The Serbian Orthodox Church to her spiritual children at Christmas, 2005
P A V L E
By the grace of God
Orthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch, with the Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church - to all the clergy, monastics, and all the sons and daughters of our Holy Church: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, with the joyous Christmas greeting:
PEACE FROM GOD - CHRIST IS BORN!
ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ Today a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). — God is revealed in the flesh (I Tim. 3:16). — The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory (John 1:14). ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦To present to you the word of God in its fullness, the mystery of that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saintsÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:25-27).
Today’s holy and great Feast of the Lord, the Feast of the Nativity or Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, is, brothers and sisters, our dear spiritual children, the day in which the Holy Church announces the good news of great joy that will be for all the people of God (Luke 2:10-11). On this day, more than twenty centuries ago, in the City of David called Bethlehem, an unusual Event transpired, unique in the history of the human race: the Savior of world and mankind, the very Peace of God among us, our God-sent and God-given Peace (cf. Eph. 2:14), as a Divine Youth — a Child, a newborn infant, and in the same, o wonder above wonders, the Pre-Eternal God — He who lay in a poor cave, in a manger, and not in the comfortable crib of a palace or mansion. Indeed, there is no greater humility or condescension, than that which the All-powerful Lord shown at the Birth of Christ and, later, at His Crucifixion!
The essence of the Nativity celebration consists in the Good News that God was born out of love as a Man in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that He might regenerate all peoples and all of His creation, deify them by Grace and eternalize them in His Church, which already here and now reveals the future Kingdom of God as the eternal community of love and the realization in love permeating between God and men, as well as among men themselves. The reality of our rebirth or birth from above, birth by the Holy Spirit, in the Mystery of Holy Baptism and thereafter in the entire grace-given life of spiritual efforts in the Church, with its culmination and fullness in the Divine Liturgy, would not have been granted to us had not the Pre-Eternal Son and Logos of God, One in the Holy Trinity, been born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary within the framework of historical reality. The birth in time of the Eternal and Timeless Lord made it possible for us the created ones, born of earth, by our being passing, to be elevated equal to eternity, outside of time and passing. In the person of our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God who became on Christmas Day the Son of Man so that we the sons of men and daughters of men, might become in His Church the children of God, brothers and sisters among ourselves.
Precisely therein consists the Christmas invitation of God to us men. With our grateful and conciliar response to the gift of His love, to the gift of life and salvation in Him, even our human calling and intention are realized, our new, Christian way of existence. In Him from the beginning was, is and will be the true life, the only life worthy to be called the light of men (cf. John 1:4). Christ as the Life is in verity “the true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9), a Great Light that by His Birth has dawned upon people living in the land of the shadow of death (Matt. 4:16), the Light of Salvation to enlighten the Gentiles (Luke 2:30-32). Let us take note, therefore, that the Holy Evangelists rightfully describe the Event of Christ’s Birth and His manifestation to the world as a miraculous phenomenon of light. This we see even in the works of the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church, as well as in the wonderful liturgical hymns of the Nativity. We will cite only a few examples: St. John of Damascus in his Christmas homily states: “Today is born the Only-begotten Son of God, the Radiance of His Glory.” In the Christmas troparion the Holy Orthodox Church exclaims: “Your Nativity, O Christ our God, has revealed to the world the light of wisdomÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦” Similarly in another verse the ecclesial poet sings: “You have shinned forth from the Virgin, O Christ, as the spiritual Sun of RighteousnessÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦”, and yet in another even more expressively: “We have been radiated by light, O Christ our God, with Your Arrival. As Light of Light, as the faithful Reflection of the Father, You have enlightened all creationÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ You who have radiated forth from the Virgin, O God, have mercy on us.”
This Divinely-inspired poetry as a sign of Light is not at all coincidental. It reveals to us the wonderful mystery of Christmas: In Jesus Christ, the Lord saves us (the name Jesus even means that!), granting us, as the Orient from on High and the Sun of Righteousness, the light of wisdom and eternal Divine-Human life. Of that He Himself speaks: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). In a word, the Christmas Event reveals to the world that eternal glory, which otherwise belongs only to God on High and appears as peace on earth, and good will among men, such as the angels of God sang on the night of Christ’s Birth and as we sing every year at Christmas.
The newborn Christ was a Small Child, and at the same time the Pre-Eternal God, as is noted in a Christmas liturgical hymn. Were He not the God-Man, He would neither be the Savior nor Restorer of all and everything. This we especially emphasize so that we may turn your attention to all of the threatening operations of old and new sects, occult groups and para-religious movements, whose self-proclaimed preachers and missionaries, at times openly, and sometimes veiled, denounce this fundamental Good News of the Church. As Orthodox Christians, we respect everyone’s conscience and freedom, we show good will and feel love even towards those who inhibit our holy faith, that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3), however we are at the same time spiritually awake and as the pupil of our eye protect the sanctity and glory of God, protect the salvific fullness of the faith, which was preached by the apostles, the Holy Fathers, martyrs, confessors, the Councils of the Church, and by which throughout the ages lived — and for which, when necessary died — our honorable ancestors.
However, our faithfulness to the Gospel of Christ does not mean that we close our eyes before all of that which is in truth human, authentic or worthy even in that part of humanity, which is found outside the canonical borders of the Church, and also outside the domain of its missionary preaching. For, as the holy Bishop Nicholai convinces us, nothing exists that is holy, good, beautiful or truthful, — wherever we encounter it, be it even partially, —and that to a certain extent does not maintain the Divine-Human image of the Only Holy, Good and Philanthropic, Wonderful in His saints, Witness of the Faithful and True, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Whoever lives according to their conscience does good, witnesses to truth, defends righteousness and furthers love, has received these gifts from Christ and returns them to Him. In light of this understanding, let us look, our dear spiritual children, at the challenges and temptations of our time and all of us in it! Let us remain therefore in the faith, let us breathe with the lungs of hope and be inspired by love, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the Only God!
For us is there any greater challenge or more difficult testing of our faith and conscience than the painful question of Kosovo and Metohija? Indeed, there is not! However, our Holy Assembly of Bishops clearly and honorably recently formulated the position of the Church concerning the same. Here we will only call to mind the fact that no one has the right to unilaterally change the state-legal status of our southern region, without the consensus of all the peoples who live in Serbia, and also, therefore, the Serbian people. What then is to be said of the possibility of some kind of “negotiation process” accompanied by force? Life, peace, freedom, equal opportunities, and equal rights for all, the preservation of Serbian Orthodox sanctuaries, the uninhibited return of expellees and refugees, the absolute respecting of European values and international order, and before all, the Charter of the United Nations (which, as far as we know, no one has yet declared invalid)ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦ — all of these are only certain elements and “standards” on the path to truthful resolution, wherein all will gain, and no one will suffer loss. Something else, which is important and essential: final status does not exist here on earth, not for anyone or anything, and someone’s comparison of the alleged birth of a new nationhood for Kosovo and Metohija to the Birth of Christ is not a phrase in the service of Albanian national fetishism, rather really and truly blasphemy.
We invite all of you, brothers and sisters, that by your warm prayers to God and by appealing to the conscience of members of organizations concerned with human rights, you will contribute towards the God-pleasing expedient release of the imprisoned Archbishop of Ochrid, His Beatitude Kyr Jovan, so that the clergy and faithful people of the Archdiocese of Ochrid, an autonomous Church under the wings of our Patriarchate, will expediently win in their battle for freedom of faith and conscience, to stop the last of religious persecution in Europe with its epicenter in Skoplje and that the Christmas light of salvation and understanding of truth will enlighten the mind and soul of the bearers of the destructive ecclesiastical schism in the Republic of Macedonia, so that heaven and earth may rejoice in the unity of Orthodox faithful.
The Serbian people in the Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) and throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, are also exposed to bitter temptations, we invite them to endurance in the faith and on the path of good and humanity, and all of the peoples and communities there to reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and common efforts towards a future. We invite the state authorities of Croatia that, in the name of their European perspective, they secure the return of the expelled and refugee Serbs, and for the returnees a peaceful life and security. In like manner, we invite them to extend legal protection to the clergy, the faithful and the temples of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which are once again exposed to threats and attacks, especially in Dalmatia.
We will repeat even on today’s Feast the invitation to Orthodox Christians and all peoples of good will in Montenegro for brotherly unity and for togetherness as among themselves so also with everyone, alongside another reminder of the fact that salvation is neither found in national nor state separation nor in partisan ideologies but rather in the spirit of conciliar unity and in an authentic global civilization of love, whose source is precisely the Church of Christ. This invitation for togetherness and unity concerns, of course, all of our faithful people, wherever they may live. Especially, we turn to our spiritual children that live in various lands throughout the world, with a plea that they preserve their faith and their identity and that everywhere and always they be of assistance to their Church and their people, especially in this difficult time.
One of the honorary names of the Newborn Lord Christ was also the name Emmanuel. This means God is with us (Matt. 1:23). Indeed, brothers and sisters, on Christmas with all of our being we know and feel that God is with us! He is with us on Christmas; He is with us forever and ever! Let us be also with Him, forever and ever! All of us are in need of true repentance, cleansing, turning to the God of our fathers, spiritual renewal, moral rebirthÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¦If all of that is excluded, sadly, we will not have a future, neither in the times which follow nor in the eternity of the Kingdom of God. Only a life in Christ and in the grace of the Holy Spirit represent an alternative to immorality, disfiguration, drugs, corruption, criminality, the white plague or the sin of abortion, all that is sin and that brings death, spiritually and physically. But despite all that comes upon us from men, more often from ourselves, because of everything that on Christmas comes from God, let us rejoice and be glad!
With prayerful wishes that the Lord will grant everyone a better and more prosperous New Year than the one past, we invoke upon all of you His blessings and His love, greeting you on this Feast Day with the joyous Christmas felicitation:
PEACE FROM GOD - CHRIST IS BORN!
INDEED HE IS BORN!
Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, at Christmas, 2005.
Your prayerful intercessors before the Divine Infant Christ:
Archbishop of Pec,
Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and
Serbian Patriarch PAVLE
Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana JOVAN
Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands AMPHILOHIJE
Metropolitan of Midwestern America CHRISTOPHER
Metropolitan of Dabro-Bosna NIKOLAJ
Bishop of Shabac-Valjevo LAVRENTIJE
Bishop of Nish IRINEJ
Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla VASILIJE
Bishop of Srem VASILIJE
Bishop of Banja Luka JEFREM
Bishop of Budim LUKIJAN
Bishop of Canada GEORGIJE
Bishop of Banat NIKANOR
Bishop for America and Canada (New Gracanica Metropolitanate) LONGIN
Bishop of Eastern America MITROPHAN
Bishop of Zica CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Backa IRINEJ
Bishop of Great Britain and Scandinavia DOSITEJ
Bishop of Ras and Prizren ARTEMIJE
Retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina ATANASIJE
Bishop of Bihac and Petrovac CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Osijek and Baranja LUKIJAN
Bishop of Central Europe CONSTANTINE
Bishop of Western Europe LUKA
Bishop of Timok JUSTIN
Bishop of Vranje PAHOMIJE
Bishop of Sumadija JOVAN
Bishop of Slavonia SAVA
Bishop of Branicevo IGNATIJE
Bishop of Milesevo FILARET
Bishop of Dalmatia FOTIJE
Bishop of Budimlje and Niksic JOANIKIJE
Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina GRIGORIJE
Bishop of Australia and New Zealand (New Gracanica Metropolitanate) MILUTIN
Bishop of Gornji Karlovci GERASIM
Vicar Bishop of Hvostno ATANASIJE
Vicar Bishop of Jegar PORFIRIJE
Vicar Bishop of Lipljan TEODOSIJE
Vicar Bishop of Dioclea JOVAN
Vicar Bishop of Hum MAKSIM
The Orthodox Archdiocese of Ochrid
Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje JOVAN
Bishop of Polos and Kumanovo JOAKIM
Vicar Bishop of Dremvic and locum tenens of the Diocese of Bitolj MARKO