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Encyclical for the Nativity of Christ - 2005

Archbishop Demetrios, Greek Orthodox Church of America

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Because of the tender mercies of our God,
A sunrise from on high visited us,
To give light to those who sit in darkness
And in the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.
(Luke 1:78-79)

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On this glorious celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, I greet you with love in the joy of the Good News that was received on that blessed and holy night by the shepherds of Bethlehem. After announcing the birth of the Son of God, the heavenly hosts filled the dark sky with light, rejoicing and proclaiming, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will among men" (Luke 2:14).

On that night in Bethlehem when our Savior entered this world as a human infant born of the Virgin Mary, the favor of God was upon all humankind and upon all of creation. Through the Incarnation, Jesus Christ became like us in every respect, except sin, so that He might know our condition, share in our sufferings, and redeem us from our sins (Hebrews 2:17). Into the darkness and the shadow of death that plagued all of humanity, the radiant "sunrise from on high" (Luke 1:78) broke through and both illuminated and became the path of peace, the way to salvation and eternal life.

As we commemorate the birth of our Lord on this day, we can be assured of the universal significance and relevance of this miraculous event. This is certainly true in terms of our redemption through the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ. But it is also true in terms of the conditions of our world, in times past, present, and future. Into a world that groans under the burden of sin, a world that is filled with the darkness of uncertainty and the shadow of terror and death, our Lord has brought us the peace of God. This coming of this peace was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah who announced that the "Prince of Peace" would establish His rule and an "endless peace" (Isaiah 9:6-7). St. Luke the Evangelist makes reference to the same idea when he speaks about Him who would come in order to "guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:79). It was also this peace that Christ Himself gave to His disciples and to those that would follow in their sacred Apostolic work.

It is this peace of God through Jesus Christ that is needed in our contemporary world. As we witness and experience the devastating effects of violence and suffering, so many people are searching for that peace which transcends the shadow of death and lifts their souls into the light of truth and understanding. So many people are searching for that peace that renews their spirit, gives them hope, and guides them toward greater fulfillment in life. This is why we must be living carriers of the peace of Christ, who through our faith and our love for God and one another, dwells in us. When we are the image of the Prince of Peace, our thoughts, words, deeds, and aspirations will be imbued with His true and enduring peace. Our security and freedom will not be dependent upon or diminished by the violent events and persistent threats that trouble our world; for we will live in the light and peace of the presence of our Incarnate Lord, offering to others His tender mercy and a secure and eternal relationship with Him.

As we gather on this holy Feast and pray to our Lord "for the peace from above" and "for the peace of the whole world," I invite you to open your hearts to His divine presence and allow Him to bring solace to our hearts and minds. We can be assured that the Prince of Peace has entered this world and our human condition, that He is in our midst, and that He is guiding us on a most sure and certain path of eternal peace and life. May His blessings be upon you and your families during this beautiful season, and may your worship and fellowship be filled with His joy throughout the New Year.

With paternal love in Christ,

+DEMETRIOS Archbishop of America

Posted: 18-Dec-05



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