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Christmas message, 1999


By the grace of God Archbishop of Australia
To all the Clergy and devout faithful of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

Brother Concelebrants and beloved children in Christ who is born.

This year's Christmas is the last of the century and of the millennium.

Moreover, of course the adjective "last" used here is not meant literally, since it is not used absolutely and generally, but only within the context of specific limits of time. Yet even when used in this way - namely inaccurately and under certain conditions - the term last brings to the soul certain mystical connotations. It is these connotations precisely which transfer us almost automatically to the "eschatological" that is eternal, truths of Christmas.

Yet no matter how often we hear these truths or make mention of them - even if on festive occasions - once a year, we unfortunately do not allow them to enlighten our consciences sufficiently, to the point where we are truly Christianised. Thus while we hastily tried, as missionaries from east and west, to Christianise other people whom we normally considered to be barbarians or idolaters, we kept own barbarism as the apple of our eye. Sometimes we even kept it as a measure of truth and as a model of perfection. We did this - in our foolishness - hoping that though the social and cultural forms of dubious "good morals", we could pretend to be the chosen ones under the guise of the religion of the God-man.

This is why 2000 years of Christian preaching - confessing and witnessing to the faith - have unfortunately not yet managed to procure for humanity "peace" or "good will", both of which were announced by the choir of angels on the night of Christmas. Peace and good will were never realised in human society - even in so-called Christian societies - for the simple reason that they were neither understood nor drawn from their authentic source, which is God alone:

"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace
good will to all people" (Luke 2:14).

Peace without God is simply the absence of open conflict, and good will, which is not inspired by the spirit of God, is the hypocrisy of this world.

However, if the "glory of God" is the only power which can secure "peace on earth", then we should always seek the solution of our problems, be they ethical or spiritual, or even social, political and economic, guided by the question: what is the "glory of God" and how is it to be understood?

We owe it to ourselves to focus our attention on this question, which promises to solve our most vital questions and, at the same time, secure to us the promised blessings of God Incarnate.

For the faithful person who reads the scared text of the Holy Scriptures with the necessary reverence and humility, together with the commentaries contained in the works of the Fathers, theology, and the worship of the Church, the "glory of God" is always understood as "con-descension", "self-emptying", and "utter humility".

The first self-emptying and humiliation of God was the very creation of the world "out of nothing", and especially the making of the human person "in the image of God".

God, who is beyond need, beyond time, beyond relationship, and beyond essence, enters the conditions of space and time in order to share His indivisible blessedness and His kingdom with the spiritual creations of His love.

The second self-emptying, which was also named the "second Creation" by the fathers, was the mystery of the Birth of God in the fresh, the divine "Incarnation", the purpose of which was to deify "according to grace" the human person who is corruptible "by nature". The Incarnate Son and Word of God is the ultimate climax, as well as the final judgement, of God for the entire Creation and its history.

The mystery and the "wisdom of the Cross" lead to the mystical depths of divine Love, thereby showing the authentic nature of the glory and power of God.

If, for the sinful world, having "glory" and "power" mean that you can impress, frighten, steal, and dominate others, with the hidden goal of finally overpowering them, the spirit of the Gospel by contrast holds the other person in front of you as the most sacred responsibility and perspective. For, in the other person you see God incarnate Himself right now, as well as your own self.

Given that God is love and grace -; which cannot be repaid -; He commands us also, who are His "image", to go lower in order to lift the other person, or to condescend in order to raise the other. In the mystery of God's love, becoming poorer is really a power, which uncovers a deeper richness. Moreover, to humble yourself in fact shows true nobility and glory. This is precisely what the words of the Holy Eucharist declare in stating that the "Bread of life" is "broken yet not divided, ever eaten yet never expended".

Therefore, peace, justice, and unity will, for tormented humankind, never be achieved expansively, that is to say through the spreading of the dubious deals of the world's powerful people to the ends of the earth. They will only be achieved contractedly, i.e. concentratedly, by keeping our hope in the "common denominator", which was given to us in the cave (manger).

The heads of nations speak today about "globalisation" and "means of communication". We have been speaking for two thousand years about "deification in Christ" and "communication between the divine and the human", which is ensured not by the kind of "media", but by the only "Mediator" between heaven and earth, the God-man who has appeared.

To Him be glory and honour and worship to all ages.

With fervent prayers for all of you.

Archbishop STYLIANOS
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia

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