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PATRIARCHAL CIRCULAR FOR THE CELEBRATION OF CHRISTMAS

For the celebration of the Despotic feast of Christmas according to the ecclesiastical tradition and order, H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos addressed the flock with the following circular:

Prot. No

734

To the most devout and reverend Stewards and Priests of the parishes and the honourable Presidents and members of the Local Councils of our flock all over the jurisdiction of our Patriarchate, dearest children in the Lord of Our Mediocrity, grace and peace from God the Father.

 

Beloved children in the Lord,

Acting pastorally and Fatherly, we communicate with you in writing to remind you once again, that the Christmas Feast, as a great Despotic one, has been celebrated since antiquity with the befitting liturgical brilliance by our Patriarchate and the venerable Hagiotaphite Brotherhood on 25th December (old calendar) which corresponds to 7th January (new calendar), and our Christian congregation follows this rule.

“Keeping that which is committed to thy trust”, namely the consignment (ref. 1 Tim. 6:20) of the Patriarchs and Teachers before Us, and “following after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19), we urge the Priests of our flock so that on the day of 12th December (old calendar), which corresponds to 25th December (new calendar) they open the Holy Churches and observe the service of our Father among the Saints Spyridon, Bishop of Trimythus the wonderworker, which includes the Catavasiae and other pre-festal Christmas hymns, and not the service of Christmas day of 25th December; after the service of Matins the Divine Liturgy should be celebrated.

As is well known, the adoption of the new calendar brought the Orthodox Church face to face with pastoral issues, which also have social implications, which we are called to face with a sense of responsibility. During this day, after the observed service of the feast of Saint Spyridon, the members of the Greek Orthodox flock may proceed to demonstrations of a social but not ecclesiastical character.

Expecting your conformity to Our prompting, for the celebration of the great feast of Christmas in peace in unity, We abundantly bestow our Fatherly wishes and Patriarchal blessings from the All-holy and Life-giving Tomb and remain,

In the Holy City of Jerusalem, 13 November 2021

 

Fervent Supplicant for all before God,

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

 

 




MESSAGE BY HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS III FOR PASCHA 2021

By the mercy of God the Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem

and all of Palestine

to all the gathering of the Church, grace and mercy and peace

from the All-Holy and Life-giving Tomb of the Risen Christ

“Now all things are filled with light,

heaven and earth and the nethermost regions of the earth.

Let all creation, therefore,

celebrate the arising of Christ, whereby it is established.

(Troparion Ode 3 of the Easter Canon by John Damascene)

Indeed, the rising from the dead of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ filled the universe with the unweaning and unending light. The Son and Word of God, who became Incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the Crucified, having suffered in the flesh, was buried, descended in Hades and conquered death. By His death He conquered death. Being in Hades for three days, He preached to those in Hades, the bound ones of old, and liberated them from him. He set them free from the baleful torment of the remorse of conscience, from the pitch-black darkness of ignorance and the unbearable despair, and brought them back into Paradise. Having completed His Father’s work on earth, He also completed it in the depths of the earth, in Hades. “The immaculate body of the Redeemer of our souls saw no corruption of death”. By His own power, He was risen from the dead, along with the human flesh He had assumed and by His mighty hand co-resurrected the Forefather Adam and his reposed descendants. 

God sent an angel to announce to men this supernatural work of the renewal and regeneration of His creature through the Resurrection of Christ. The bright angel who rolled the stone of the Tomb and sat on it told the myrrh-bearing women: “Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). The all-bright angelic vision and the joyful announcement was completed, confirmed and sealed by the vision of Him, the Risen from the dead Lord. With His luminous and glorified body, having His side pierced and with visible the signs of the nails in His hands and feet, “He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils” (Mark 16:9), saying to her: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:19). Likewise, He appeared “the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut to the disciples in the Upper Room and saith unto them, Peace be unto you”, and “Receive ye the Holy Ghost” … “whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” … “And after eight days again, He appeared to His disciples who were within, and Thomas with them”, correcting his good disbelief into steadfast faith and calling “blessed those that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:19-29). Indeed, “how wise are His judgements” the hymnographer chants, while He made Peter realize His Resurrection only by the clothes that were laid aside in the Tomb, on the other hand, He was walking along with Luke and Cleopas and did not reveal Himself directly to them during their conversation but “He sat at meat with them, took bread, and blessed it…and their eyes were opened, and they knew Him” (Luke 24;30-31). Immediately after that, Oh the marvel of His omnipresence, “He stood in Jerusalem among their midst” saying to them, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” … and asked of them “Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a honeycomb” (Luke 24:36-43); as Saint John Damascene explains, “not because He needed to eat after the Resurrection, but verifying thus the truth of His Resurrection”.

In these ways, “He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3), “while they beheld, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9), and “He ascended up on high” (Psalm 68:19, Eph. 4:8), deifying the whole substance He had assumed from us, namely our human nature through His Incarnation, He sat at the right of the Father “coming again in glory to judge both the living and the dead”.

Having fulfilled His Promise therein, He sent to us another Comforter through the Father, the Spirit of truth, and enlightened, strengthened, vivified and gladdened the Holy Disciples and Apostles, and through them, His body, the Church. By this grace and the power given by Him, the Church continues His redemptive mission on earth. It receives people, makes them its members through baptism “unites them with Christ”, humanizes them through His teaching of conciliation, peace, concord and love, not only towards our fellow men but even towards our enemies, sanctifies them through the sacraments, makes them workers of beneficiary deeds in society and upon their death, it transfers them to the heavenly life, with joy and cheerfulness, where they relish the eternal light of the Trinitarian God in the hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life.

The Church of Jerusalem, which according to the psalmist “the Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob” (Psalm 87:2), “was the first to receive the remission of sins through the resurrection”, and now co-suffers with the Covid-19 pandemic plague, and prays from the empty and Life-giving Tomb for the healing of all people who suffer from it, for the return of the pilgrims to the Holy Land, for the peace and stability in the world and in the Middle East, and especially for the health, prosperity and salvation of its Christian congregation all over the world.

 

In the Holy City of Jerusalem PASCHA 2021.

With Patriarchal blessings,

Fervent supplicant for all before God,

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

 




OPEN LETTER FROM HIS BEATITUDE PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS III

Our Orthodox unity is our daily prayer

 

My dear Brothers, fellow Primates and Concelebrants in the Lord Jesus Christ,

One year ago this week, we gathered in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to build our common fellowship in the pursuit of a dialogue of love for the sake of the unity of the Local Orthodox Churches. After two days of prayer and fraternal discussion, we emerged with greater determination to pursue deeper communion, and to address our common challenges together.

None of us imagined that we were meeting on the cusp of a global health catastrophe the scale of which has not been seen in our lifetimes. We remember before God our late brother Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, who was with us in Jordan, and who is now asleep in the Lord. We pray that God may grant him rest with the saints in the place of refreshment and light. We pray daily, remembering each of you, offering our praise, thanksgiving, and intercessions, and knowing that His grace is sufficient for us, whose power is made perfect in our weakness (cf 2 Cor. 12:9).

This pandemic has required us all to look to our own communities, those whom God has called us to serve, to lift up their hearts from despair and turn to the Lord who gives us hope. For we know that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:8-9).

Here in our own Holy City of Jerusalem, we have been strengthened and sustained by your prayers. As has been true across the world, our fellow human beings in the Holy Land have suffered hardship through the pandemic. We ask that you continue to pray for us, as we continually pray for you from the Life-Giving Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God is merciful, and has given to his creatures the knowledge and skill to develop medicines and vaccines to end this deadly pandemic. As we look forward to brighter days this year, we are reminded of our common commitment to gather for prayer and fellowship. We pray that this may be possible later in this year. 

Let us continue to uphold one another in prayer, and seek ways in which our Local Orthodox Churches might bring hope, blessing, and joy to one another. For Saint Paul says, Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). We also join together in prayer for our brother, His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, and our fellow Orthodox primates, and we look forward to serving together to further the unity of our communion. 

As we begin our pre-Lenten preparation for the great feast of Pascha, we listen to these words of hymnographer of the Triodion:

Brethren, let us not pray as the Pharisee:  for he who exalts himself shall be humbled.  Let us humble ourselves before God, and with fasting cry aloud as the Publican: God be merciful to us sinners.

 

With brotherly love in Christ.




CHRISTMAS 2020 MESSAGE OF HIS HOLY BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS III

“The Father was well pleased: the Word is become flesh,

 and the Virgin hath given birth unto God become man.

 A star is the herald; Magi worship; shepherds marvel;

 and creation doth rejoice.”

(Troparion of Christmas praises)

                   

Today, the Church celebrates festively in doxology and thanksgiving God’s condensation to man. Today, the Church preaches to its members and proclaims to the world and the whole universe, the bond and the union of heaven with earth, and the meeting of God with man. Today, God’s word “I will dwell in them, and walk in them” (Leviticus 26: 11 – 2 Corinthians 6:16) is fulfilled. Today, God’s compassion has exceeded His righteousness. Today, God has filled the creation with pardon and redemption. Today, God “hath visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68). Today, God “reconciles the world unto himself, in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19). Today, “the times of ignorance God winked at” (Acts 17:30) along with the times of man’s sin, and has visited him in His Only-Begotten Son and Word.

Acting in exceeding philanthropy, God was pleased, in the last ages, that His Word and Only-Begotten Son, the beloved, who is One Essence with the Father and sits along with Him in His Throne, would appear in the world visibly and in bodily form. According to the Evangelist of love, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Sharing the same will with the Father, the Son received flesh through the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. He received a logical and soulful flesh and was born in the flesh by the Virgin. In this manner, Isaiah’s prophesy was fulfilled: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 / Matt. 1:23). As the hymnographer says, “God becomes a man, in order to make man a God”. As the established Father of the Church, Saint Athanasios says: “the Word of God became incarnate, so that we may be deified, and He revealed Himself in a bodily form, so that we may receive the nature of the invisible Father” (On the Incarnation, 54). How was this made possible? How was the conception made, without consummation? It was made possible, because as the Angel announced to the Virgin, “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35), and because it is written: “the order of nature is overruled to those things that God wills”. The Virgin gave birth to the Incarnate God, not to the deified man, and is therefore magnified as the Mother of God (Theotokos). This was done for the rebirth, the reformation and the transformation of the whole humankind. Man was received by God in Christ, in order to partake of His deity, as Saint Peter says: “that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter, 1:4), and become “a new creation”, according to the Apostle of Nations (2 Cor. 5:17 / Gal. 6:15). This very respectable change of man, namely, his change from earthly to heavenly man, is made possible in a secret manner, with the condensation of man, because the Incarnate Christ has received the whole man – “Thou entirely assumed my whole self in a union without confusion”, the Church chants.

This heavenly and God-originated mystery is being witnessed by its descent and manifestation in the course of human history. It is revealed throughout the universe and to the area of the not-in-the-least minimal Holy Bethlehem, at the time of the people’s census during the reign of the Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus. The whole creation is being invited to participate in this event. The heavens guide the Wise Men, the Persian scientists and kings from afar, with a bright star, introducing the Church of the gentiles through them. The Angels from heaven chant “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace”, summoning the shepherds who kept the night watch from the nearby Beit Sahour. Wise Men and shepherds together, come and bow down in reverence, to venerate and offer their gifts, because they “recognize the timeless infant lying in the cave”.

He, who put on human flesh for us, who became an infant in the flesh, was born in a cave and was placed in a manger, dressed in swaddling clothes, is the One who “began to be about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23), who was made known and was believed to be Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of man, from Nazareth, the God-man, in One Hypostasis of two natures, wills and actions. He is “anointed by God with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10:38), and through the Cross, the Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension, He ascended the form of Incarnation that He had received, and made it sit on the right side of the Father and deified it.  

Having sat on the right side of the Father, Christ sent to His disciples the Comforter, the Spirit of consolation, the Spirit of enlightenment of the mind and of will-power. His mission of reconciliation of God with man, of peace, of love, even love for one’s enemies, of the sanctification and remission of sins, did He hand over to His body the Church, that “Christ also loved, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25), and He is its head. The Church is not only the testimony of Christ’s beneficial incarnate presence on earth, but also the continuator of His mission; It receives the man from the beginning of his life until his death; through baptism, it makes man its member, it tames and beautifies his morals; it opposes any kind of violence; it feeds the hungry, liberates the prisoners; it is an oasis of a source of living water in the desert and loneliness of the people, a place of prayer for the healing of the covid-19 patients, and a provider of support to those affected by the protective measures against this plague.

The Church of Jerusalem and the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, the guardian of the All-holy Shrines, works on this mission in the region of the historic appearance of the Incarnate Christ, and today, in the very place of His Nativity, the humble and God-receiving Cave and the modest manger, in the magnificent Basilica which was built by the Byzantine Emperors Constantine and Justine. Exclaiming in joy “an infant was born unto us, a son was given to us”, it prays for the peace of the Middle East, the prosperity of its flock here and all over the world, and for the coming again of the pious pilgrims, so that they may co-celebrate the Metropolis of the feasts with the Mother of Churches, at the place where the Master of peace was born.

In the Holy City Bethlehem,

CHRISTMAS 2020

Fervent supplicant for all before God,

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

           

           

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




STATEMENT OF HIS BEATITUDE PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS III ON THE STATUS OF HAGIA SOPHIA SHRINE

On Wednesday, June 25/ July 24, 2020, H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos stated the following regarding the keeping of the Status of the Church of Hagia Spophia:

 

It is with utmost seriousness that We express Our concern over recent calls from members of the Turkish government to alter the current status of the Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque.

This magnificent Byzantine Church structure, which captivates the world until today, has a history stretching even farther back into Christendom than the 6th century. Over the course of generations, the region and its people have passed through challenging times that have left painful memories. However, it has been to Turkey’s credit that for nearly 100 years it has administered the Hagia Sophia as a museum in order to maintain an extent of neutrality over the site. Subsequently, people from all over the world and from every background are able to enjoy its spiritual, architectural, and historical splendor.

Furthermore, museum status, i.e. indiscriminate accessibility, to Hagia Sophia has born fruit where there otherwise could have been further contention. Hagia Sophia today remains a symbol of tolerance. Some may find spiritual refreshment within its boundaries, others may be inspired by its testament to human accomplishment, and others may view it through individual prisms of meaning. However, this array of outcomes does the best possible justice to the site, which without question was always intended to inspire awe and to glorify Almighty God.

As stewards of sacred heritage in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, for nearly 2,000 uninterrupted years, in a land over which three Abrahamic faiths lay equal claim, We strongly attest to the fact that accessibility promotes peace and mutual respect, whereas attitudes of exclusivity promote conflict and bitterness. We hope and pray, for the benefit of all people of good will, and for Turkey as a nation with the potential to influence our entire region down a path of growth and mutual co-existence, that the present status of the Hagia Sophia is respected and preserved.

THEOPHILOS III

PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM

From Secretariat-General




NIKOLAOS MATAR DOES NOT BELONG TO THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM

Fr. Nikolaos Matar, Dean Priest of the Holy Church of the Nativity of Theotokos in Corona town of the State of California in the U.S.A. continues to falsely claim that he acts under the blessing and guidance of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem despite the enclosed below Release Letter, which was issued to him since the year 2018 and was posted to his canonical Ecclesiastical Authority, namely to His Eminence Bishop Antonios of Fasiani, in New York.

Protocole Number: 75

To His Eminence

Bishop of Fasiani

Mr. Antonios

Chancelor of the Holy Archdiocese

In New York

Your Eminence,

With much brotherly love I have sent to Your dearly beloved Eminence the Letter with protocole number 210/17 on 28th November 2017, regarding the case of Priest Nikolaos Matar in Corona of California at the Community of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, who refused to subdue to the spiritual guidance of His Eminence the Archbishop of America.

Taking under consideration this case at the Meeting of our Holy and Sacred Synod, I dutifully notify you, that our Patriarchate has no relation with the afore mentioned Priest since the foundation of its Vicariate in America and up to the present, and we have issued a Release Letter to him, as he was canonically ordained by the Church of Jerusalem.

I therefore enclose a copy of his Release Letter, I convey the wishes and love of His Beatitude, from the All-holy and Life Giving Tomb of the Lord, I remain.

In the Holy City of Jerusalem 9th February, 2018.

 With love in Christ,

Aristarchos

Archbishop of Constantina

Geronda Secretary-General

 

RELEASE LETTER

By this Patriarchal letter, We verify that the Reverend Father Nikolaos Matar, a priest of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, following a resolution of the Holy and Sacred Synod that was duly convened on 22 February 2018, has been canonically released from the roll of the clergy of the Patriarchate. This release was granted without prejudice or as a consequence of any ecclesiastical discipline, and Father Nikolaos Matar is free to be received into any canonical Orthodox jurisdiction without impediment.

In witness thereof, We have affixed Our seal to this Letter in the Holy City of Jerusalem, on the 19th day of March in the year of Our Lord 2018.

THEOPHILOS III

PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem denounces the exploitation of its name and its website and announces it has no relation, cooperation, nor any communication with Father Nikolaos Matar, for the information and benefit of the Orthodox Congregation in America and elsewhere and that it is not being represented by any one in America. 

From Secretariat-General




EASTER ADDRESSES OF HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM

During Easter 2020, it was a common agreement not to exchange visits with the Churches of Jerusale due to the COVID-9 pandemic, and therefore, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos handed in privately the letters with the Easter wishes to the Custos of the Holy Land, Reverend Francesco Patton, the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, His Beatitude the Armenian Patriarch in Jerusalem Nourhan Manukian and His Eminence the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani.

The letters follow below;

His Paternity Fr. Francesco Patton

Custos of the Holy Land

Saint Saviour’s Monastery

Replying to His Beatitude’s Easter letter, Reverend Francesco Patton sent the following letter;

His Beatitude Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem

Your Beatitude,

First of all, I want to express my gratitude for your fraternal Easter Wishes and reciprocate them in the words of this beautiful Easter hymn, which we sing in Medieval Latin:

Death and life contended

in a spectacular battle:

the Prince of life, who died, reigns alive…

We know Christ is truly risen from the dead!

To us, victorious King, have mercy!

Amen. Alleluia.

When we celebrate Easter at the Holy Sepulchre, the Holiest Sanctuary under our shared and fraternal care, we understand that hope is not the projection of our desires, but it is the Risen Lord Jesus Christ who has overcome death. In the Easter celebration we understand that the Risen Jesus is the gardener of life, the One who overcame death by passing through it and has conquered all our fears, all our anguish.

Today, just as the pandemic is still sowing death all over the world, we feel that it is our common commitment to accept the invitation that Jesus made to Mary Magdalene: “Go to my brothers and tell them that you have met Me! Tell them I Am alive! Tell them that My grave is empty!”. This is the Good News of Easter, and we have to invite all our brothers and sisters to welcome the Risen Lord with faith, because this is the only vaccine that can save from the virus of death, fear and anguish, from the virus of selfishness and evil that infects our humanity and our history, from the virus of a meaningless and aimless life.

We feel that this Easter we have to pray and bring hope especially to the sick, their families, the nurses and doctors who assist them, to those who find themselves passing from this world to the heavenly Father, to all those who are putting their lives at risk to guarantee essential services to our society.

Your Beatitude, we reciprocate your wishes and prayers and we feel deeply united in Christ with you and with all the brothers of the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem: united in the care of the Holy Places of Christianity, united in proclaiming the Risen Lord, united in the struggle for the safeguard of Christian freedom, united in the pastoral care of the flock that the Lord has entrusted to us.

With these feelings, we want to express the best wishes of our Fraternity to your Beatitude and to all the community of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen.

May you continue to enjoy a Happy and Holy Eastertide!

Fr. Francesco PATTON OFM

Custos of the Holy Land

 

Your Paternity, dear Fr. Francesco,

We greet you with deep joy, and with the Paschal hymn

Christ is risen from the dead

Trampling down death by death

And to those in the tomb, bestowing life

and We wish to extend to you Our prayers and best wishes as you celebrate the Easter Feast.

We give thanks to Almighty God that, notwithstanding the present difficult circumstances of the coronavirus, our Brotherhoods have been able to celebrate the Great Holy Week and Pascha in the empty All-Holy and Life-Giving Tomb of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and all the Holy Places, to the benefit of the Church and our people.

Despite all the restrictions and all the distressing circumstances surrounding the present crisis, our common martyria to the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been of paramount significance for our communities here in the Holy City of Jerusalem, as well as our fellow brothers and sisters of the other Abrahamic faiths.

We rejoice in this common witness, and we are thankful to you and your Fraternity for your steadfast commitment to our common mission as guardians of the Holy Places, which continues to bear fruit in this difficult present moment, and “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,” (Ephesians 4:13). Despite this time of crippling restrictions, we are still able to maintain our important relations for the good of all.

We join in prayer for all those who continue to be affected by the pandemic, especially the sick and all those who care for them. And we remember all who have passed away and those who mourn them. Μay those who carry the yoke of our Lord find rest in their souls (Matt. 11:29).

Your Excellency, We extend the assurance of Our prayers for you, your brothers in Christ, and your community in this Paschal season, and We look forward to meeting again in our Christian fellowship.

 

H.E. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa

Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate

 

Your Excellency, dear Archbishop Pizzaballa,

We greet you with deep joy, and with the Paschal hymn

Christ is risen from the dead,

Trampling down death by death,

And to those in the tomb, bestowing life.

We wish to congratulate you on your celebration of Easter, and we give thanks to God that our respective communities have been able to keep the Great Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In spite of the enormous difficulties posed by the coronavirus pandemic, we have been able to enter into this great mystery of our faith in our Holy City, in the empty Tomb in the Church of the Anastasis, at the very heart of the divine-human encounter.

We have experienced once again that Christ is the way, the truth, the life, and the resurrection, for he who believes in Him, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Him shall never die (John 11:24-25).

We are living through these days joined in prayers of both our Churches, and in our common martyria here in the Holy Land. We pray especially for all those in our region and around the world who continue to suffer from the pandemic and its consequences, and we pray fervently for those who have passed away and all who mourn them. Μay those who carry the yoke of our Lord find rest in their souls (Matt. 11:29).

In our united prayer above all we continue to serve our Lord and his Church both here in the Holy City of Jerusalem as well as the Church and all its faithful the world over. For Jerusalem has been throughout the ages, and remains today, the harbour of hope, peace, and of consolation.

We wish to extend you, Your Excellency, the assurance of our prayers for you, your clergy, and your community this Paschal season, and we look forward to meeting again in our Christian fellowship.

 

His Beatitude

Archbishop Nourhan

Armenian Patriarch in Jerusalem

 

 

Your Beatitude, dear Archbishop Nourhan,

We greet you with deep joy, and with the Paschal hymn

Christ is risen from the dead,

Trampling down death by death,

And to those in the tomb, bestowing life

and we congratulate you and your community as you celebrate the Great Feast of Pascha.

This difficult and complicated situation of restrictions and hardship that so many are enduring makes us realise how crucial is our common mission as guardians and servants of the Holy Places, especially during this sacred period where we venerate Golgotha and the All-Holy and Life-Giving Tomb from where our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected.  We have been entrusted with this responsibility by Divine Providence, and it is incumbent upon us to enact this sacred trust in all humility and diligence in true collaboration. Let us, as Saint Paul says, “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

We join with you in keeping in our fervent prayers all those who are affected in any way by this pandemic, especially the sick and those who care for them, and we remember all who have passed away. Μay those who mourn be consoled by the promise of the resurrection.

Your Beatitude, We assure you of our prayers for you, your Brotherhood, and the community that you serve. We wish you from the bottom of our heart both spiritual and bodily health, and look forward to meeting and joining our prayers for the strengthening of both our fellowship and of our common mission and witness in the Holy Places.

Μay the light of the resurrection fill the hearts and minds of all people of good will in this holy Paschal season.

 

The Most Reverend Suheil Dawani

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem

& the Middle East

Saint George’s Cathedral

 

Your Grace, dear Archbishop Suheil,

We greet you with deep joy, and with the Paschal hymn

Christ is risen from the dead,

Trampling down death by death,

And to those in the tomb, bestowing life

and We send our warm congratulations as you and your community celebrate Easter.

We are united in celebrating the Paschal Feast at a time of great difficulty for our Holy City, the Holy Land, and our world. The coronavirus pandemic has meant tremendous hardship for so many, and Jerusalem, usually overflowing with pilgrims and local faithful at this time of year, is practically deserted.

However, we have been able to keep the sacred ceremonies of the Great Holy Week and Easter in the All-Holy and Life-Giving Tomb in our respective Churches, and have been able to share a common martyria to the truth and power of the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for He is the resurrection and the life, and he who believes in Him, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in him shall never die (John 11:24-25). In this way, we have been able to show the world that Jerusalem remains a harbour of hope, peace, and consolation in a challenging time for the human family.

We join our prayers with yours, particularly for all those who are affected by the pandemic, the sick and those who care for them, as well as for those who have passed away and all who mourn.

We wish to extend to you, dear Archbishop Suheil, the assurance of our prayers for you and your family, your clergy, and your community in this Paschal season, and We look forward to meeting again in our Christian fellowship.

With our Patriarchal wishes for Pascha,

Christ is Risen!

 

THEOPHILOS III

PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM

Holy City of Jerusalem

Pascha 2020




EASTER 2020 MESSAGE OF HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS III

THEOPHILOS III

By the mercy of God Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem

and all Palestine

for all the congregation of the Church, grace, mercy and peace

from the All-holy and Life-giving Tomb

of the Resurrected Christ.

“We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of Hades, the beginning of an everlasting life. And with leaps of joy we praise the Cause thereof, the only blest and most glorious God of our Fathers”. (Troparion Ode Seven of the Canon of the Resurrection by St. John Damascene)

In unspeakable and absolute joy, with pure hearts and undefiled lips, with unceasing merry voices and pious cheering, the Church proclaims during the night of the Resurrection, and during the whole Easter period, echoing the “Christ is risen from the dead, by death hath he trampled down death, and to those in the graves hath He bestowed life”. In firmness of faith in the Crucified and Resurrected from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, the Church chants “It is the day of Resurrection; let us be radiant for the festival, and let us embrace one another. Let us say O brethren, even to those that hate us; let us forgive all things on the Resurrection”.

 This wondrous and joyful message of the victory of death is the fruit of Christ’s crucifixion, for, “behold, through the cross, joy has come unto the whole world”. Christ’s victory over death came through His sacrifice on the Cross. Christ, the Only-begotten Son and Word of God, came down to earth from the bosom of the Father, became incarnate through the Holy Spirit and Virgin-Mary, willingly brought Himself on the Cross as an immaculate sacrifice for the remission of our sins. As Prophet Isaiah had foretold, “he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7), and just as St. John the Baptist pointed at Him in recognition, He became on the Cross “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The most wondrous of all in this mystery, which signifies the excessive love of God for us, is what the Apostle of nations also says: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). Being without sin, Christ “being in the form of God…made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant: (Phil. 2:6-7), He humbled Himself, willingly came to the Cross and through His immaculate blood “He that forgiveth the ancient debts, rent asunder the handwriting against them and wished to bestow His grace”(Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, 4th Part).

Having suffered in the flesh for us and buried, Christ went down into Hades. In his greed, Hades was waiting to devour the Son of God. But because of the humility of His sacrifice, Hades was not able to have power over Him. Hades was deceived and embittered. Thinking that he had received a mortal being, he met God, God and man, the God-man Jesus Christ, Who by both the power of God the Father and His own, was risen from the dead, becoming the first-fruits of the dead, and led the way for all humans in flesh to the resurrection from the dead. He sought the lost sheep in Hades, just as He did on earth, , preached the Gospel of repentance and salvation to Adam and Eve and their descendants and as it is depicted on the Orthodox icon of the Resurrection, He drew them into Paradise along with Him. Since then, by the power and faith in the Resurrection, we humans die only in flesh, we dispose our earthly body, for, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50), and live with Him in soul and spirit, “awaiting for the resurrection from the dead and life of the age to come” (The Creed).

Christ had foretold this mystery of the resurrection from the dead to His friends and disciples, while He still lived with them on earth, and after His Resurrection “he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3), appearing to them in His crucified body with the nail signs, but radiant and glorified. Through His Disciples who were His eye-witnesses, He passed on this mystery to His body the Church, which He established with the Comforter Spirit, that He sent down to us from the Father, after His Ascension in Heaven on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after His Resurrection.

Ever since, the Church, which according to the true words of the Lord “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18), continues His mission on earth. It preaches Christ Incarnate , Crucified and Resurrected, and baptizes in His Name those who believe in Him, sanctifies them with its sacraments and prays for the reconciliation of humanity and for the whole world. It supports the suffering man with all its strength, prays to our Lord Jesus Christ, the healer of souls and bodies , for the cessation of the ongoing pandemic of the current virus, for the healing of those affected by it and for His mercy for those who died by the virus so mercilessly, in the certainty that “though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you” (2 Cor. 13:4).

On the bright day of the Resurrection, our Church of Jerusalem, the Mother of Churches, also prays from the Life-giving Tomb where Christ was buried and resurrected, for the unity of the Church and for peace in the Middle East, and wishes to its flock in the Holy Land and all over the world, the power and the blessing of the Resurrected Jesus Christ.

Christ is Risen!

 

In the Holy City of Jerusalem, PASCHA 2020

With Fatherly and Patriarchal blessings,

Fervent supplicant for all before God,

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem




CHRISTMAS 2019 MESSAGE OF HIS HOLY BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS III

“Heaven and earth are made one today,
for Christ is born.
Today God is come upon the earth,
and man is gone up into the Heavens.
Today He Who by nature is invisible,
for man’s sake is seen in the flesh.”
                                                                              (Sticheron Idiomelo 2 – Christmas Entreaty)

Today the Church all over the world celebrates the Metropolis of the Feasts, the feast of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ from the Virgin, in fullness of joy, gleefulness, thanksgiving and doxology.

On this feast the Church gives thanks to God, because being faithful, He fulfilled the promises He made to man through the Prophets. “He sent redemption unto his people” (Psalm 111:9). Being merciful and a philanthropist, “the times of ignorance God winked at” (Acts 17:30) and the times of man’s apostasy, and “became an emigrant to the land of those who had emigrated from His grace”. God sought the runaway man, the man who had runaway from His communion according to St. Cyril of Alexandria (P.G. 75 908 C), found him as a lost sheep, which He reformed, regenerated, vivified, “transformed its elements” and rehabilitated in its former communion with Him in Paradise at the time of creation.

God the Father made this manifest through His Only Begotten Son. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). The Father found it pleasing that “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). According to Saint Cyril of Alexandria; “God the Word Who was from the beginning in the bosom of the Father, suffered willingly kenosis for us and was made flesh, namely a man, humbled Himself for our sakes and became son of man, so that we might be rich in God the Father through Him, He received a body from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, not a soulless body, but a body with a logical soul (On incarnation, PG 77, 989D & 1092C), in order to make man “a communicant of the Divine Nature” (2 Peter 1:4). What He received by His Incarnation, namely the whole of humanity, the Lord sanctified with His life, and through the Cross, the Resurrection and His Ascension He raised it to heaven and put it on the right side of God. What a philanthropy! What a favour! What a gift! God came down to earth through Christ and raised man to heaven.

This mystery beyond nature and word took place in a specific time and place, during the reign of Caesar Octavius Augustus in Bethlehem of Judea, in the humble cave therein, with the cooperation and witness of the elements of nature and the Bodiless Hosts. These, according to the, Patriarch of Jerusalem Saint Sophronios, the theologian of the one hypostasis of Christ our God in two natures, wills and actions, were; “the motivated by the stars coming of the Wise Men, the heavenly initiation of the shepherds, the bringing of gifts and the worship” (Synodical Letter PG87, 3176D). Wise Men Kings of Persia guided by a star and shepherds keeping the night watch, invited by Angels with the “Glory to God in the Highest and to earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14), met and fell down in astonishment and worshiped, “for they saw The One without Beginning lying down as a babe in the cave”.

This very beginning of Christ’s mysteries has been received from the eye and ear witnesses and kept intact throughout the centuries by the Church. Through this mystery, the Church educates, shapes, grants peace, vivifies and sanctifies its members. This is proclaimed to those near and afar, to the ends of the universe. For this reason, the Church exercises its peace-making mission all over the world, “the ministry of reconciliation” which was given to us by God (2 Cor. 5:18), “reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19) through the Incarnation of His Son.

This transcendental and salvific mystery is being preached by the Church of Jerusalem, the First Church of Christianity, at the place where it happened, the God-receiving Cave and the Basilica above it, which was constructed by the Byzantine Emperors Constantine and Justine, blessing its flock in the Holy Land and at all places around the world, merrily receiving all the pious pilgrims who honour Holy Bethlehem and worship the manger, “where the Uncontainable One hath reclined”, and prays for the prosperity, peace and the good state of the whole world.

In the Holy City of Bethlehem, CHRISTMAS 2019
Fervent Supplicant for all before God,
THEOPHILOS III
Patriarch of Jerusalem




EASTER 2019 MESSAGE OF HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS III

By the Mercy of God Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem

and all Palestine

to all the members of the Church, grace and mercy and peace

from the All-holy and Life-giving Tomb

of the Resurrected Christ.

“Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).

The Myrrh-bearing Women who came on the morning of the first Saturday to anoint Jesus with myrrh, heard this joyful and hopeful words from the luminous angel who was sitting by the tomb.

The angel’s words were confirmed with the sight of the empty tomb, with the “the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself” (John 20:7). Moreover, they were confirmed with the vision of the resurrected Christ. Christ went down to Hades through the cross but Hades did not hold Him. With His descend in Hades, the Lord removed and retrieved from it those who had been bound in hell for centuries, “He stood and cried aloud to those in Hades, enter again Paradise”. “ For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God” (2 Cor. 13:4), He was risen from the dead by His Divine-Human power and appeared to the Myrrh-bearing women and to His disciples many times. He appeared to them at the Upper room on the first and on the eighth day after His Resurrection (John 20:19 & 26), on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:15), in Jerusalem “the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them” (Luke 24:33), “not as a spirit, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39), but with His illumined and glorified body with the signs of the nails in His hands and feet” (Luke 24:40), asking them “Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them” (Luke 24:41-43).

“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days” (Acts 1:3), He was then ascended to heaven in glory from the Mount of Olives, He sent to the gathered disciples in the Upper room “another Comforter” from the Father, the Spirit of truth, and through them captivated the whole world, founded and established the Church in it.

The Lord established the Church as the witness of His truth and continuer of His mission. The Church, in the Holy Spirit teaches and preaches Him to be Incarnate, Crucified and Resurrected. It teaches through the word and manifests the teaching through works, while it sanctifies through the Sacraments. It conveys the Divine Grace, transforms the morals, the life and the whole being of the people. It becomes both paradise and heaven, as the troparion says “as we stand in the temple of Thy glory we think we are in heaven”. The Church is an earthly oasis, a spring of living water, of truth and of peace, of righteousness, of brotherhood, of reconciliation, of rapture, and of fulfilled happiness. It deters wars, dispels enmity and unites the nations. The Church preserves and protects the environment and the planet as the creation of God for the habitation of the humankind.

The Church of Jerusalem, as the Mother of Churches, works its pilgrimage, pastoral and salvific mission at the divine dwelling places, at the places that have been sanctified through the grace of the Incarnate, Crucified and Resurrected from the dead, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. From them, and especially from the All-holy and Life-giving Tomb, though the offering of the bloodless sacrifice “on the salvific and bright night of the luminous day of the Resurrection” we pray for the peace-making of the whole world, and especially for the troubled Middle East, for the cessation of the schisms of the Churches and for the unity of the Orthodox Church in the bond of peace, and greet our reverend flock in all parts of the world along with the noble pilgrims, and wish to all, the joy, the power the hope and the light of the Resurrected Christ.

 

Christ is Risen!

In the Holy City of Jerusalem PASCHA 2019

With Fatherly wishes and Patriarchal blessings

Fervent Supplicant for all before God

THEOPHILOS III

Patriarch of Jerusalem