comprise one body, one operating unity, and we ought to keep this unity unbroken, as our Lord Jesus Christ wishes; our Lord Who became human in order to deify us, if of course we live according to the Holy Gospel.
We came to you, brothers, sisters, and children from the continuously crucified, albeit, living seat of the much afflicted Ecumenical Patriarchate to concelebrate the Day of Epiphany, but also to meet with you. We bring as our present the blessings of the immeasurable multitude of Saints, who under the shade of their wings pleased the Lord; however, we especially bring the blessing of the Mother of God, of the Most Blessed Defender, the primary Protector of Constantinople.
Finally, we came brothers, sisters and children to bring the sympathy and spiritual support of the affectionate Mother Church to our afflicted brothers and sisters of New Orleans and other areas who were hurt by the recent catastrophic hurricanes, thus emphasizing our love for all and the sense of our indissoluble unity in Christ with all.
Brothers, sisters and children,
Loving you and wishing upon you the best, we wholeheartedly pray that the abundant grace and blessing of the Most Merciful God be upon you all, so that individually and collectively you may bear witness to your Christ-sealed identity daily, that you may become light-bearing children of the Orthodox Mother Church.
Thanking you all from the depths of our heart, we raise with supplicant arms and offer our paternal prayer:
Master, Lord Jesus Christ, You Who revealed Yourself to us in human flesh, bless Your people and Your inheritance, which belongs to You and has entrusted unto You all of its hope. Bless Your people so that they all yield virtuous fruits as fertile fields. For only then will they be worthy to enter the desirable Paradise alongside all of Your Saints. Amen.