+B A R T H O L O M E W
BY THE GRACE OF GOD ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE,
NEW ROME, AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH,TO THE
PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH,GRACE, PEACE, AND MERCY
FROM CHRIST OUR SAVIOR, BORN IN BETHLEHEM
“The Savior visited us from on high…
And those in darkness and shadow found the truth."
Beloved brothers and children in the Lord,
The search for truth is an ancient and universal quest; numerous as well as laborious efforts have been and are still being undertaken by humanity for its attainment. It is therefore reasonable for us to seek truth, because its knowledge delivers from error and its consequences. Unfortunately, though, we are not always on the right track in searching for truth. In addition, there was and still is a plethora of false teachings which at times demanded and continue to demand our validation as accurate expressions of it. Nowadays especially, more often than ever, we are approached by supporters of eastern or other antiquated teachings, who present them as new and attribute to them secular or supernatural powers. By promising the gain of spiritual experiences and various forms of might they try to convince us that their truth is whole and their power the strongest in the world.
But, brothers and children, we know from experience that the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we festively celebrate today,“has risen the light of truth in the world”, as the Scriptures read. Through the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ “ the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned” (Matt. 4, 16). The holy hymnodist employs his poetic ability to herald the same message “we who sit in darkness and shadow found the truth”.
This truth we found is not just a mental notion, a statement about the world, God and human beings. It is the Creator of the world Himself, the Son and Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was humbly born in a poor cave for our salvation, Who revealed to us His infinite love for each of us, be it pious or sinner, in an ontological and actual way. It is the same One Who reassured us that He is the way and truth and life and if we see His truth we do not need any other truth, because He is the only and perfect truth.
We do not need any pseudo-teachers, whether they originate from the east or anywhere else, or their misleading promises. On the contrary, we know that the magi, although they were misled in every other respect, came from the east to worship our Lord Jesus Christ as king. This Jesus Christ, Who out of love for man shed His royal glory and became human, so that man will resemble God, we ought to love and follow with all our soul and mind.
Let us follow the example of the humble shepherds of Bethlehem, but also the example of the magi to whom “ the star has shown the Logos existing before the sun who came to eliminate the sin”, and let us close our ears to all contemporary magicians and shepherds who do not follow Christ, but point to other false saviors.
Beloved brothers and children in the Lord, our salvation rests with Christ and no one else. As individuals, nations and humanity we only seek Christ’s benevolent offerings. If we decide to stay away from Him, we will remain in darkness and in the shadow of lies and death and we will reap the sufferings of humanity, which will be entangled in the fatal paths of falsehood and suffer hard because of it.
Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1, 17). Joy, peace, salvation and everything good can only be found near Him.
Glory to God in the highest, Who consented to allow His Son and Word to incarnate so that we receive His whole truth and salvaging grace. Glory, praise and thanksgiving to Jesus Christ Who was born in the humble surroundings of the manger and to the Holy Spirit, Which constitutes the institution of Church and supports and inspires us the faithful.
Having reminded you of this, we joyfully bestow upon you our paternal wishes and Patriarchal blessing, praying wholeheartedly that peace and joy will fill the days of the holy feast of Christmas and the upcoming new year of the Lord’s virtue.
The grace and abundant mercy of the One who was born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Theotokos Maria and was laid in the manger for our salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ, may be with you all, beloved brothers and children. Amen.
Christmas 2002, Phanar
Patriarch of Constantinople
Fervent intercessor to God for all