Patriarchal Encyclical on the Sanctification of Holy Myrrh
Mar 28, 2012
Prot. No. 217
By The Mercy Of God
Archbishop Of Constantinople-New Rome
And Ecumenical Patriarch
To The Holy Clergy And The Pious Plenitude
Of The Archdioceses
And Metropolises Of Our Most Holy Apostolic And Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne
Beloved children in the Lord,
Each person, created in the image and likeness of God, is a temple of the Lord. Much more so, those of us who have been baptized in Christ and chrismated with Holy Myrrh, grafted into the good olive tree of the Orthodox Church, are temples of the Holy Spirit that is within us, despite our various sins, both voluntary and involuntary, which alienate us from the Lord. “If we are faithless, yet He remains faithful. He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2.13)
This grace is bestowed on us through the Holy Myrrh because, as St. Dionysios the Areopagite states, the service of myrrh perfects divine knowledge and understanding, whereby in a sacred manner our ascent to and blessed communion with the divinity is accomplished. The Myrrh grants the sanctification of the Spirit and is offered to the faithful as spiritual chrismation, a royal gift that sanctifies the soul and body.
Through the Myrrh we receive the pledge of the Spirit, from whom every good and perfect gift derive. Our God, who granted the Holy Spirit both in the law and to His Apostles, sanctifies all those who are anointed with holy myrrh and ranks them among the choir of those saved by grace, if only they preserve their garment of incorruption spotless from all defilement and struggle not to disappoint the Holy Spirit, which they received through Holy Chrism. For the myrrh renders the pious faithful familiar to and genuine servants of God; and when we are sealed with myrrh, we are known by the holy angels and by all heavenly powers, being conformed to these.
When we have holiness as the purpose of our existence in this life, we keep the commandments of God in order that the Holy Spirit, the good Comforter, may remain with us all and that we may inherit the heavenly Kingdom of God in accordance with the words: “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1.16)
Therefore, inasmuch as the periodical sanctification of the Holy Myrrh is a venerated institution of our Mother Church, our Modesty has, together with the Holy and Sacred Synod, decided that its consecration will be performed this year during the Holy and Great Week of our Lord’s Passion and will take place this coming Holy Thursday. The event will be preceded by the boiling of the Holy Myrrh from Holy Monday to Holy Wednesday, when we shall commemorate the sinful woman who anointed the Lord with precious fragrance and who was ultimately shown to be purer than everyone as a result of her great desire for Christ.
The sanctification of Holy Myrrh announced with this Patriarchal Encyclical constitutes a particular blessing for those of us performing, but also for all those who will attend and participate in this service. The Holy Myrrh will be distributed to other Orthodox Churches throughout the world, thereby becoming an unceasing source of sanctification, “a garment of incorruption and perfecting seal, marking those who receive the sacrament of Baptism with the sacred name of the Father and the only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit.”
We ask you, then, beloved children and brothers in the Lord, not to overlook this historical event of the Sanctification of the Holy Myrrh at our Sacred Center and to do your utmost to participate in prayer and spirit, contributing in any way but especially by your presence at the most holy Patriarchal Church from Holy Monday to Holy Thursday, when the inspiring services of the Sanctification will conclude, so that we may all receive the blessing and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ as well as taste the benefits and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
May His divine grace and boundless mercy be with you all.
March 16, 2012
† BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople
Fervent supplicant for all before God
To be read in Church during the Holy Services of the Akathist Hymn, on Friday March 30th 2012.