Christmas message 2016 of His Eminence Archbishop John of Charioupolis, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch
to the clergy, monks, nuns and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Orthodox parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe
Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, beloved in Christ,
We are now entering the period of preparation for Christmas. The birth of God according to the flesh is, for the Christian, an important time in the history of our salvation. God revealed Himself to Abraham, he chose his people, he gave His Law to Moses, all this in order to complete his revelation in Christ, which summarises history and at the same time is a new beginning. This great action of God had only one purpose: man. In Adam, man steadily moved away from God; in the new Adam, in Christ, man is placed again at the centre of love, he has finally found his true homeland.
The incarnation of the Son of God is for the Christian the keystone of his faith. Without the incarnation there is no resurrection according to the flesh. Without the incarnation there is no salvation for man. "It is for our salvation that he was so full of love that He became human and took upon Himself a human body" as Athanasius of Alexandria said. This God who humbles Himself, who becomes the servant of humanity, has only one desire, one single wish, to bring man back to the true life, giving back to man the hope he had lost, in the Love which created him.
We know the love God has for us and yet despite the Incarnation and the word of the Logos we constantly turn away from the one reality, the Kingdom of God. We are preparing to establish ourselves in this world, to possess this world. Instead of giving thanks and offering the creation to its creator, transformed for the service of man, we turn it into a struggle for power and destruction. As for us, we debase ourselves by passions which we don’t resist, we do not want to be with Jesus Christ for the Kingdom.
The incarnation of the Word of God should put us back onto the path that leads to life. Without God there is no life. Without love and repentance there is no life. Without the Kingdom and hope there is no life. By becoming incarnate God did not only want to manifest Himself. His desire is to care for the suffering and to teach humanity. "I did not come to those who are well, but those who are sick," as Christ said. He wanted to manifest Himself by taking our human nature totally upon Himself and becoming one with it. It is by accepting the involvement of the divine in our corruptible nature that we are called by Christ to incorruption through the resurrection. The Word of God did not take on death outside His body, but in his body: "the Saviour assumed a human body to take on death in the body and make it disappear" as Athanasius of Alexandria underlines.
It is this profound mystery of the salvation of humanity in the Incarnation that we are called upon to live at this time of the Nativity of Christ. This most important moment has to put us onto the path of knowledge of the revelation. We must make a very special effort to find out what our Christian identity is. It is through and in Christ incarnate, who died and rose again, that we define ourselves in the eyes of the world. It is up to us to live each day this Good News of the Gospel and to fulfill the gifts of our baptism in the service of men.
A Holy Feast of the Nativity, peace and joy to you all!
† JOHN, Archbishop of Charioupolis, Patriarchal Exarch of Orthodox parishes of Russian tradition in Western Europe
Paris, 25 December 2016/7 January 2017