Nativity Encyclical of the Serbian Orthodox Church
TheSerbian Orthodox Church
toher spiritual children at Christmas, 2008
By the Grace of God
Orthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovciand Serbian Patriarch, with all the Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church toall the clergy, monastics, and all the sons and daughters of our Holy Church:grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and theHoly Spirit, with the joyous Christmas greeting:
Peace from God! Christ is Born!
Everyyear, dear spiritual children, and so it is this year as well,we anticipate and welcome Christmas, the birthday of the Son ofGod, with joy, faith, hope and love. Why? Because it is in this event that the"fullness of time" was fulfilled, and so God the Father, "gave His onlybegotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but haveeverlasting life" (John 3:16). This event is the fulfillment of all cosmologicaland historical events: everything that had happened in God's creation andmankind's history received in that day "which the Lord had made" itsfulfillment and realization. The entry of God into the innermost part of liferepresents, also, a fulfillment of all of mankind's deepest yearnings asattested and proclaimed in all earthly nations before the birth of Christ. WithHis birth, the light of the knowledge of God shone forth. In that Divine lightthe meaning of the world, nature, and the ultimate goal of man's existence andthe existence of all creatures, both visible and invisible, was revealed to us.
In Christ God,Whom we in the Creed confess as "the Only-begotten Son of God, begotten of theFather before all ages, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, notmade; being of one essence with the Father, through Whom all things were made,Who, for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and wasincarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and became man..." - the victoryhas been realized once and for all over imperfection, sin and death. With themanifestation of the fullness of His Divinity and His unification with humannature, man's fullness and perfection has also been realized. Without minglingor change, the undivided unity and community of the divine and human natures inthe God-man Jesus Christ bestows upon the world and man humanity,through the indestructible truth and the eternal, Divine-humancommunity which is God's Church.
From the day ofChrist's birth the world is not nor can it ever be that which it was before.Man's nature and the world, filled with the yeast of eternal Life, received thepotential to be a new man, a new heaven and a new earth, a new eternal mankind.This is why Christ was the only one Who could say these words: "Behold, Icreate everything new" (cf. Rev. 21:5). He, as "the Only new under the sun,"eternally renews everything that exists; His Light enlightens everyone andeverything, enlightening every man that comes into the world (cf. John 1:9).
As such, Christis the "fullness of the Law and Prophets" as He Himself said: "I did not cometo abolish the law, but to fulfill it." (Matthew 5:17) This word - "to fulfill"- has dual meaning: to accomplish, on the one hand, and to give to the world fullnessand perfection, on the other hand, so that we humans and the world may befilled and grow in Him until, as the divinely wise Apostle Paul says: "we allattain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, tomature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ"(Ephesians 4:13).
It is on this allencompassing truth about the Person Christ, as the beginning and theendlessness of all that exists, that everyday life is founded, and whichenlightens man's way of life and behavior. This is why we always come back tothe Nativity of the God-child, His Theanthropic work, with which we enlightenour own works and our relationship with each other, with God and with Hiscreation.
With His birth asa man, the holiness of every birth and of all life is affirmed. It isfearful to imagine - let alone to accept and legalize as something normal- that defiling attitude towards the sanctity of life which would allowthat even the Mother of God could be a child killer, just as are manycontemporary women who kill their offspring in their wombs. Those mothers whokill their children become not only child murderers, but also God murderers,since every human being is a God-bearer and Christ-bearer. We will mention onlyone distressing and sad example of one mother who gave birth to a fewdaughters, and together with her husband wanted to have a son. When sheconceived again, because the doctor wrongly determined that she was carryinganother girl, she underwent an abortion, despite the pleas of her husbandand others. It was discovered after the fact-oh, how heartrending-that she wascarrying two boys, twins! What then, can comfort and heal this unfortunatemother's deep wound?! May our Lord have mercy upon her and all other child destroyingmothers who, in their selfishness or some similar reason, sacrificetheir most holy gift from God. Don't they turn the mother's womb - thatworkshop of life - into a shop of death and nothingness!
The selfishnessand self-indulgence of man, such as that cited above, leads to theendangerment and misuse of the very nature into which we are born and live. Asman lives and breathes with love, likewise all creatures and all nature'selements need mercy, love and goodness: the water which we drink, the air thatwe breathe, the flowers and trees in the field, the fish in the sea, the beastsin the mountains, the domestic animals - all yearn for mercy, love andgoodness. If we misuse any part of creation or infect and pollute it - itbecomes alienated, falls apart and disintegrates, and retaliates against itsabusers. In this way the God-given order is broken : water loses itshealthiness, and so does the earth, and with it the earthly fruits arepolluted, and in turn they contaminate those who consume them - man and otherliving beings. The climate is changing, the ice is melting in the North Pole,the change of seasons is diminishing; the rising heat is preparing theglobe to be one day, God forbid, consumed in fire.
Together withthis, contemporary man, in conquering with his technology far-flungterritories, imperils the living space of numerous other beings. Instead ofturning to the inner spiritual dimensions which are limitless and conqueringthose territories which endanger no one, but rather which give fullness to allthings, opening up inexpressible horizons of growth and perfection - instead,man turns to that which is by it's very nature limited and transient, and thushimself becomes limited and crippled. The real and true fullness of allthings is precisely the Theanthropic Person of Christ in Whom is the "plan ofthe mystery hidden for ages in God" (Ephesians 3:9). When "Christ enters intoour hearts through faith," only then can we be "rooted and grounded inlove...comprehending with all the saints what is the width and length and depthand height - to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge; that you maybe filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).
Aside from this,today's mankind is very concerned with the beginning of a severe economiccrisis. More frequently than not, it is overlooked that the crisis is not onlyeconomic, but rather its nature is more complex and deeper. Is it no wonderthat it is manifested first of all among the wealthiest: the most frightened arethose who are the most affluent. Their unquenchable greed for money andenjoyment, their over-consumption of natural and material goods, produces animbalance in human relationships - the relationship towards the deepestmysteries of life and the relationship towards the entire creation. This meansthat behind the economic crisis is hidden a spiritual and moral crisis, andwith that a crisis of all of mankind. It has been rightly stated that theeconomic crisis is connected with political calamity; as is the disregard forinternational rights and the ignoring of the United Nations Charter on humanrights - as well as the extinguishing of justice in general, engenders apolitical crisis, and this in turn engenders economic and financial chaos. Thelaw and justice, both God's and man's, are ignored because of lust for powerand economic interest. The consequences of placing the economic and globalinterests of the world's mighty ones above justice and human rights are bestseen in the tragic situation of our country and of the Serbian people, as wellas other countries and peoples in the modern world.
The newhedonistic-utilitarian myths, today placed on the pedestal of divinity andpropagated with all the modern means, are endangering most of all those most innocentand least able to repel them: children and youth. Drugs and immorality, thenarrowing of life to instinct and the satisfaction of carnal lusts,the desire of the eye and of vanity (cf. 1 John 2:16), are the fruitof these ancient myths dressed in new and eye-catching clothing.
In the midst ofall this we Christians, as before and as always, "wait for Christ, and notbetter times" (St. Nicholai of Zicha); we wait for Him Who is "the same,yesterday, today and tomorrow." We always go back to Him - "to a Young Child,the pre-eternal God," as the absolute measure and criterion of everything thathappened and happens in all of human history. In Him as God's Son and Man'sSon, as perfect God and perfect man "we have known and believed the love thatGod has for us" (1 John 4:16). Since God appeared to us with His Birth andlived with us, we know that "God is love, and he who abides in love abides inGod, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this..." (1 John4:16-17), and with "this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves Godmust love his brother also" (1 John 4:21).
In the name ofsuch a God Who is Love, and in the name of such a Love to which all peoples andnations are called, we greet you all, dear spiritual children - most especiallyyou in the suffering Kosovo and Metohija and throughout the world, with thegreeting of God's truth, justice and eternal love:
PEACE FROM GOD - CHRIST IS BORN!
And may the crown of thegoodness of the new year of our Lord be blessed!
Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, at Christmas, 2008.
Your prayerful intercessors before the Divine Christ-Child:
Archbishop of Pec,
Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and
Serbian Patriarch PAVLE
Metropolitan of Zagreband Ljubljana JOVAN
Metropolitan of Montenegroand the Coastlands AMPHILOHIJE
Metropolitan of Midwestern AmericaCHRISTOPHER
Metropolitan of Dabro-Bosna NIKOLAJ
Bishop of Sabac-Valjevo LAVRENTIJE
Bishop of Nis IRINEJ
Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla VASILIJE
Bishop of Srem VASILIJE
Bishop of Banja Luka JEFREM
Bishop of Budim LUKIJAN
Bishop of Canada GEORGIJE
Bishop of Banat NIKANOR
Bishop for America and Canada (New Gracanica Metropolitanate) LONGIN
Bishop of Eastern America MITROPHAN
Bishop of Zica CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Backa IRINEJ
Bishop of Great Britain and Scandinavia DOSITEJ
Bishop of Ras and Prizren ARTEMIJE
Retired Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina ATANASIJE
Bishop of Bihac and Petrovac CHRYSOSTOM
Bishop of Osijek and Baranja LUKIJAN
Bishop of Central Europe CONSTANTINE
Bishop of Western Europe LUKA
Bishop of Timok JUSTIN
Bishop of Vranje PAHOMIJE
Bishop of Sumadija JOVAN
Bishop of Slavonia SAVA
Bishop of Branicevo IGNATIJE
Bishop of Milesevo FILARET
Bishop of Dalmatia FOTIJE
Bishop of Budimlje and Niksic JOANIKIJE
Bishop of Zahumlje and Hercegovina GRIGORIJE
Bishop of Valjevo MILUTIN
Bishop of Western America MAXIM
Bishop of Gornji Karlovci GERASIM
Bishop of Australia and New Zealand IRINEJ
Vicar Bishop of Hvostno ATANASIJE
Vicar Bishop of Jegar PORFIRIJE
Vicar Bishop of Lipljan TEODOSIJE
Vicar Bishop of Dioclea JOVAN
Vicar Bishop of Moravica ANTONIJE
THE ARCHDIOCESEOF OCHRID
Archbishop of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skoplje JOVAN
Bishop of Polos and Kumanovo JOAKIM
Bishop of Bregal and locum tenens of the Diocese of Bitolj MARKO
Vicar Bishop of Stobija DAVID
[Path of Orthodoxy translation]