GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AUSTRALIA
CHRISTMAS ENCYCLICAL 2018
By God’s Mercy Archbishop of Australia
To all Clergy and the faithful of our Archdiocese
Brother concelebrants and children in the Lord,
“Christ is born, glorify Him!”
Thus we chant for centuries every year in our churches. But it does not yet seem that we have sufficiently understood the kind of unheard truth of our Faith with this our triumphant song. If one morning we took to the streets and shouted “the world is on fire, wake up!”, surely we would cause a general alarm. On the contrary, the call “Christ is born” does not impress us any longer, nor does it surprise us; as if it is a wish that we say almost instinctively, like the greeting “good morning”; and as if it is about a dim mythological remembrance, not to say – even worse – that it is about a “conventional lie”!
And yet this message, that comes out of the depths of Orthodox worship and life, constitutes the most exciting message ever heard in the world. We will not be able to understand the theological validity and the world-saving significance of “Christ is born”, if we think that here we are simply informed of the birth of a God. In any case, even Antiquity had spoken about “theogonies” and “theophanies” more than sufficiently.
The key to understanding the terrible truth of “Christ is born” is found not so much in the announcement of the birth as in the manner of formulation of this announcement. It does not tell us that “Christ was born”, nor that “Christ will be born”. It tells us that “Christ is born”. What is the meaning of this strange present tense? It simply means that Christ, “the son of the Living God”, is not a past that is gone, nor a future that is unattainable.
God is “present everywhere and fills all things”. God is present here and today, in the every here and every day. From the moment that God became man, in the person of every man we can see the God-Man. Because if God was united with human nature “without confusion”, in order to preclude every idolatry, yet he was united “without division”, precluding every abomination.
St. Maximos the Confessor assures us that the Logos of God “is incarnated” continually within History and in every human person. The kind of concrete and visible form it will take in our corruptible body depends on how much space we will offer Him. The Apostle Paul had taught the same truth, in a more dramatic tone, when he said: “For I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body” (Gal. 6: 17).
On the one hand, therefore, the verse “Christ is born” constitutes God’s unceasing present in the world of perpetual flow and instability. On the other hand, it indicates the unique stability and divine aspect of the world, namely the theandric character by grace within flowing History. In these two “roots” of the divine plan, we are called as faithful to live with a sense of responsibility and gratitude the unceasing present of God and the passing present of man.
These are the two basic sentiments – responsibility and gratitude – that must direct our life, knowing that nothing is done in History in the absence of God, but also nothing is done in the absence of man. When the boundaries of our own limited present remain open before the benevolent radiance of God’s presence everywhere, then they are no longer boundary marks on which our own personal time is exhausted. They change into definitions of divine Grace which transform the end of the human person into consummation, and our definite farewell into a Eucharistic doxology.
Therefore, with a renewed sense of optimism let us look again at the world with love and confidence, with patience and tolerance, with affection and enthusiasm. The moving power behind all this shall always be the assurance that “a young child was born for us, the pre-eternal God”.
To Him be the glory and the power unto the ages. Amen!
With fervent prayers to the Lord