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Patriarchal Proclamation for Christmas

+ B A R T H O L O M E W

By God’s Mercy

Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch

To the plenitude of the Church

Grace, mercy and peace from the newborn Savior Christ in Bethlehem

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Having once again arrived at the great feast of the Lord’s Nativity, we glorify with hymn and spiritual song the One who emptied Himself for our sake and assumed our flesh so that He might redeem us from captivity to evil and open the gates of paradise to the human race. The Church of Christ rejoices as it liturgically experiences the whole mystery of Divine Economy and receives a foretaste of the glory of the eschatological kingdom, offering a good and godly witness to faith, hope and love in the world.

The character of the Church, while “not of this world,” does not isolate the Church from historical and social reality, but inspires and strengthens its witness. The Church, then, ever in reference to the eternal destiny of man, serves his existential needs, pouring out, like the Good Samaritan, “oil and wine” on his wounds, becoming a “neighbor” for everyone “who falls among thieves” (cf. Luke 10.25–37), healing contemporary “cultural illnesses” and illuminating people’s minds and hearts. As the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the faithful, spirituality means witnessing in word and deed to the hope that is in us and has nothing to do with barren introversion. The Holy Spirit is the giver of life, the source of goodness, the bestower of gifts, life and light. The Christian is a human being that is afire, loves God, humanity and beauty, active and creative.

The Gospel of the Nativity is again heard this year in a cultural environment where supreme value is attributed to “individual rights.” Self-centeredness and the deceit of self-realization diminish social integrity, weaken the spirit of fellowship and solidarity, and objectivize interpersonal relations. Unrestricted emphasis on economy and secularization deepen the existential vacuum and lead to the diminishment of man’s creative forces.

The Church cannot possibly ignore these developments, whose consequences are primarily endured by our youth through the enchanting mechanism of technology and the manifold promises of “false paradises.” The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Crete, 2016) emphatically invited our youth “to become aware that they are bearers and at the same time the continuation of the ancient and blessed tradition of the Orthodox Church,” to actively participate in the life of the Church, “to courageously preserve and dynamically cultivate the eternal values of Orthodoxy in order to convey the life-giving witness of Christianity.” (Encyclical, § 8–9)

In this same spirit, adhering to the exhortation of the Holy and Great Council but also in light of the recent election and enthronement of the new Archbishops of America, Australia and Thyateira-Great Britain for three large Eparchies of the Ecumenical Throne in the Diaspora, we declare 2020 as the “year of pastoral renewal and due concern for the youth,” inviting all our clergy and faithful to participate in and support this inspiring effort.

We aspire to the advancement of a “dialogical pastoral ministry” with imagination and vision, with unshakable faith in the eternally flowing grace of God and confidence in the power of human freedom. This pastoral ministry is centered on human persons and must turn young people away from “seeking their own interests” and “pleasing themselves” to a love that “does not seek its own” and “is pleasing to God,” from “material goods” to “the only One who is good,” from “endless needs” to the “one thing that alone is needed,” thereby contributing to the promotion of everyone’s charismas. Our truly free self is born by offering our self.

The foundation of the Christian conscience’s awakening remains to this day the experience and understanding of the meaning of Christian worship as well as its communal, Eucharistic and eschatological character. Young people must recognize that the Church is not a “union of Christians” but the “Body of Christ.” We call the reverend clergy of the Holy Great Church of Christ throughout the world to a “kenotic” pastoral mobilization. We should not wait for our young men and women to come to us, but we should reach out to them ourselves, not as judges but as friends, in imitation of the “good shepherd,” who “gives his life for his sheep” (John 10.11). A shepherd is always vigilant and on guard, aware of the pastoral needs of the youth and their social environment in order to act accordingly. His pastoral intervention draws inspiration and direction from the tradition of the Church, offering young people not merely “support” but the “truth” of freedom “to which Christ has set us free.” (Gal. 5.1)

With these thoughts, we devoutly worship the Holy Child of Bethlehem and wish all of you from the festive Phanar a blessed Holy Twelvetide as well as a fruitful new year of our Lord, invoking on you the life-giving grace and great mercy of our Savior Christ, who condescended to the human race, the “God with us.”

Christmas 2019

Your fervent supplicant before God

+ Bartholomew of Constantinople

Orthodox Christians converting to Protestantism and returning back…

Many thanks to Journey to Orthodoxy for sharing this great video about Orthodox Christians converting to Protestantism and returning back!  To acquire unity in the future, Christians must turn to the experience of the past. If you are a Protestant or Catholic Christian, and you wonder about where the unity is that Christ speaks about in John 17:21-23, then I encourage you to watch this video.

Click on the link to view the video: https://youtu.be/BtJy_rLPbsg 

Parallel Love: The Story of a Band called Luxury

I had the blessing to see this movie last night in Portland, and I highly recommend you watch it when it gets picked up by Netflix and/or Amazon.  Here’s a little teaser from the website:

‘Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury’ follows the path of Luxury, a band from small-town Georgia, who, on the cusp of success, suffer a devastating touring wreck with long-term consequences. In the intervening years, they continue to make records and three members of the band become Eastern Orthodox priests. Through interviews and archival footage, ‘Parallel Love’ tells the gripping and poignant story of Luxury and documents the making of a new record, now as priests.

Here is the link to the movie’s trailer: https://www.parallel-love.com/#trailer

Worship Services at St George

The Orthodox Church is constantly in prayer and in worship of the Holy Trinity and each parish participates in these to the best of their ability. Here at St George you can count on these worship services happening on a regular basis:

Great Vespers every Saturday evening at 6 pm:

The word “vespers” comes from the Greek ἑσπέρα (hespera) meaning “evening”, because it is the evening service of the Church.  Christians are to pray to God not just on Sunday mornings, but constantly, sanctifying time by offering prayer throughout the day. The three main components of the Vespers service are the lamp-lighting prayer “Gladsome Light”, and the offering of incense, the chanting of psalmody. The service of Vespers provides a fit conclusion to the day but it also prepares us to greet the coming day, since the day begins not with morning, but with evening.  Since Sunday is the “Great and Holy Day”, the “Lord’s Day”, Vespers on Saturday evening is called “Great”.

Orthros or Matins every Sunday morning at approximately 9 am:

The morning service of the Church is called Orthros or Matins. The Matins service of the Church unites the elements of morning psalmody and prayer with meditation on the Biblical canticles, the Gospel reading, and the particular theme of the day in the given verses and hymns. The themes of God’s revelation and light are also always central to the morning service of the Church. There is no break between the end of Matins and the beginning of Liturgy, one flows directly into the other, so when you arrive for Divine Liturgy at, or a little before, 10:00 am, it may seem like you’re late but you’re not. You’re probably catching the end of the Matins service.

Divine Liturgy every Sunday morning at approximately 10:00 am:

The word liturgy means common work or common action. The Divine Liturgy is the common work of the Orthodox Church. It is the official action of the Church formally gathered together as the chosen People of God. The word church, as we remember, means a gathering or assembly of people specifically chosen and called apart to perform a particular task. The Divine Liturgy is the common action of Orthodox Christians officially gathered to constitute the Orthodox Church. It is the action of the Church assembled by God in order to be together in one community to worship, to pray, to sing, to hear God’s Word, to be instructed in God’s commandments, to offer itself with thanksgiving in Christ to God the Father, and to have the living experience of God’s eternal kingdom through communion with the same Christ Who is present in his people by the Holy Spirit.

There are service books that will help you to follow along with the Divine Liturgy. There will be greeters to meet you to assist and answer any questions you may have. They will be able to assist you in getting seated and provide you with a service book to follow along in.

An Orthodox service can be overwhelming on your first visit. Vibrant images of biblical events and saints cover the walls. You will see people lighting candles and venerating icons. The smell of incense fills the air. People will not only be using their voices to worship, but also their bodies. They will be crossing themselves and bowing or prostrating. It may seem strange at first, but this is how Christians have worshiped God for 2,000 years.

All are welcome!

First Time Visitors CLICK HERE

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