1

H.H.B. CELEBRATES THE DIVINE LITURGY AT THE BASILICA OF THE NATIVITY IN BETHLEHEM

On Sunday, June 8/21, 2020, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos officiated the Divine Liturgy at the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem on the Feast of All the Saints of Palestine, Martyrs, Confessors and Righteous, which is being celebrated in the last decades by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem after the Sunday of All Saints.

Co-celebrants to His Betitude were the Patriarchal Representative in Bethlehem His Eminence Archbishop Theophylactos of Jordan, their Eminences Archbishops Aristarchos of Constantina and Aristovoulos of Madaba, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks and Arab-speaking Priests, who minister the Shrine of Bethlehem and Archdeacon Mark with Hierodeacon Eulogios. The chanting was delivered by Mr. Vasilios Gotsopoulos on the right in Greek and by the Basilica choir under Mr. Lawrence Samour on the left in Arabic, with the participation of only a few faithful due to the measures against COVID-19.

Before the Holy Communion, His Beatitude read the following Sermon:

“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him “(Matthew 4:18-20).

Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

Noble Christians

Our Holy Church of Jerusalem is especially celebrating today the Feast of the Saints of Palestine. Therefore, we also, by the grace of the Holy Spirit have gathered in this sacred place of the God-receiving Cave of the Nativity of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ in order to offer the bloodless Eucharist a sacrifice of praise to the Holy Trinitarian God, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The geographical area of Palestine is the Biblical place where the heavenly met with the earthly, namely the revelation of God to men, which was fulfilled in the great mystery of God’s providence, of the incarnation of God the Word through the pure flesh of the Ever-Virgin Mary.

The Biblical Palestine in the primary place of the calling of Patriarch Abraham and of the Holy Apostles. “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee”(Genesis 12:1). And the Lord said to the fishermen: “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him”(Matthew 4:19-20).

Through Abraham’s calling by the Lord, the group of the Holy people and the Prophets of the Old Testament is being formed. And through the calling of the fishermen by Christ, the group of the Holy Apostles is being established. Both the Prophets and the Apostles became the foundation stone, with Christ being the chief corner stone, upon which all the Saints of the Church were established, as St. Paul says: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone”(Ephesians 2:19-20).

This means that through the without hesitation acceptance of their calling, the Prophets and the Apostles were made by God vessels of the Holy Spirit, a Spirit of Holiness, according to St. Peter’s words: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy”(1 Peter 1:15-16).

In other words, the Holy Apostles who were called by our Lord Jesus Christ are the prototypes of holiness, namely of man’s deification, and for this reason we are called to imitate them. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness”(Psalm 97:11-12) David chants.

The special characteristic of the land of Palestine is that it was watered and therefore sanctified by the sacred blood of the fulfilment of the Law of Moses and of the Prophets, namely of Christ’s blood. It was also watered with the blood of its Saints, as they became eye-and-ear witnesses of the teaching, the miracles, the Passion on the Cross and the Resurrection from the dead of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as St. John the Evangelist says: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”(John 1:14). And according to Peter the chief of the Apostles: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty”(2 Peter 1:16).

It is also noteworthy that the source of righteousness and holiness of all the Saints and of course of those in Palestine, is “the source of life” the Most Blessed Theotokos and Mother of our God, the Ever-Virgin Mary, who inaugurated the sanctification of the Biblical Palestine through Her Annunciation in Nazareth, by giving birth to God the Word in the Cave of Bethlehem, and through Her burial in Gethsemane in Jerusalem. All Saints owe their holiness and righteousness to the immaculate Lady Theotokos and Her obedience to the Will of God. “And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification”(Romans 5:16) St. Paul preaches.

The Saints, being “full of fruits of righteousness through Jesus Christ for the praise and glory of God” (Phil. 1:11), according to Paul, are a living example by which we are urged to imitate their godly zeal and perfect love for Christ. And we say this, because the innumerable chorea of the Saints of the Church of Christ proves beyond doubt that every single man has the calling and is able to join the Saints as it is written: “become holy for I am holy”(1 Peter 1:16). This is precisely the command of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as it is also the purpose of His Church. “For the Saints are full of spiritual grace not only in their words but also in their bodies” St. Chrysostom says. “I venerate and respect the Saints, and I ask for their intersessions and prayers, for it is through their prayers that we are all saved” St. John Damascene says.

Today’s honoured Saints of Palestine, my dear brethren, are distinguished for their irrefutable historic witness that, on the one hand, the revealed truth in Christ is not an ideologic nor a worldly theory of a religion, and on the other, the Church as the body of Christ is not a social institution, nor a charity, but the fact that God, the Creator of all beings rests in His Saints and in the Church, and this is confirmed by the psalmist by saying: “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it”(Psalms 132:13-14).

Let us entreat the Saints who have boldness toward God, so that along with the intersessions of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary we may find the holiness in Christ and the salvation of our souls. Amen.”

After the Divine Liturgy His Beatitude consecrated a small private chapel-house of prayer at the house of the Rum Orthodox Michael Kanavati, with the blessing of the water and addressed the hosts during the fasting meal with fish to His honour as follows;

“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it”(Psalm 127:1) Prophet David chants.

Dear Michael and family,

Reverend Fathers and brethren

Hearkening to the Lord’s words we say: “Peace unto this house”(Luke 19:5) in which we have entered today, to bless it, and consecrate the small chapel dedicated to Archangels Michael and Gabriel.

All Angels, St. Paul says, are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation”(Hebrews 1:14). God made them guardians of all nations and peoples and guides to what is of their benefit (Deuteronomy 32:8). They always behold the Face of God, crying out unto one another and saying the thrice holy hymn (Isaiah 6:3), and they intercede to Him for us, as they are glad for every single sinner that comes to repentance (Luke 15:10).

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”(Matt. 18:20) says the Lord. This is witnessed by todays’ hospitable and with brotherly love invitation of Our Mediocrity, the Most Reverend Archbishop Theophylactos of Jordan and Patriarchal Representative in Bethlehem and the Reverend clergy who minister our flock in love and devotion. We came to you, dear Michael, in the joy of the Lord, in order to rest in each other (Romans 15:32) as St. Paul writes to the Romans.

The mission of the Church, the faithful member of Christ, is shown in the commandment of the Gospel toward the Holy Disciples and Apostles of Christ: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”(Matt. 5:16).

We wish that the Lord our God, through the intersessions of our Lady the Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and those of today’s celebrated Saints of Palestine may grant your most pious family strength from on high, health in soul and body and patience, and for your memorable father Nikolaos, the repose of his soul in the land of the living.

Finally, let us entreat our God and Saviour Jesus Christ Who was born in the flesh in the Cave of Bethlehem, and say in prayer: “Compass us about with Thy Holy Angels that, guided and guarded by their array, we may attain to the unity of faith and the knowledge of Thine unapproachable glory; for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen”(Horologion ). Many happy returns, in peace and with the Lord’s blessing.”

From Secretariat-General




HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM ADDRESSES THE NEW ANGLICAN BISHOP IN JERUSALEM

On Sunday evening, June 1/14, 2020, the current Secretary of the Meetings of the Heads of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem, Hosam Elias Naoum was ordained a Bishop, in order to succeed the current Archbishop Suheil Dawani as Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Jerusalem.

H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos was the first among the distinguished guests, Anglican Bishops, and representatives of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem, in this ordination, and He delivered the following address:

“Your Grace, dear Bishop Hosam,

Your Grace, dear Archbishop Suheil,

Mr. Consul General

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Respected Members of the Clergy,

Beloved Faithful,

We are deeply honoured, dear Bishop Hosam, to be present on this blessed day of your ordination and consecration as a bishop. This celebration is the culmination of years of dedication to education, pastoral service, and leadership in your diocese and in the wider Church. You have proved yourself worthy of many responsibilities and today the greatest responsibility that the Church can bestow is now laid on your shoulders.

A Bishop is first and foremost a pastor after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Good Shepherd of his people. For the Lord says:

“I am the good shepherd I know my own and my own know me”.

You are called to the diakonia of the Church, of the sacraments, and of the clergy and the laity of your community without distinction, and you are called further to the diakonia even of those outside your flock, who may at any time turn to you for help.

Dear Bishop Hosam, you are known for your strong commitments. For you have been serving as the Secretary to the Council of the Jerusalem Church Committees, where you have demonstrated devotion to our ecumenical and interfaith work on behalf of all the communities of our beloved Holy Land. Your ability to work with in our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious society is a crucial skill that you bring, and you remind us of the role of the bishop as “bridge-builder”, for many are the bridges for peace, justice, and reconciliation that you have already built. We have every confidence that your experience and gifts will be of genuine usefulness as you take your place among us as a bishop.

Allow us to honour His Grace, Archbishop Suheil, who has exercised oversight over the diocese for so many years in difficult circumstances with clarity, devotion, energy, and faithfulness, and who has exercised respected leadership in our region. Furthermore, we recognise the presence with us of the distinguished Consul General of Great Britain.

We are also pleased to welcome to the Holy City His Grace Archbishop Michael and His Grace Bishop Peter, who are well known to us and committed advocates of the Christian presence in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and who have both travelled here during this pandemic that has brought confusion around the world in order to ensure that his crucial ordination could take place. We wish to express our collective gratitude to you both, dear Bishops, for the sacrifice that you have made to be here.

Just as no one could have foreseen the pandemic, nobody knows what the future will bring yet. By God’s grace, we look to the future in hope, for as Saint Paul says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer”(Romans 12:12).

In affirmatio of our joint commitment to the Church of Christ, and most specifically to the Jerusalem Church, allow to present to you this engolpion of the Theotokos, that you MAY be under her protection and that you MAY be a martyria of Christ’s love and of our Christian ministry here in the Holy Land.

Congratulations, and MAY the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ guide your steps in the work of His commandments.

Thank you.”

From Secretariat-General




HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM CELEBRATES THE DIVINE LITURGY AT JACOB’S WELL

On Sunday, June 1/14, 2020, Feast of All Saints and day of commemoration of St. Ioustinos the philosopher and martyr, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Shrine of Jacob’s well, making up for the lack of the festive celebration on the Sunday of the Samaritan woman due to the coronavirus. Co-celebrants to His Beatitude were their Eminences Metropolitans Kyriakos of Nazareth and Joachim of Helenoupolis, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks, the Hegoumen of the Shrine Archimandrite Ioustinos, and Archimandrites Ignatios, Leontios and Artemios. The chanting was delivered by Mr. Vasilios Gotsopoulos on the right and the Rafidia Community choir on the left in Arabic, with a quite a few faithful present, but not as many as in the past.

On this occasion, His Beatitude read the following Sermon:

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven…And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me”(Matthew 10:32-38).

Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

The grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us all, amidst the imposed restriction measures due to coronavirus pandemic, in this holy biblical shrine of Jacob’s well and the place of the meeting of our Lord Jesus Christ with the Samaritan woman, in order to celebrate in Eucharist the feast of All the Saints of the world, and especially the commemoration of the Holy Martyr Ioustinos the philosopher, who was born in this place “the town Flaouia of Palestine”.

The feast of All Saints is a projection of the great feast of Pentecost, namely of the Holy Spirt that came down from heaven like tongues of fire, upon the Holy Disciples and Apostles of the Lord.

And this is so , because those who compose the cloud of all the Saints, Prophets, who preached Christ around the world, Apostles who enchanted the nations and fishermen of men, Martyrs who suffered tortures and toil, God-bearing Fathers who established the doctrines by the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit and the healthy faith of the Church, the chorea of the holy and righteous and the chorea of the holy women and of all the saints who mortified their flesh so that they are rejoicing with the angels in the heavens now.

All these became communicants and partakers of the gifts of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, through Who – according to St. Paul – “have come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect”(Hebrews 12:22-23).

The city of the Living God is the famous Jerusalem; but the Heavenly Jerusalem, namely the Church of God’s Saints, the heavenly Church, the Kingdom of heaven, according to Zigavinos. The earthly Jerusalem, the earthly Church, is the type and icon of the heavenly Church.

This means that the Church, being the body of Christ (Col. 4:24), and Christ being the head of the body of the Church (Col. 1:18), the Church is the place where the Holy Spirit essentially dwells and puts together and constitutes the whole institution of the Church. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”(Col. 2:9) St. Paul preaches.

In other words, Christ became an example to imitate for all people who want to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps”, St. Peter teaches (1Peter2:21).

Indeed, all the Saints of the Church became imitators of Christ, each according to the gifts and the struggles they suffered, hearkening to the advice of St. Paul: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”(1 Cor. 11:1). And, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”(Philippians 1:21). Interpreting this phrase, St. Theophylactos says: “I live a new life, and Christ is everything to me, breath and life and light”. And St. Gregory of Nyssa says: “Nothing of the human and material passions lives in me, neither pleasure, nor sorrow, nor anger, nor fear…nor any other thing of those who stain the soul, but He is the only One that exists in me, Who is nothing of the above. For having cast out everything that is foreign to His nature, I have nothing in me, which is not of Him; by Whose grace, Christ lives in me”.

All the Saints of the Church are recognized as genuine ministers and workers of both the Old Testament of God the Father and especially of the New Testament in Christ the Son and God. St. Paul calls the preachers of the Gospel “a sweet savour of Christ” which is well-pleasing to God: “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish” (2 Cor. 2:15).  This sweet savour of Christ is no other than the holiness of the friends, namely the Saints of Christ, according to the saying: “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy”(1 Peter 1:16/ Leviticus 11:44). And the saints of God are those who praise and narrate His glory, as David chants: “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works”(Psalm 145:4-5).

This is precisely what St. Ioustinos, the honoured among All the Saints today did, who was called “most marvellous” according to Tatian and “philosopher and witness” according to Tertullian. And according to Eusevius of Caesarea, having been condemned because of his Christian faith by the false accusations of [the idolatrous philosopher] Crescent, Ioustinos “is adorned with a death by a divine martyrdom” beheaded along with other Christians during the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, in Rome, approximately in the year 165 A.D. Not only his “divine martyrdom”, but also his defending of the Christian faith letters “speak of and proclaim the magnificence of the glory of the holiness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Saints of the Church became worthy of the name of Christ, because they did not refuse “to take His Cross and follow Him”(Matt. 10:38). Their benefit and repose and rest were to suffer for the sake of reverence according to Basil of Cicely (P.G. 85,464, B). And St. Ignatios the God-bearer calls Christ “my own love [eros]” just as St. Paul says: “ I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). Having become communicants of God’s grace, they are recognized along with the holy Apostles as benefactors of the Church, just as St. Chrysostom says about the Apostles: “They were indeed doctors of the world, and farmers and captains; doctors because they healed the infirmities; farmers because they sew the word of reverence; and captains, because they stopped the rough waves of the fallacy”.

As for us, my dear brethren, praising the commemoration of All the Saints, and especially of the Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, let us say along with the hymnographer: “Let us now worthily extol the haven of salvation, the Baptist; the apostles, the prophets and martyrs; the ascetics, the divine teachers, the priests; the assembly of the patriarchs, the glorious hieromartyrs, the women beloved of God, and the righteous and the just” (Pentecostarion, Feast of All Saints, Matins, Ode 9 of the Saints, troparion 2). Amen! Many happy returns!”

After the Divine Liturgy, the Hegoumen and renovator of this Shrine and of the Church of St. Foteini the Great Martyr the Samaritan woman, Archimandrite Ioustinos hosted a meal for the Patriarchal entourage.

From Secretariat-General




THE FEAST OF THE MONDAY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AT THE RUSSIAN MISSIA

On Monday, May 26/ June 8, 2020, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of the Monday of the Holy Spirit as it is ordained by the book of Pentecostarion, a day especially dedicated in honour of the Holy Spirit, Who came from the Father through the Son and enlightened the illiterate Disciples at the Upper Room and made them luminaries and teachers of the whole world.

This feast is celebrated at the Holy Church of the Russian MISSIA of the Moscow Patriarchate in New Jerusalem, which is dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

The Festal Divine Liturgy was officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with co-celebrants their Eminences; Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, the Arhcbishops; Aristarchos of Constantina and Theodosios of Sebastia, His Eminence Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks among whom the Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, the Head of the Russian MISSIA Archimandrite Alexander and other Priests of the Russian Church, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacons of the Russian MISSIA, as the chanting was delivered by the Nuns of the MISSIA and the service was attended by Russian faithful Christians.

After the Holy Communion, H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos delivered the following Sermon;

“Reverend Archimandrite Alexander,

Representative of His Beatitude the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia in the Holy City of Jerusalem

“Once when He descended and confounded the tongues, the Most High divided the nations; and when He divided the tongues of fire, He called all men into unity; and with one accord we glorify the All-holy Spirit” (Kontakion of the Feast). The hymn writer of the Church proclaims.

The All-holy Trinity has gathered us all in this Holy Church, in the joyful day of Holy Pentecost, in order to celebrate in Eucharist the All-holy, life-giving and almighty Spirit, the One God of the Holy Trinity, Who is equally honoured, glorified and is of one essence with the Father and the Son.

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth”(John 4:24). “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you”(John 14:26). “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you”(John 16:13-14), our Lord Jesus Christ says.

Behold therefore, why the hymnographer also says: “The Holy Spirit provideth all things; He gusheth forth prophecy; He perfecteth the priesthood; He hath taught wisdom to the illiterate. He hath shown forth the firshermen as theologians. He holdeth together the whole institution of the Church. Wherefore, O Comforter, one is essence and throne with the Father and the Son, glory to Thee” (Great Vespers of Pentecost, 3rd sticheron).

The Holy Spirit, Who holds together the whole constitution of the Church, was foretold by the Prophets; “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke” (Joel 2:28, 30), Joel says, and Ezekiel adds; “Thus says the Lord: Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36-25-27).

This “new spirit”, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, did God the Father send down and gave to His Holy Disciples and Apostles, after the request of the gloriously ascended into heaven Son and Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. To these Disciples and Apostles, – according to St. Paul – , “whom Christ set first in the Church (1 Cor. 12:28) and “is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20), did the Lord “pour out His Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28), and consequently to their descendants, namely the Shepherds and great initiators to the mysteries of the Church, as St. Cyril of Alexandria teaches by saying: “The initiators to the mysteries of the Church and those who are teaching under the sun, before all other things, should enrich their knowledge with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and those who from the beginning are called through faith into sanctification, should become adorned like gold by the divine and heavenly grace”.

Moreover, the hymnographer says: “the All-holy Spirit, Who in truth divideth the gifts to all hath descended upon the earth, not as He had formerly, shining in the Prophets through Law’s dark shadow, but now is given in all truth to us through Christ’s mediation for our sakes. Thus let us purify our hearts with virtues and so receive His true visitation and blest descent, being mystically lit in mind” (Thursday after Pentecost, Vespers, troparion 1).

And St. Paul advices the people in Ephesus thus: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood”(Acts 20:28). It is made clear that this advice is directly referred to the initiators to the mysteries and Bishops of the whole Church of our time, a piece of advice distinguished by the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. “Christ Who has the Spirit has been given to the Church, acting according to the Spirit as God” St. Maximus says. And according to St. Chrysostom, “the fulness of Christ is the Church, and the fulness of the head is the body, and the fulness of the body is the head”. “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” St. John the Evangelist says (John 1:16).

The “grace for grace” (John 1:16) which we have received, as well as the way it is manifested, is clearly described by the hymnographer of the Church by saying: “Thou didst wholly take me upon Thee past all telling, and with Thine divine nature full wast blended with me, though suff’ring no confusion, no division, no change, O Christ,. Glory to Thy terrible Descent, and Passion, and holy Resurrection, and Ascent on high, whereby our nature, cast to earth, is raised to the heights again”(Thursday of the 7th week, Matins, praises, troparion 1).

In other words, taking upon Himself the whole man, Christ “was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world”(John 1:9). Interpreting this verse, the established God-bearing Fathers say: St. Cyril of Alexandria; “[Christ] is light in essence, He does not partake of it”. St. Gregory the Theologian says: “He was the true light….”the Father. “He was the true light…”the Son. “He was the true light…”the Comforter; He was and He was and He was; but they were one. Light and light and light, but one light, one God.

This very light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9) is being evangelized and preached by the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church  of the Orthodox Christians, hearkening to the Lord’s words: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”(Matthew 28:19-20).

This enlightening and redeeming teaching of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ we owe to keep, and that is why St. Paul urges us all in agony, to prove worthy of our vocation wherewith we are called, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling”(Eph. 4:1-4).

This very unity of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit do we the Brotherly Churches of the Orthodox Christians declare, through our participation in the Eucharistic gathering of the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; where there is His glory and might unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

After the Dismissal of the Divine Liturgy the Head of the MISSIA Archimandrite Alexander offered a monastic meal. At the meal His Beatitude read the following address, at the presence of the Ambassador of Russia and the Ambassador of Bella Russe:

“Dear Archimandrite Alexander,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Beloved Monastics,

Sisters and Brothers in Christ

“If we walk in the light as He Himself is the light,

we have fellowship with one another,

and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 6).

Our Eucharistic celebration this morning is a manifestation that we walk together in the light, and so we share in this koinonia – this fellowship – that demonstrates our unity and oneness in the Name of the Holy Trinity.

In this time of crisis and confusion for the world, our shared Orthodox martyria, which flows from our inion in Christ, is of the outmost importance not just to the Orthodox world, but to the whole of Christianity, and indeed to all the nations. From this martyria countless people are sustained in hope, and draw strength to live their lives in the face of many dangers and temptation. We cannot ever underestimate the power of our unity in a divided and conflicted world.

It is not for nothing that the great Church Fathers regarded schism as the most serious of sins. For schism, by fracturing the visible unity of the Church, weakens the Church’s martyria, and diminishes the Church’s mission to be the true light and leaven. At this holy season of Pentecost we celebrate that, in the words of the Gospel of Saint John, “from His fulness we have received grace upon grace” (John 1:16), and this grace is divinely-appointed to us to share with all who come to us seeking the truth of the Gospel.

The unity of the Church has been under threat from the very beginning, as we read in the Second Epistle of Saint John, “many deceivers have gone out into the world”(2 John 7). And yet, the Orthodox Church has maintained the apostolic unity that was the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This unity we must strive to maintain at all costs, for if schism is the greatest sin against the Church, the guarding and deepening of her unity is the greatest good.

The Orthodox Churches are those on whom Divine Providence has placed the mantle of our Lord Jesus Christ, His seamless tunic, the tunic that He bore on His passion (cf. John 19:23). We must, in the words of the Epistle to Jude, “build ourselves up on our most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit”(cf. Jude 20), lest we trade the seamless tunic of our Lord Jesus Christ for the defiled tunic of those who are causing divisions (cf. Jude 23:19).

We pray and humbly ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts and minds, that we MAY remain firm with joy in our blessed unity in Christ, despite our human frailty, and labour without ceasing to restore the damage to the mantle of our Lord.

Please allow us no to propose a toast, first to our brother and co-celebrant in Christ, His Holiness Patriarch Cyril of Moscow and All Russia, and also to His Excellency Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the President of the Russian Republic.

Chronia polla.

Thank you.”

From Secretariat-General




THE FEAST OF SAINTS CONSTANTINE AND HELEN AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Wednesday, May 21/ June 3, 2020, the Patriarchate celebrated the commemoration of the Holy glorious God-crowned sovereigns and equal to the Apostles, Constantine and Helen, as a feast of the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, since St. Constantine accepted the request of the Archbishop of Jerusalem Makarios at the First Ecumenical Synod in 325 A.D., sent his mother St. Helen to the Holy Land and especially in Jerusalem, and revealed under the idolatrous monuments the places of the Horrendous Golgotha and the Life-giving Tomb of the Lord. St. Helen built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around them and the worship of the true God started immediately in that place. The Order of the Studious ones, namely of the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, was settled at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its mission is being continued throughout the ages, which is no other than the witness of the Orthodox faith and the preservation-safeguarding of the Holy Places.

This feast was celebrated in the afternoon with Vespers led by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with the participation in the prayer of all the Hagiotaphite Fathers.

After Vespers, everybody was offered boiled wheat and dry bread with wine at the courtyard of the Holy Church.

On the Feast Day, the Divine Liturgy was officiated by our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the co-celebration of Hagiotaphite Hieromonks, the ministering Priests of the Church, the Typikon keeper of the Church Archimandrite Alexios and others, at the chanting of the Choir Leader of the Church Archimandrite Eusevios and Hierodeacon Simeon, as the service was attended by Archbishops and other Hagiotaphite Fathers, and the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Christos Sophianopoulos.

After Dismissal, a procession to the Patriarchate followed, while Abbess Seraphima distributed the small loaves of bread as a blessing at the main gate of the Central Monastery.

At the Patriarchate Reception Hall, His Beatitude addressed those present as follows;

“Not from man did great Constantine with his blest mother Helen receive the royal sovereignty but by God’s grace from Heaven. For he beheld the divine Cross as a bright flashing trophy. With it was he victorious over all who opposed him, and he destroyed the deceit and error of all the idols while making strong throughout the world Orthodox faith and practice”(Matins, exapostilarion).

Your Excellency Consul General of Greece Mr Christos Sophianopoulos,

Reverend Fathers and Brethren,

Noble Christians

Our Holy Orthodox Church, and especially the Church of Jerusalem honours and venerates today the sacred commemoration of the Holy glorious God-crowned and equal to the Apostles Great sovereigns Constantine and Helen.

For this reason, Our Mediocrity, surrounded by the reverend members of the Venerable Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, went to the Holy Church of Saints Constantine and Helen at the Central Monastery, and rendered glory and thanksgiving to the Holy Trinitarian God, with the celebration of the Mystery of the bloodless sacrifice, namely the Divine Liturgy.

Just like St. Paul, having been enlightened by the rays of the Holy Spirit, King Constantine became equal to the Apostles and a preacher of the truth of the Gospel of Christ according to his word: “Having kept the holy faith, I partake of the light of truth. Guided by the light of truth, I comprehend the Divine Faith” as Eusebius of Caesarea mentions in his history.

The priceless contribution of blessed Constantine to the Church of Christ is not only confined to the marvellous publication of the Royal Decree, of 13th June 313, through which the Christians enjoy the freedom of exercising their worship, but also to the fact that Constantine summoned the First Ecumenical Synod of the Church in Nicaea, and honoured it with his presence. Moreover, he sent his mother, Augusta Helen to the Holy Land, where she found the Precious and Life-giving Cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and erected the magnificent Church of the Holy Resurrection of Christ in the Holy City of Jerusalem, and that of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem.

For this reason, the hymn writer says: “As is due, we celebrate thy memory, O Constantine, thou equal to the Apostles, foundation and boast of all sovereigns. For being enlightened with the rays of the Spirit, thou didst brighten the whole Church of Christ, when thou broughtest the assemblies of the faithful from all parts, gathering them in the illustrious city of Nicaea” (Minaion May 21st, 1st troparion of the Entreaty). “Thou wast the first of all the Christian kings to receive the sceptre from God; for His saving sign, which was hidden in the earth, was shown to thee, O blessed Constantine. By its might thou didst subjugate all nations and peoples underneath the Christians’ feet, since thou didst truly have Christ’s life-giving Cross as a weapon which no adverse power could conquer, and thereby thou also wast brought to our God”(Vespers, 1st troparion of stichera aposticha).

It is also noteworthy that the Saints Constantine and Helen are those who made us heirs of the spiritual and redeeming chapter of Romiosyni, according to St. Paul’s words: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”(Gal. 3:27-28).

Therefore, being grateful, we also say along with the hymn writer: “Rejoice, O great and all-wise Constantine (along with your mother Helen), thou fount of Orthodox Faith, that dost water continually all the lands beneath the sun with thy sweet and delightful streams. Rejoice, O root from which there sprouted forth the fruit that nourisheth Christ’s most holy Church. Rejoice, thou most glorious boast and fame of all the fartherst ends of earth, first of Christian kings. Rejoice, thou joy of faithful men” (Matins, praises, troparion 1).

At noon there was a festal meal for the Fathers at the Patriarchate.

From Secretariat-General




HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS CELEBRATES THE DIVINE LITURGY IN BETHANY

On Sunday, May 18/31, 2020, Sunday of the commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod, who condemned Arius and established the doctrine of the one essence of the Son with the Father, and formulated the first eight canons of the Creed, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, in place of the cancelled due to COVID-19 virus festive celebration of Lazarus’ Saturday, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Monastery of Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary. Co-celebrants to His Beatitude were the Most Reverend Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, Archimandrite Epiphanios, who is the ministering Priest of the Holy Monastery, Archimandrite Demetrios and Archdeacon Mark, at the chanting of Mr Vasilios Gotsopoulos.

On this occasion, His Beatitude read the following Sermon:

“O ye assemblies of the Orthodox, let us celebrate today with faith and piety the annual memorial of the God-bearing Fathers who, in the illustrious city of Nicaea, came together from the whole inhabited world. For with pious mind, they refuted the godless dogma of the grievous Arius, and by synodical decree banished him from the Catholic Church. And they instructed all to openly confess the consubstantial and co-eternal Son of God, Who existed before the ages. This inexactness and piety did they set forth in the Symbol of Faith. Wherefore, following their divine doctrines and believing with assurance, we worship, in one Godhead, the Father, the Son and All-holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence” the hymn-writer of the Church proclaims (Vespers of the Holy Fathers, Stichera, Glory).

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Noble Christians

Today, the seventh Sunday since Easter, we celebrate the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea of the three hundred and eighteen God-bearing Fathers, who gathered there from all over the earth after the inspired by the Holy Spirit decision of the Emperor St. Constantine the Great, in the twentieth year of his reign. And we offer this bloodless sacrifice in Eucharist to our Trinitarian God in this Holy place of His sanctification.

The Holy Fathers of the Church are the descendants of the Holy Apostles and the guardians of the Holy Apostolic tradition, namely of the redeeming teaching of the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle”, St. Paul urges us (2 Thess. 2:15).

And the Fathers, who are called “God-bearing”, namely bearers of the Holy Spirit, are those who on the one hand were ordained by the Church (2 Cor. 8:19), and on the other, through their mission and teaching were established Spiritual Fathers of the faithful members of the body of the Church, as St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel”(1 Cor. 4:15).

In other words, the God-inspired Fathers of the Church are the bearers of the unadulterated and healthy teaching of the faith, which they formulated in the doctrines and entrenched through the holy canons in the various Ecumenical and local Synods. For this reason, they are recognized as ecumenical teachers and luminaries as their hymn writer says: “When the choir of the Holy Fathers flocked from the ends of the inhabited world, they proclaimed the doctrine of the One Essence and One Nature of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thereby delivering plainly to the Church the mystery of theology. As we acclaim them in faith, let us call them blessed, saying: O divine array, ye God-proclaiming hoplites of the Lord’s company, most brilliant stars of the spiritual firmament, impregnable towers of the mystical Sion, ye fragrant flowers of Paradise, ye all-golden mouths of the Word, the boast of Nicaea and adornment of the whole world: Intercede ye fervently in behalf of our souls” (Matins, praises, Glory).

Here the hymn writer calls the Holy Fathers “all-golden mouths of God the Word”. And this is so because they established the doctrine of the mystery of theology, which refers to the one essence and one nature of the persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Moreover, they formed the doctrine of the Divine Providence, which refers to the incarnation of God the Word, Christ, from the pure flesh of the Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. And according to St. Gregory the Theologian, they accomplished this, thinking “not in the manner of Aristotle, but in that of the fishermen”. And according to the hymn writer: “Since Christ’s heralds had received all of the spiritual brightness of the Holy Spirit’s light and had been inspired of God, they proclaimed to all that divine oracle filled with wondrous wisdom, which though few in words is great in breadth”(Matins praises, stichera of the Fathers, Troparion 2).

In other words, the formation of the holy doctrines of our faith by the Church Fathers has its source of inspiration in the revealed truth in Jesus Christ, namely this very revelation of God toward men, in the incarnate Son of His and Word, which was made complete and is eternally unchangeable, and for which it is said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away”(Mark 13:31).

On the contrary, the heretics’ formation of the faith in Christ has their own mind as its source, namely the “cunningly devised fables”(2 Peter 1:16), and their distorted thoughts, according to what has been foretold by St. Paul: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them”(Acts 20: 29-30).

Such “men speaking perverse things” were the unrepentant heretics, Arius, who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, Macedonius, the fighter of the Spirit, and Nestorius, who introduced the division of God-man Christ. And the teachings of the other false teachers, old and new alike, is connected directly or indirectly with the aforementioned heretics.

Behold my brethren why, our Holy Church festively honours its “all-golden mouths”, namely the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea in 325 A.D. As direct descendants of the Apostles, “being reviled, buffeted and persecuted, and driven into exile”(1 Cor. 4-11-13), the Holy Fathers became “true servants of Christ and venerable initiates and seers of the divine preaching from on high” according to the hymn writer (Matins, praises, Troparion 3).

Along with the Holy God-bearing Fathers, who proclaimed the Ever-Virgin and Most Blessed Mary as Theotokos and Mother of God, and the hymn writer, let us say: “Beholding Thine ascents on the holy mountains, O Christ, Thou Effulgence of the Father’s glory, we praise the radiant form of Thy countenance. We worship Thy Passion, we honour Thy Resurrection, and we glorify Thy glorious Ascension. Have mercy on us” (Sunday of the Holy Fathers Vespers, both now).

And deliver Your world from the plague of the COVID-19 virus. Amen. Many Happy returns and health in Christ!”

At noon, the elder and devoted Abbess Nun Eupraxia and the nuns under her offered a meal to His Beatitude and His entourage.

From Secretariat-General




HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS CELEBRATES THE DIVINE LITURGY AT THE HOLY MONASTERY OF SAINT GERASIMOS

On Sunday, May 11/24, 2020, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Monastery of St. Gerasimos of the Jordan, which is located at the West Bank of the river Jordan before its estuary to the Dead Sea.

The Divine Liturgy was celebrated in completion of the celebration of the commemoration of St. Gerasimos, which is on 4th/17th May, but at that time the feast was held without the participation of any external congregation due to the COVID-19.

On this occasion, His Beatitude read the following sermon:

“And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-3).

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Noble Christians

Today, the sixth Sunday since Easter, we celebrate the miracle of our Lord Jesus Christ to the blind man from birth, through which miracle, Christ revealed the works of His God and Father.

To the disciples’ question, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2) Christ replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). Interpreting these words of the Lord, St. Cyril of Alexandria says that Jesus does not clarify His disciples’ question, because this is a work of the Holy Spirit. “And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).

The miracle of giving sight to the man who was born blind is an irrefutable witness, that Christ, being the Son of God the Father, a perfect God and a perfect man, came to the world in order to enlighten and sanctify the world, as much through His teaching as also through His miracles. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:8) the Lord says.

In other words, Christ is the spiritual and irreproachable light, “through which the enlightened ones should be illumined through faith”, St. Zigavinos says. And according to St. Theophylactos, “I am the light of the world”, meaning that through the teaching and the working of the miracles Christ illumines the souls.

Worth of our attention in the miracle of the man who was born blind is the fact, as St. Cyril of Alexandria says, “that by His own Will and command, the Saviour wanted to heal the man”. And according to St. Chrysostom, “Christ Himself saw the blind man, it was not the blind man that came to Him. This means that Jesus was not invited by the blind man to heal his eyes”. It was not possible for this blind man to see Christ, but Christ saw him and restored his eyesight with the miraculous healing.

In other words my dear brethren, Christ is found and recognized by those who neither seek, nor see Him, as the prophet Isaiah says; “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not”(Isaiah 65:1). And if we know or become aware of anything regarding Christ, this is owed to the fact that we have been known by Him as St. Paul says. “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God”(Galatians 4:9) and “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus”(Phil. 3:12).

This teaching of St. Paul is confirmed by the peaching of repentance of St. John the Baptist, who in this context refers to prophet Isaiah by saying; “and every flesh shall see the salvation of God”. Interpreting this verse, St. Cyril of Alexandria says: “flesh here refers to man as a whole and every human flesh. In this manner every flesh shall see the salvation of God, namely of the Father, for He has sent our Saviour His Son.”

Behold therefore why the hymn writer of the Church says “who can tell of Thy mighty works, O Christ, or who can number the multitudes of Thy wonders? For even as Thou, in Thy goodness, didst appear on earth twofold, of nature, so didst Thou grant twofold healings to the sick; for Thou didst open not only the bodily eyes of the man who was blind form the wom, but those of his soul also. Wherefore, he confessed to Thee, the hidden God, Who grantest great mercy unto all” (Pentecostarion, Sunday of the Blind man Matins, praises, Glory).

Indeed, not only the eyes of the body, but also those of the soul, did Christ open of the man who was born blind, as He “wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:4) according to St. Paul. This truth, namely the light of the truth, the God-man our Lord Jesus Christ, did the recovered eyes of the blind man see, and that is why at Jesus’ question; “believest thou in the Son of God” (John 9:35) the blind man said “Lord I believe” and worshiped Him” (John 9:38).

The spiritual worship He asks on our part, St. Cyril of Alexandria says, hearkening to Christ’s words to the Samaritan woman: “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth…God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

Amen. Christ is risen!”

And the hardworking and hospitable Hegoumen Archimandrite Chrysostom hosted them for a meal.

From Secretariat-General




SERMON OF H.H.B. THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS III ON THE SUNDAY OF THE PARALYTIC MAN

“Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14).

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Noble Christians

Today, the fourth Sunday after Easter, our Holy Church commemorates the healing of the paralytic man, whom the Lord miraculously healed at the Sheep’s Pool as St. John the Evangelist witnesses.

And the Hymn writer of the Church, referring to this wondrous healing, says: “At the sheep’s Pool, a man lay in sickness; and when he saw Thee, O Lord, he cried: I have no man, that when the water is troubles, he might put me therein. But when I go, another anticipateth me and receiveth the healing, and I lie yet in mine infirmity. And straight away, taking compassion on him, the Saviour saith unto him: for thee I became man, for thee I am clothed in flesh, and sayest thou: I have no man? Take up thy bed and walk” (Pentecostarion, Sunday of the Paralytic, Vespers, Entreaty, Glory).

In these words, we see the deepest meaning of the mystery of the Divine Providence, namely of the immense compassion and philanthropy of the Almighty God. And this is so, because the meaning of sin, whose result is death, does not have a simple moral or theoretical interpretation, but it refers to the natural illness of the body and soul.

Interpreting these words of the Lord, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14), St. Cyril of Alexandria says: “The Lord teaches thus, that the sins of men are not only recorded for the future judgement, but He also flogs us in various ways, while we are still in our bodies, before the great and illustrious day of the Great Judgement. The wise Apostle Paul also confirms that we quite often are in fault and grieve God: “For this cause, many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:30-32).

Commenting on Paul’s words, Zigavinos says: “[Paul] has taught us here that many of the bodily illnesses have their root in sin; not only illnesses though, but also many deaths. For he calls death as sleep”.

It is undeniable, my dear brethren, that God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ who became incarnate receiving human flesh for us, “came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). And God “granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18) according to St. Luke the Evangelist.

And the life that God gave is the salvation of man from sin, namely his illness and infirmity. Behold why Christ is also called the healer of our souls and bodies, as St. Luke the Evangelist witnesses for Him in his Gospel: “And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox (Herod), Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected” (Luke 13:32).

We also, my dear brethren, are called to this purpose, namely to our perfection in Christ our God the Resurrected from the dead, hearkening to our Saviour’s advice: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

And along with the hymn writer let us say: “As befit His goodness, the Almighty appeared on earth, having become man from thine immaculate virgin womb; and he hath deified us, O blessed, all-pure, all-immaculate Theotokos” [through His Resurrection ] (Pentecostarion, Midnight Service of the Sunday of Paralytic, Ode 7, theotokion). Amen! Christ is risen!”




THE FEAST OF JOSEPH OF ARIMATHAEA AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Sunday, April 20/ May 3, 2020, Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearers according to Pentecostarion, the Patriarchate celebrated the commemoration of Joseph of Arimathaea at his Holy Monastery in Remli, ancient town of Arimathaea, which was his hometown.

On this feast the Church commemorates that righteous Joseph went to Pilate and asked Jesus’ body, and having received it, he buried it with the help of the myrrh-bearers near the place of His crucifixion.

The feast was held within the frame of the safety measures due to COVID-19, and was led by His Eminence Archbishop Damascene of Joppa under the hospitality of the Hegoumen of the Monastery Reverend Archimandrite Niphon, with the participation of only a few faithful Christians.

His Beatitude sent the following Sermon to Remli Community;

“Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus” (Mark 15:43). “And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him” (Mark 16:1).

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Noble Christians

Our Lord Jesus Christ who has caused the light to rise and shine all over the universe, has gathered us all in the Biblical town of Arimathaea, the home town of Joseph, so that along with Nicodemus and the myrrh-bearers we may celebrate their feast.

In the detailed description of the three-day burial and resurrection of Christ, the Holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John commemorate especially the myrrh-bearing women, Joseph and Nicodemus, the secret disciples of Christ. Because their immediate and noble care of the burial of Jesus’ immaculate body is an irrefutable witness. The myrrh-bearing Women were the first true witnesses of the resurrection of the Lord, while Joseph and Nicodemus were the witnesses of His burial. “And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe”, St. John the Evangelist writes (John 19:35).

And St. Cyril of Alexandria says regarding Jesus’ burial; “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matthew 18:16). “For two were those who buried Him, Joseph and Nicodemus, who had their mind and faith in God and did not prefer the earthly glory nor its honour…by their free faith they received the permission and were shown to be devoted and dear guardians of our Saviour’s command”. The resurrection, my dear brethren is the crown of the mystery of the Divine Providence, as St. John Damascene says; “Now the hidden mystery of the ages of old is being revealed; now the chapter of the Divine Providence is being fulfilled; now the crown of the Incarnation of God the Word is being put into place; now the abyss of the Divine Love is being published. For God the Word loved the world so much, so that by the providence of God the Father He came down and became incarnate, and took upon Himself our body while being bodiless, so that He might suffer by partaking in the passions and become passion to death, in order to cover with apathy, us, who suffer from the passions” (St. John Damascene, Sermon on Holy Saturday).

The extreme power of the Resurrection is due to this fact, that “by becoming a passion to death, [Christ] dressed us [the people] who suffer from the passions, with apathy”. St. John Damascene formulates this clearly in his Paschal Hymn; “The only blessed and most glorious God of our Fathers, who hath redeemed the Children from the furnace, is become man, and as a mortal doth suffer, and through suffering doth cloth mortality with the grace of incorruption” (Katavasia of Pascha, Ode 7).

In other words, He who took upon Himself our nature with all the passions except sin, suffers passions as a mortal and especially the death on the Cross. Through the passions and the resurrection, Christ renews the human nature that He took upon Himself, and clads it with the beauty of incorruption, as Prophet David says; “The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty” (Psalm 93:1).

This immense philanthropy and excessive goodness of God is being preached by St. Gregory the Theologian who says; “He that Is, becomes poor with my flesh so that I may become rich with His divinity; and He who is full is emptied;  He is emptied from His glory for a short while, so that I may partake of His fullness. What is the richness of goodness? What is this mystery that concerns me? I partook from the image and did not keep it; He takes upon Himself my flesh, so that He may save the image and make the flesh immortal.”

Here St. Gregory talks about the salvation of the image through the Incarnation of God the Word, namely of the soul and the immortality of the human body.

Moreover, interpreting the Lord’s words, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” (John 11:11) Cyril of Alexandria says that Jesus “calls sleep the departure of the soul from the body”. And elsewhere the Father says; “the acquired corruption defiles the nature of man, and death shall prevail by evil hatred, having sin as a root.”

In this the victory and the power of Christ resurrection is made obvious, namely in the abolishment of the death of the acquired corruption, namely of sin, through Christ’s death. Let us therefore hear St. John Damascene saying; “For if the sacred soul of the life-giving and immaculate body was divided, nevertheless the divinity of the Word after the conception in the womb of the Holy Virgin Theotokos Mary, remained inseparable, the two natures in one hypostasis, an undivided unity, of the soul and body; and thus the one hypostasis of Christ remained in this death, being God the Word in body and soul, and after death also this very one hypostasis. For this reason, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Behold therefore, my dear ones, why Pascha, or better say, the Day of Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is recognized as the day of the inauguration of the unwaning Kingdom of God, to which we are called to participate by the hymn writer. And behold why today we honour the commemoration of Joseph and Nicodemus along with the myrrh-bearers. For they all were fervent preachers of Christ’s resurrection.

As, for us, let as say along with the hymn writer; “When thy Son destroyed all the might of death, O Virgin, as the mighty God He exalted and deified us with Himself by His Resurrection. Wherefore, we sing His praise unto the ages” (Pentecostarion, Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearers, Matins, Canon 8, 2nd troparion of the Theotokos). Christ is risen!”

On this Sunday the Patriarchate also celebrated the commemoration of the myrrh-bearing Women, who buried the Lord along with Joseph and were the first ones to hear that the Lord was risen from the dead by the angel who was sitting at the Tomb’s stone, early at dawn of the first Saturday.

The commemoration of the myrrh-bearers was celebrated at their chapel in the courtyard of St. James the Brother of God Cathedral and at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The celebration was held by St. James’ Cathedral parish, led by the participation of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of Lydda, with only a few faithful Christians present, again due to the COVID-19 measures. The chanting was delivered by Hierodeacon Simeon and Monk Nikolaos on the right in Greek, and by Mr. Rimon Kamar on the left in Arabic.

A modest reception followed the service at the Cathedral’s office.

Early in the morning of the same day, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the H. Monastery of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, where He read the following Sermon;

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The beyond comprehension condescension and philanthropy of our Lord and God towards us, has gathered us all in this holy place of Tabor where for the first time “his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matt. 17:2), in order to celebrate the Paschal commemoration of the myrrh-bearing Women; and of the secret disciples Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus.

“For great is the mystery of the Divine Providence, which cannot be comprehended only through faith, but it needs purity of soul which is consistent with divine desire and fear. For there is no other way to work purification, but through divine fear and love. Also, it is not possible to receive the divine enlightenment, if the eyes of the soul are not cleansed beforehand. For every divine gift is unapproachable to the profane ones; for only the ones that are pure in heart shall see God, as Christ, the only truth indeed says” St. John Damascene preaches.

“Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ, radiant with the unapproachable light of the Resurrection, and we shall clearly hear Him say: Rejoice! As we sing the triumphant hymn”, the hymn writer of the Church proclaims (Canon of Pascha Ode 1 troparion 2).

Christ’s Resurrection is “the living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrews 10:20) according to St. Paul. And this way is the one which leads us to the eternal Kingdom as Ecumenios and Zigavinos interpret respectively; “He [Christ] has initiated it” and “He was the first one who walked on it”. And according to the hymn writer; “Christ is the Pascha that openeth the gates of Paradise for us”.

Behold therefore, why St. Paul advices us; “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2). “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth…seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:5, 3:9-10). And in more detail; mortify your body parts that desire the  earthly pleasures and delights, having first removed from yourselves the old corrupt man along with his actions and even more since you are dressed with the new man, who is continuously renewed.

The established Father of the Church St. John Damascene, says after St. Paul’s preaching; “Christ on the Cross; for ye are partakers of His sufferings (2 Cor. 1:7), “and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). Christ is among the dead; let us mortify our flesh to sin, in order to live in righteousness. Christ is wrapped up in clothes for the dead; let us cleanse ourselves of the old lump and become a new leaven (Gal. 5:9), in order to become the den of Christ. Christ is in Hades; let us go down along with Him to the humility that elevates, in order to rise, and stand and be glorified along with Him, always beholding God, and being seen by Him.”

We, my dear ones, who have been vivified through the death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, let us say along with the myrrh-bearing women and the secret disciples Joseph and Nicodemus, who became preachers and witnesses of the three-day burial and resurrection from the dead of our Christ: Let no one fear death; Christ is risen! To Him belongs all glory and the power unto the ages of ages! Amen.”

From Secretariat-General




THE FEAST OF THOMAS’ SUNDAY AT THE PATRIARCHATE

The Feast of Thomas’ Sunday was celebrated by the Patriarchate on Sunday, April 13/26, 2020.

On this Sunday the Church commemorates the event of the first day after the Resurrection, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders …” (John 20:19-29), when Jesus appeared to His disciples at the Upper room, Thomas was not with them, and when the disciples told him “we have seen the Lord”, he was not convinced, but said; ““Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe”. Then after eight days Jesus appeared to the disciples again and told Thomas ““Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

According to the typikon order of the Patriarchate, this feast was celebrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as a “parresia” with Vespers in the afternoon and the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Sepulchre in the morning, officiated by His Eminence Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, with only a few co-celebrants, due to the safety measures. There was also a celebration in Cana of Galilee with the Divine Liturgy which was held according to the current restrictions by the Hegoumen Archimandrite Chrysostom.

His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos sent the following Sermon for the flock in Cana;

“Come on this auspicious day of the Resurrection let us partake of the new fruit of the vine of divine gladness and of the Kingdom of Christ, praising Him as God unto the ages” (Pentecostarion, Canon of Easter, Ode 8, troparion 2).

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Noble Christians

Christ our God, who “has endured the cross, voided death and risen from the dead” (Octoechos Sunday Matins praises tone1, troparion 1), has gathered us all in this holy place of Cana of Galilee in order to celebrate the beginning of the marvels Jesus worked, and revealed His glory and His disciples believed in Him (John 2:11). Today’s feast of the wedding in Cana and of the miracle of turning the water into wine on this Thomas’ Sunday of the Renewal week has a special significance. Because, on the one hand, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our Christian faith as St. Paul preaches; “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:13-14). And on the other, Easter is the primary celebration of the Eastern Church, as St. Paul says; “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5;7).

Jesus chose the day of His friend Simon the Canaanite’s wedding to begin the working of His divine signs, His miracles, at the presence of His Mother, the Ever-Virgin Theotokos Mary. And St. Paul regards marriage as sacred and great; “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32).

Interpreting these words, St. John Damascene says that St. Paul refers to the union of Christ with  the teaching of His Church; “in this manner there is a sacrament of the concealed truth, as the union of the woman with the man depicts the union of Christ with the Church”.

In other words, in the wedding of Cana there was a sacrament which depicted the hidden truth, namely the spiritual wedding of Christ with the Church, as very clearly St. Paul teaches by saying; “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).

Moreover, St. Paul’s teaching is confirmed by the witness of St. John the Evangelist in his book of Revelation by saying; “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).

This prophesy of St. John refers to the joy of the partakers of the triumphant Church, namely of the Kingdom of God, which is represented as the lamb’s wedding. “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven”, the Lord preaches (Matt. 8:11). And St. Andrew of Caesarea of Cappadocia, interpreting the verse “the guests at the Lamb’s wedding supper” says; “The supper of Christ is the gladness of those who are saved, and the harmonious gleefulness, and blessed are those who partake of it and enter the eternal bridal chamber along with the holy bridegroom of the purified souls”.

During the Last Supper, namely the tradition of the Holy Eucharist, our Lord Jesus Christ “  took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

 

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament… But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:26-29).

“The fruit of the vine”, namely the wine, which is an inseparable element of the wedding ceremony, here at the Last Supper depicts the foretaste of the sacred blood that was shed from the pierced side of our Lord Jesus Christ. Behold therefore, why Christ blessed the marriage on the one hand, and on the other, He projected the wine with the transformation of the water, by His perfect divine power in Cana of Galilee.

Behold therefore why St. John Damascene says rejoicing; ““Come on this auspicious day of the Resurrection let us partake of the new fruit of the vine of divine gladness and of the Kingdom of Christ, praising Him as God unto the ages” (Pentecostarion, Canon of Easter, Ode 8, troparion 2). In other words, through His blood that was shed from the cross, and through the day of the Resurrection, Christ renews our human nature which He had received, and dresses it with the beauty of His incorruption, thus making it partaker of His eternal Kingdom, as Prophet David says; “The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty” (Psalm 93:1); He also makes our human nature an accomplice of its [the eternal Kingdom’s] supper, as St. Luke the Evangelist says; “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15).

My dear Brothers and Sisters, it is made clear that the divine grace given through the sacrament of the wedding held by the Church is sanctifying and strengthening, enabling the couple to live their union in Christ, with mutual love and devotion, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25), as well as their mystical partaking in the redeeming and incomprehensible mystery of the inseparable union of the bridegroom-Christ with the bride-Church.

For his good unfaithfulness, the Holy Apostle Thomas was a partaker of this incomprehensible and paschal and divine sacrament of the mystical wedding, as well as of its supper. St. Thomas asked to put his fingers in the print of the nails and thrust his hand into the Resurrected Lord’s side, and by the Lord’s philanthropy he was allowed to investigate the incorrupt deified body of Christ and cried out loud; “My Lord and my God” (John 20:19-31). Therefore, my beloved Brothers and Sisters, we, who have been enlightened by the unwaning Light of the Resurrection of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, cry aloud: “Christ is risen from the dead, by death he hath overcome death and to those in the graves He has bestowed life”. Christ is Risen!”

His Beatitude officiated an All-night Vigil at the H. Monastery of Saints George and Ioannis the Hozevites and delivered the following Sermon;

“This chosen and holy day is the first of the sabbaths, the queen and lady, the feast of feasts, and the festival of festivals, wherein we bless Christ unto the ages” St. John Damascene declares in his hymn (Pentecostarion, Sunday of Pascha, Ode8, troparion 1).

Beloved Fathers in Christ,

The unwaning Light of our Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection has gathered us in the holy and historic Hozeva Monastery in order to celebrate the chosen and Holy day, the inauguration of our renewal in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” St. Paul preaches (2 Cor. 5:17).

“Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter…(John 10:22), “[the time] of unfaithfulness, and Jesus came, the God and temple, eternal God, recent temple, which could be destroyed in a day, and rebuilt in three days, and remain unto the ages, in order that I may be saved and be recalled from the old body of death, and become a new creation, redeemed [from death] through such a philanthropy” St. Gregory the Theologian says.

The three-day Resurrection of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ is the end of the mystery of the Divine Providence, namely of the incarnation of God the Word through the pure flesh of the Ever-Virgin Theotokos Mary. Behold why during this Paschal feast we bless Christ unto the ages.

On this second Sunday after Easter, we celebrate the inauguration of Christ’s Resurrection and the placing of the hands of St. Thomas the Apostle: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28).

Interpreting this witness of St. John, the Evangelist, St. Cyril of Alexandria says: “righteously therefore we hold the gatherings in the Churches on the eighth day [on Sunday]. And in order to explain the meaning of what is held, we close the doors, but Christ comes and can be seen by all of us, visibly and invisibly; invisibly as God, and visibly again in the flesh, and He allows to touch His Holy Body. Let us therefore accept as reasonable the mystical blessing by participation, receiving Christ in our hands, so that we also may have unshakable faith in that He raised His own body as a temple”.

In other words, the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ is the true confession of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead. For this reason, our Holy Father Cyril makes us pay heed by saying; “Let us thus abandon unfaithfulness as something destructive, but on the contrary, having touched Christ, we may find ourselves with steadfast mind”.

Let us, my brethren, renew our souls on the bright day of the Resurrection “our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). This truth is witnessed by the partakers and communicants of the incorruption, namely of Christ’s Resurrection, the Saints George, Ioannis and Ioannis the New, the Hozevites, and especially entreat the Mother of God, the evident glory and superior of all creation, in order to intercede to Her Son and God for all of us.

Christ is risen from the dead, by death hath He trampled down death, and on those in the graves hath He bestowed life. He is risen indeed!”

From Secretariat-General