THE FEAST OF THE RESURRECTION AT THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM
The feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead was celebrated at midnight of Holy Saturday/ Easter Sunday, April 5/18, 2020.
On this feast the Church is glorifying in gratitude the divine and wondrous event that the crucified Son and Word of God, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, having been buried, conquered the power of the devil and the authority of Hades and was resurrected from the dead, raising also Adam and his descendants by His mighty Hand.
The Church of Jerusalem celebrated this feast at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, at the blessed and empty Holy Tomb, with the Service of Matins, the Canon of Holy Saturday and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, with the sermon of the Saint. The Service was officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with co-celebrants their Eminences; Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba and only a few Archimandrites, less than ten in total, due to the safety precautions imposed by the Israeli Police due to the corona virus.
Before the Holy Communion, Geronda Secretary-General read the Patriarchal Easter message which follows below;
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,
Patriarch of Jerusalem”
PALM SUNDAY AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Sunday March 30/April 12, 2020, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of Palm Sunday, as it is written in the contrite Triodion, as the commemoration of the triumphant entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem before His Passion, seated on an ass, while the children of the Jews laid down their garments welcoming Him and crying out loud “Hosanna to the Son of David”.
Due to the security measures imposed by the Ministry of Health against the deadly virus, the feast was not celebrated with the usual festivities like the previous years. It was celebrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with an all-night Vigil led by Geronda Sacristan His Eminence Archbishop Isidoros of Hierapolis and the Temple Fathers. This year the feast was also celebrated at the monastic Church of Saints Constantine and Helen with Vespers in the afternoon and the Divine Liturgy in the morning, with the participation in prayer of His Beatitude, our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, along with Hagiotaphite Archbishops, Priests and Monks, and the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr. Christos Sophianopoulos.
After the Divine Liturgy, holding palm branches, His Beatitude and the Fathers went to the Reception Hall of the Patriarchate, where His Beatitude read the following festal address;
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” Prophet Zechariah says (Zechariah 9:9). And David again says about the children “out of the mouths of babes and succklings hast Thou perfected praise” (Psalm 8:3).
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy City of Jerusalem, riding upon an ass, and being praised by the children with the words “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matth. 21:9), proclaims the peak of the redeeming mission of the Divine Providence, namely of the excessive philanthropy of God the Father, which was materialized in the Son and Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was crucified and resurrected from the dead for our sake.
Our Holy Church, being the mystical body of Christ, exists and acts in the world, by preaching the Gospel of the King of righteousness, as St. John the Evangelist witnesses by saying: “And when he is come [the Comforter], he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11).
The Comforter, namely the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, will prove to the world that Jesus was “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1), just like the centurion confessed by saying; “Certainly this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47). And according to Apostle Peter, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
The Holy Week, the Week of the Passions and of the Resurrection of Christ refers to nothing more than the projection of the Divine Righteousness, namely to the comprehension of the path of salvation. “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Again, the Lord says; “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
Especially during this period of the pandemic that mercilessly plagues all mankind, our Holy Church is calling us precisely to this, to the Light of the world and of life, with the words of the hymn writer who says; “Come forth, ye nations, come forth, ye peoples: look today upon the King of heaven, who enters Jerusalem seated upon a humble colt as though upon a lofty throne” (Palm Sunday Matins, praises troparion 3). “Therefore, we also, with our souls cleans and in spirit carrying branches, with faith let us sing Christ praises like the children, crying with a loud voice to the Master: Blessed art Thou, O Saviour, who hast come into the world to save Adam from the ancient curse” (Palm Sunday Matins 1st Kathisma).Amen. Many happy returns, free from every plague, and Happy Easter!”
THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR MOST BLESSED LADY THEOTOKOS
On Tuesday, March 25/ April 7, 2020, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of the Annunciation of our Most Blessed Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
On this Feast the Church commemorates the event when Archangel Gabriel was sent by God the Father to announce to the Virgin Mary of Nazareth the good news, that she was to conceive and give birth to the Only Begotten Son of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. When Mary replied, “behold the servant of God, let it be done unto me according to thy word”, instantly “the Son of God, become Son of the Virgin” for the salvation of men.
This Feast was celebrated by the Patriarchate as follows;
At the Monastic Church of Saints Constantine and Helen, with the lead in prayer of H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos.
In Nazareth, the town of the Annunciation, led by His Eminence Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth. H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos sent the following Sermon to the celebrating flock;
“Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; for the co-eternal and co-beginningless Son of the Father, Who is of one throne with Him, taking pity and filled with man-befriending mercy, condescended unto the emptying of Himself according to the good pleasure and Will of the Father, and He dwelt in the Virgin’s womb, which was purified before by the Spirit. O wonder! God is among men, the Uncontainable is the womb, the Timeless One is in time; and wondrous it is that the conception is without seed, and the emptying ineffable, and the mystery so great! For God emptieth Himself, and becometh flesh, and is fashioned, the Angel having declared the conception unto the pure Virgin: Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, even He that hath great mercy” St. John Damascene proclaims. (Minaion March 25, sticheron at the end of Matins).
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Noble Christians and pilgrims.
Today the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church rejoices and is glad with the holy feast of the universal event that took place in Nazareth, namely of the Annunciation of our Lady Theotokos, the Most Blessed and Ever-Virgin Mary, by the Archangel Gabriel who greeted her with the words; “”Rejoice Thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28).
The hymn writer says; “Today is revealed the mystery that is from eternity, and the Son of God becometh the Son of man; that in partaking of what is worse, He may impart unto me of what is better. In ancient times Adam was cheated of his hopes, and he became not God as he desired. God becometh man, that He might make Adam God”. (Matins praises, Glory both now).
In other words, the eternal mystery which was revealed to us men, is no other than the mystery of the divine Providence, which is the incarnation of God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, through the pure flesh of the Ever-Virgin Mary. This mystery was foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament, especially by Prophet Isaiah by saying; “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Regarding this, St. John Damascene says in his praise to the Annunciation; “Rejoice, thou who have been foretold by the prophets of old. Rejoice the conclusion of the Old Testament!” And Prophet-King David chants; “O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1-2).
The salvation of the Lord refers to the incarnate God the Word, Christ the King of Heaven, as St. John Damascene denotes with the deepest theological meaning of the feast of the Annunciation with his hymn; “The King of Heaven, because of His love for mankind, appeared on earth and dwelt with men. He took flesh from the pure Virgin and after assuming it, He came forth from her. The Son is one, two natures yet one person. Proclaiming Him as perfect God and perfect man, we confess Christ our God! Entreat Him unwedded Mother to have mercy on our souls” (Octoechos, Theotokion tone 8).
On the one hand, it is undeniable that the fall of man which happened by his own free will through the working of the devil, introduced the world into death and corruption, namely into sin. On the other hand, the ineffable love and philanthropy of God the Father, did not forsake His creature, and therefore sent the pure and Virgin Mary and made her womb a paradise with the divine light, where Christ our Saviour dwelt. Christ is the new Adam who was born through the pure flesh of the Virgin without corruption, namely without sin, in contrast to the old Adam, who was made of earth, as the psalmist says; “For he [God] knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).
Through the Full of Grace Virgin Mary, my dear ones, we have found the way, namely the gate of light, through the eyes of our hearts which have been opened. Through the Annunciation of Theotokos, our unwise and darkened mind has been lit up with the wondrous light of the Son of God who becomes Son of the Virgin.
Behold therefore why St. John Damascene addresses the Mother of God praising her; Rejoice thou through whom the One who is full of mercy for man was made manifest to us, becoming a man. Rejoice, thou alone blessed among women, who has corrected the fault of our foremother Eve.
The correction of Eve’s fault does not have a mere theoretical and moral-logical character, but an essential meaning, referring to the very meaning of the mystery of the divine Providence, namely of the salvation of man through Christ. “I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32) says the Lord. “He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” prophet Joel says (Joel 2:13).
The coming of the Holy Spirit and the overshadowing of the power of the Most High (Luke 1:35), have made the Full of Grace Virgin Mary of Nazareth the New Eve, “through whom we were redeemed from the curse” according to St. John Damascene. In other words, the New Eve, the Most Blessed Theotokos Mary, announced to the world of the curse and of sin the joy of repentance and of salvation; and this is so, because through Virgin Mary, the Lord God united Himself with the human nature, as St. Theodore of Studion says: “through thee incorrupt, unwedded Virgin Mother, God assumed my nature, He who created the time and united Himself with the human nature”.
Through today’s feast of the Annunciation, our Holy Church calls every single man to his own annunciation, namely to the fact that “God gave repentance to life” according to Apostle Peter (Acts 11:18), and “life” is our Lord Jesus Christ who became incarnate through the full of Grace Virgin Mary.
Let us entreat my brothers, the Theotokos Mother of God and our Mother, along with St. John Damascene and say; Prolong your mercy All-good Lady to those who know you and look down upon your servants and guide us all to the path of peace [and repentance] and deliver us and the whole world from the corona virus pandemic, as our eyes are turned to you in hope, and we have you to intercede to your Son and our God, to Whom belongs the glory and the power, along with the Father without beginning, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen. Many happy returns, blessed Great Lend and Happy Easter.”
3. At the Holy Church of Theotokos’ Tomb in Gethsemane, led by His Eminence Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba with the participation in prayer of the Hegoumen Most Reverend Archbishop Dorotheos of Avela.
4. At the Holy Church of Rafidia Community, by Jacob’s well, led by Archimandrite Leontios.
THE NAME DAY OF HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS
On Saturday, March 15/28, 2020, the Patriarchate celebrated in transference the Name Day of H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the Feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs who martyred at the lake of Sebastia of Pontus during the reign of Licinius in 320 A.D., as the Holy Martyr Theophilos was one of them.
In the afternoon.
On the eve of the Feast, after the reading of the 9th Hour at the Monastic Church of Saints Constantine and Helen, the Patriarchal entourage went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre through the staircase of St. James Cathedral, and held the Service of Great Vespers as “Parresia”. The Service with the Great Entrance and the Blessing of Bread was led by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos and only a few clergy, Geronda Sacristan Most Reverend Archbishop Isidoros of Hierapolis, Dragouman Archimandrite Mattheos and Deacons. Their entrance was allowed by the Israeli Police in cooperation with the Patriarchate, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from whose consequences may the Lord our God protect us.
After the Service of Vespers the Canon of the Akathist followed, with the 4th Stasis of the Salutations to the Most Holy Theotokos, led by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of Lydda.
On the Feast Day
An All-night Vigil was celebrated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the entrance was through St. James Cathedral and the Monastery of Abraham. The Service was officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with co-celebrants their Eminences; Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, Archbishops Isidoros of Hierapolis and Aristovoulos of Madaba, Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, Dragouman Archimandrite Mattheos, Archdeacon Mark and Deacon Patrikios, and the participation of the Temple Fathers.
At 11.00 am the following morning, the Doxoloxy was chanted at the Monastic Church of Saints Constantine and Helen with the participation of the Fathers of the Central Monastery.
Afterward, at the Reception Hall of the Patriarchate, Geronda Secretary-General Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina addressed His Beatitude as follows;
“Your Beatitude, Father and Master,
The commemoration of the Holy Forty Martyrs, who fought the good fight and were crowned at the lake of Sebastia of Pontus during the reign of Licinius in 320, is a feast we celebrate at the beginning of March and a stronghold of power and hope for the continuation of the spiritual fight of fasting, which concludes at the fair harbour of the bright day of the Resurrection.
If this feast is celebrated thus by the Church as a whole, it is especially celebrated by the Mother of Churches as it is also related to the fact that Your Beatitude bears the name of one of these martyrs.
Therefore, especially honouring the holy martyr Theophilos and Your Beatitude, this feast was celebrated as Parresia at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with an All-night Vigil and the Doxology in the morning at the Monastic Church of Saints Constantine and Helen, with the participation of Hagiotaphite Fathers, the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr. Christos Sophianopoulos and the Representative of the Moscow Patriarchate in MISSIA, Reverend Archimandrite Alexander, withing the limits of our ability to gather due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Having thanked the Lord in the Church and prayed for the health and stability of Your Beatitude, and now at the Reception Hall of the Patriarchate, we congratulate You for Your Name day, and offer You the righteous praise for all the good works You have accomplished for the benefit of the unity of Church of Christ in the bond of peace, of the Pilgrimage and territorial rights of our Venerable Hagiotaphite Brotherhood and of the instruction of our reverend flock.
First of all, regarding the unity of the Church, Your Beatitude has made many efforts and actions, continuously underlining the need of the beginning of cultivating a dialogue, in order to achieve reconciliation and peace. Recognizing this contribution for the year 2018, the Moscow Patriarchate and His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II, has awarded You with the price for “outstanding activities in strengthening the unity of the Orthodox Christian nations” and “for upholding and promoting Christian values in the life of society”, at Your visit to Moscow last November after the personal invitation from the President of Russia Mr. Vladimir Putin.
As far as the works of spiritual enhancement and benefit of our flock are concerned, worth mentioning is the cooperation with the Palestinian Authorities for the renovation of the historic Church of St. Moses the Ethiopian in the Rafidia Community near Jacob’s well, the construction of the ikonostasion with the icons of the Sahnin Community in Ptolemaida-Acre district, and the activities of Your Beatitude, the founding of an Athletic Academy in Karak of Jordan and Your Beatitude’s local and international activities for the protection of the property of the Patriarchate in Jaffa Gate and the preservation of the long-term Biblical and internationally established Status Quo of the Old City of Jerusalem, for the benefit of our Brotherhood, of the flock and all the Christians and pilgrims of the Holy Land.
In order to succeed in these goals, You Beatitude has cultivated good co-operation relations with the Political Authorities. Regarding the relationship with Greece, this was made obvious with the recent President of the Greek Republic Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos at the Patriarchate and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as that of the Minister of Tourism of Greece Mr. Haris Theoharous of the Secretary-General of the Public Diplomacy of Consulate and Religious Matters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Alexandris.
As far as the Patriarchate’s relations with the State of Israel are concerned, according to the Gospel’s words “give Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God”, Your Beatitude received at the Patriarchate the New Mayor of Jerusalem, and before the Heads of the local Christian Churches, mentioned the issue of the prominent unjust taxes on the Church properties, and at the ceremony of the Ministry of Tourism of Israel, You stressed the problem of the lack of water in the Christian Monasteries in Mount Tabor. Moreover, at the annual New Year meeting at the Presidential Residence, You asked the President Mr. Rouven Rivlin for the righteous solution of the unsolved issued of the properties of the Patriarchate at Jaffa Gate, with the cancellation of the illegal agreements singed a few years ago.
Regarding the relations of the Patriarchate with Jordan, they were good, taking into consideration the bonds of the Royal family with the Patriarchate, the Jordanian law of the Patriarchate in 1957 and the custody Jordan exercises over the Christian and Muslim shrines in Jerusalem.
Within these relations, Your Beatitude was warmly welcomed in New Year’s by the whole Mayoralty of Fhes town and His Royal Highness the King of Jordan Abdullah Ibn-Housein Althani hosted a special ceremony for our Christmas Feast, at the Baptism Site of the river Jordan, and received the Heads of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, who were guests of our Patriarchate in the brotherly meeting in Amman, for the beginning of the dialogue for the unity in the Orthodox Church, in respect of the “Primate’s honour” of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all its privileges under our Orthodox tradition.
Your Beatitude has also protected and safeguarded like “the pupil of the eye” the rights of our Hagiotaphite Brotherhood and our nation, every time they were questioned, as was the case at the recent event at the Feast of Epiphany, when the Armenians unsuccessfully tried to prevent the placement of the Orthodox icon at the God-receiving Cave in Bethlehem, a right that has been established with the Status Quo for many years.
Encouraged by these, the Hagiotaphite Fathers stand by Your Beatitude’s side in a common honest fight for the continuing protection of the heritage of our venerable Patriarchate and of our nation in the Holy Land, and the support of our Rum-Orthodox Arab-speaking flock, for the preservation of its identity and its development and increase towards works of common good.
Raising my glass in a toast, Your Beatitude, on behalf of the members of our Holy and Sacred Synod, and all the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, I wish You health and unshakable stability for many more years, in fruition and abundance of good works, for the praise of our blessed nation and the glory of our Trinitarian God.”
The Archbishop’s address was followed by addresses from the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr. Christos Sophianopoulos, and the Representative of the Moscow Patriarchate, Head of the Russian MISSIA, Archimandrite Alexander.
His Beatitude thanked those present with the following address:
“Nobly enduring things present, and rejoicing in things hoped for, the holy Martyrs said one to another: Shall we not indeed strip off this garment? Yea rather, let us cast off the old man. Bitter is winter, but sweet is Paradise; painful is this freezing, but pleasant shall be that enjoyment. Let us not waver, O fellow soldiers. Let us endure for a little while, that we may put on the crowns of victory given by Christ God, the Saviour of our souls”, Basil the Great says on his sermon on the Forty Martyrs through the mouth fo the hymn writer of the Church. (Minaion March 9, Vespers, first idiomelon).
Your Excellency, Consul General of Greece Mr. Christos Sophianopoulos,
Reverend Fathers and Brothers,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“God is life, and light and those in the hands of God exist is life and light” St. John Damascene says about the souls of the saints, of the righteous ones, according to the Biblical words: “But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them” (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1) and “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His people” (Psalm 115:5).
Indeed, precious in the sight of the Lord was the death of today’s honoured Holy Forty Martyrs and their co-martyr Theophilos, who martyred at the lake of Sebastia. These saints were not afraid of the threats of the tyrants, nor did they flinch by the insults of the torments, as they had the Cross of Christ their divine weapon, as the hymn writer of the Church says; we stand in owe before the struggles of the Holy Martyrs, as being in a mortal body they defeated the bodiless enemies; they were not afraid of the threats of the tyrants, nor were they intimidated by the instults of the torments; they were indeed worthy to be glorified by Christ, and that our souls may receive the great mercy.
The holy forty Martyrs were righteously glorified by Christ, because they sought the glory of God the Father rather than that of the people, 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). For His sake, the Forty soldiers left every army of the world and entered the martyrdom of their blood, preaching not themselves, but the redeeming truth of Christ, Who shone into their hearts the light of knowledge of the glory of God the Father in Him (Christ), (2 Cor. 4:6).
The martyrdom of the glory of God the Father in His Only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom all martyrs along with those honoured today imitated, is witnessed and proclaimed continuously at the place of His Passion on the Cross and the three-day burial of our Lord, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where we celebrated the sacrament of the Eucharist, of the bloodless sacrifice and praised in Doxology our All-merciful God.
The God-bearing Father of the Church Basil, praising the undefeated mind of the forty martyrs, who gladly rejected their last garments, urges us to hear their unity of faith: “We are not being undressed from our clothes, they said, but we denounce the old man in us, the corrupt by the disires of treachery. We thank Thee Lord, that we expel sin along with this garment. Because of the snake we got dressed, but for Christ’s sake we get undressed”.
The sacred commemoration of the Holy Forty Martyrs is calling us, my dear Brothers and Sisters, in the middle of the Great Lent, in order to become imitators of their Christ-like mind, as St. Basil the Great says: “For God is their common Father and everybody is their brother, as they were not born by a man and a woman, but by the adoption of the Spirit, adjusting in the unity through love with each other”.
Our Mediocrity, bearing the name of Theophilos, the co-martyr of the Holy Forth Martyrs, rend glory and thanksgiving to the Holy Trinitarian God on this Holy Feast, in which “we celebrate our salvation” but also our calling in this institutional mission, namely of the Shepherd of the Most Holy Church of Jerusalem, and of the Hegoumen of the Monastic Order of our Venerable Hagiotaphite Brotherhood.
Every virtue and praise is owed to the Saints! They shed their blood, for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Who emptied Himself, taking upon Himself the form of a servant; these holy Martyrs of Christ, fighting on earth stepped upon the enemy and banished the falsehood of the idols, therefore they received the grace to heal the illnesses of the sick and while still in life and after death they work miracles, according to the hymn writer of the Church who speaks about the Lord’s words: “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matt. 10:1).
Let us therefore pray to the Holy Forty Martyrs and their co-martyr Theophilos, who have boldness in heaven, so that by their intercesions and those of the Ever-Virgin Mary we may preach Christ Crucified, healer of our souls and bodies, and being free from the the Coronavirus epidemic, we may celebrate the bright Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For all these, we wish to all who prayed with us, those present and the absent ones (due to the COVID-19 lockdown), strength from on high, the grace of the All-Holy and Life-giving Tomb, patience, and every blessing from God, expressing warm thanks to those who addressed US, Geronda Secretary-General Most Reverend Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, who spoke on behalf of our Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, His Excellency the Consul General of Greece Mr. Christos Sophianopoulos, Reverend Archimandrite Alexander, Head of the Russian MISSIA and representative of the brotherly Holy Church of Russia, who conveyed the wishes of His Beatitude the Patriarch of Moscow Cyril and all others who joined Us in this celebration.
To the health of all of you!”
THE NATIONAL FEAST OF 25TH MARCH 1821 AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Wednesday, March 12/25, 2020, the Patriarchate celebrated the national feast of 25th March 1821 at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The feast was celebrated with a Doxology as a thanksgiving to God for His help for the liberation of our nation from the Ottoman yoke of slavery and as a prayer for the repose of the souls of our Forefathers, national martyrs, clergy and laity who fought gloriously and fell for their country and faith.
The Doxology was led by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with co-celebrant Hagiotaphite Archbishops and Hieromonks, the participation of the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr. Christos Sophianopoulos and members of the Greek community.
At the Patriarchate Reception Hall, after the Doxology the Consul General and His Beatitude addressed those present. His Beatitude’s address follows below;
“Rigas Feraios writes in “Thurios” one of his poems; it is better to live for one hour a free life, rather than live for forty years under slavery and imprisonment…come at this time with just one word to place our vow on the cross…
Your Excellency Consul General of Greece Mr. Christos Sophianopoulos,
Reverend Fathers and Brothers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Today the Rum Orthodox nation, celebrates the anniversary of 21st March 1821, the day of the Annunciation of the rebirth from the Ottoman yoke of slavery.
The historic event of the Greek revelation of 1821 does not only refer to the freedom from the Ottoman yoke, but it primarily refers to the irreversible and God-given right of the national liberty, as St. Paul preaches; “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
The faith in the living God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who liberated us from the bondage of the enemy and the strong desire for the freedom of the country were the inexhaustible source of power of the leaders of the revolution as well as of the enslaved Greeks.
The zeal for the divine gift of freedom and of the country justified fully the sacrificial and martyr’s fight of the enslaved Greeks, whose vow “was made on the Cross of Christ” as Rigas Feraios said. And according to St. Peter, “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1 Peter 3:13).
And we say this, because the motives of the 1821 fighters were primary, namely, pure and impulsive, with no external influences. This is also testified by the revolutionary slogan of the Elder of Moria, Theodoros Kolokotronis “now the fight is for the faith of Christ and for the freedom of the country”.
The collective national consciousness of the Greeks, forged by the high values of classical cultural heritage and the indefinable lifelong principles of the Patriarchal Orthodox tradition, opposed “the fashion of this world (which) passeth away” (1 Cor. 7:31) to the spiritual freedom of the soul and to the “continuing city” (Hebrews 13:14) or rather, country, of the resurrected Christ.
In other words, the annual celebration of the anniversary of the 1821 national rebirth is not only a fact of historical commemoration, but also of a moral message, for the present and the future of the contemporary so called developed world, which being trapped in its material and financial bliss, whether conscious or unaware, promotes the intellectual and psychosomatic suicide of its citizens.
And the contribution of the Church, through its holy clergy, including members of our Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, was decisive. Countless Hierarchs, among whom Palaion Patron Germanos who raised the banner of the revolution, Priests, like Cosmas Aitolos and simple Monks, all shed their blood and became martyrs of the national-religious freedom, which “is born from the sacred bones of the Greeks” according to our national poet Dionysios Solomos.
Our venerable Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, in accordance to St. Paul’s words; “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1), and rendering as it should “honour to whom honour [is due]” (Romans 13:7), and also participating at the sacred commemoration of the rebirth of the noble nation of the Greeks, went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were we prayed in Doxology and praise for “the blood of His Cross” (Col. 1:20) and the resurrected from the dead, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
We also prayed for the repose of the souls of those who fought heroically for the faith and the country and martyred for the nation of the Rum Orthodox.
On this occasion therefore, let Us make a toast and exclaim as we should;
Long live 25th March 1821!
Long live the noble and royal nation of the Rum Orthodox!
Long live Hellas!
Long live our Hagiotaphite Brotherhood!”
SUNDAY OF THE ADORATION OF THE PRECIOUS AND LIFE-GIVING CROSS AT THE PATRIARCHATE
The 3rd Sunday of Great Lent, March 9/22, 2020 was celebrated by the Patriarchate as Sunday of the Adoration of the Precious and Life-giving Cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church has designated for this Sunday the veneration of the Holy Cross with a special service, so that the faithful may be strengthened by its protection for the remaining of the fasting during Great Lent.
At the Patriarchate of Jerusalem this feast was celebrated as Parresia with Great Vespers at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the afternoon, led by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos.
On the day of the Feast, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the All-Holy Tomb, again led by His Beatitude, with the co-celebration of their Eminences; Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, the Archbishops; Theophanes of Gerassa, Theodosios of Sebastia, Demetrios of Lydda, Aristovoulos of Madaba, and His Eminence Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks and deacons, as the chanting was delivered by the Byzantine choir leader Hierodeacon Simeon on the right and Mr. Vasilios Gotsopoulos on the left. The service was attended by monks and nuns of the Patriarchate, members of the Greek Consulate in Jerusalem and only a few faithful of the city of Jerusalem, due to the restriction measures for the protection against COVID-19 virus.
The Divine Liturgy was followed by the Litany three times around the Holy Sepulchre and the shrines. After the Litany, His Beatitude read a prayer against infectious disease before the Holy Tomb.
Concluding the Services, the congregation returned to the Patriarchate Headquarters, where His Beatitude briefly addressed the few Fathers and faithful present, wishing the strength of the Precious and Life-giving Cross may help the tackling and eliminating of every disease and infliction of the evil one.
His Beatitude’s address follows below;
“Today the words of the Prophet are fulfilled: for see, we worship at the place on which Thy feet have stood, O Lord; and tasting from the Tree of salvation, we have been delivered from our sinful passions at the intercessions of the Theotokos, o Thou who alone lovest mankind”, the hymn writer of the Church proclaims (Triodion, Third Sunday of Lent, Matins, Canon 3, hymns of the Cross).
Today my dear brothers and sisters our Holy Church celebrates the Veneration of the Precious and Life-giving Cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is for our comfort and strengthening in order to go through Great Lent in fasting and repentance.
Christ’s Cross is not only a symbol of victory and triumph against the devil, it is also the incarnation of the righteousness in Christ and of our redemption from the corruption of death, namely of sin, as St. Paul proclaims by saying: “And you, being dead in your sins… hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:13-15).
Interpreting these words, St. Chrysostom says: “With His death on the Cross, Christ stripped the powers and principalities on the one hand; and on the other, He humiliated the evil powers and put them in shame”. In this sense, Christ’s Cross is the means “by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:11) according to Paul.
In other words the Precious Cross is the means of the divine mystery of atonement and reconciliation of us humans with God, as St. Paul preaches: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).
Behold therefore, why the Cross is the source of the power of the Church, but also its boast, St. Paul confesses, by saying: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). And according to St. Cyril of Alexandria, the Cross of the Saviour stands for the life of the world and its incorruption” (Sofon. 621.20).
This means that through the Cross and by the Cross, life in Christ is made understood, according to the Lord’s word: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). In other words, the word of the Cross is God’s power just as the Gospel of Christ is God’s power, leading to the salvation of anyone who believes, according to Paul (1Cor. 1:18, Romans 1:16).
Our Holy Church has called us to the communion of this power of the Cross, through the veneration of the Precious and Life-giving Cross in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre today, the third Sunday of Great Lent, so that we may be deemed worthy to celebrate also the Life-giving Resurrection of our God and Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Whose mercy and the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit may be with all of us. Amen.”
THE SUNDAY OF ORTHODOXY AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On the First Sunday of Great Lent, February 24/ March 8, 2020, the Patriarchate celebrated as ‘Parresia’ at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the commemoration of the restoration of the Holy Icons by the Empress Theodora and her son Michael in 842, during the Patriarchal Office of St. Methodios the Confessor.
Ever since, the Church celebrates the restoration of the icons as a triumph of Orthodoxy, namely of the truth that the holy icons witness the incarnate presence and image of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth.
On this Feast, Great Vespers was held in the afternoon with the welcoming, veneration at the Holy Deposition slate and the Holy Tomb, incense, Great Entrance and the Blessing of Bread, led by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos.
In the morning of the Feast, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Catholicon, officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with co-celebrants; his Eminence Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, their Eminences Archbishops; Theophanes of Gerassa, Theodosios of Sebastia, Demetrios of Lydda, Makarios of Qatar and Philoumenos of Pella, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks with first in rank Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, visiting Priests from other Churches, and Hierodeacons. The chanting was delivered by the Byzantine Choir Leader Hierodeacon Simeon on the right and Mr. Vasilios Gotsopoulos with Mr. Skordilis on the left. The service was attended by the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr. Christos Sophianopoulos and members of the Consulate, along with a congregation of local pilgrims.
The Divine Liturgy was followed by the Procession three times around the Holy Tomb and then around the shrines, with all faithful holding icons in their hands.
At the end of the Procession, His Beatitude read the Synodical Decision of Orthodoxy from the Triodion in front of the Holy Tomb.
Finally, bells tolling, the Patriarchal entourage returned to the Patriarchate Main Reception Hall, where His Beatitude addressed all present as follows;
“As the prophtes saw, as the Apostles taught, as the Church has received…Likewise we believe, likewise we speak, likewise we preach Christ our true God, and honour His Saints by word, venerating in icon God as the Master, and respecting the genuine healers for the common Master, honouring and rendering the relevant veneration” (Synodical decisions of the seventh Ecumenical Synod).
Today our Holy Church celebrates in festivity the triumph of its healthy Orthodox faith, namely the restoration of the holy icons and the rendering of their relative veneration.
This event is a landmark in the history of the Church, which has been tested harshly and arduously by the enemies of the holy icons, who are known as “Iconoclasts”.
The iconoclasts were not against the icons, but against the veneration of the depicted face of the God-man Christ, our Saviour, as also against the saints of the Church.
In other words, the iconoclasts tried in a violent way to revive the known heresies of Arianism and especially of Nestorianism, which (heresies) distorted, and in essence denied, the great mystery of the incarnation of God the Word, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Needless to say that the foundation of the Orthodox Christian faith is the “unity by hypostasis” of the divine with the human nature, according to Saint Cyril of Alexandria. And according to Saint Gregory the Theologian: “what has not been received is incurable; what however is united in God, this is which is saved”. And according to the hymn writer of the Church; “The uncircumscribed Word of the Father became circumscribed, taking flesh from thee, O Theotokos, and He has restored the sullied image to its ancient glory, filling it with the divine beauty. This our salvation we confess in deed and word, and we depict it in the holy icons” (Kontakion of Sunday of Orthodoxy Matins).
Righteously, therefore, the Church of Christ rejoices today and cries out: “The grace of truth has shone forth upon us; the mysteries darkly prefigured in the times of old have now been openly fulfilled. For behold, the Church is clothed in a beauty that surpasses all things earthly, through the icon of the incarnate Christ that was foreshadowed by the ark of testimony. This is the safeguard of the Orthodox faith; for if we hold fast to the icon of the Saviour whom we worship, we shall not go astray” (Glory of Vespers, Sunday of Orthodoxy).
Rendering glory and thanksgiving to our Holy Trinitarian God, let us pray to the unchangeable icon of God the Father of our Saviour Christ, so that by the intersessions of His Immaculate Mother, our Lady Theotokos Mary and of all the Saints, we may be granted the great mercy. Amen. Many happy returns and blessed Great Lent.”
On Sunday evening the Contrite Vespers was held at the Catholicon of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with the participation of His Eminence Archbishop Theophanes of Gerassa, while Dragouman Archimandrite Mattheos delivered a Sermon to the congregation.
THE FIRST STASIS OF THE SALUTATIONS TO THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Friday evening of the First Week of Lent, the First Stasis of the Salutations to the Most Holy Theotokos was read at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as part of the Service of the Small Compline and the Canon of the Akathist.
This contrite service was officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, who entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre accompanied by Hagiotaphite Fathers. After the Contakion of the Akathist and the incense offering, according to the Typikon order, His Beatitude read the First Stasis of the Salutations to the Most Holy Theotokos and before the end of the service delivered the following sermon to the congregation;
“When the bodiless one learned the secret command, in haste he came and stood before Joseph’s dwelling, and spake unto the Maiden who knew not wedlock: The One Who hath bowed the Heavens by His descent is held and contained unchanging wholly in thee. Seeing Him receiving the form of a servant in thy womb, I stand in awe and cry to thee: Rejoice, thou Bride unwedded”; our Holy Church narrates in melody.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Noble Christians and pilgrims
Behold, “fasting has come, mother of chastity, accuser of sins, advocate of repentance, life of the angels and salvation of men” St. Theodore of the Studion says (Triodion, Monday of first week, Aposticha of Praises).
Indeed, the salvation of us people is inseparable to the bodily and spiritual fasting. And fasting is inseparable to the great mystery of the Divine Providence, namely God the Word and our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who received the form of a servant in the womb of the Ever-Virgin Mary the Mother of God.
For this reason, our Holy Church keeps the Service of the Akathist Hymn to our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary in a festive manner during the Great Lent. The content of the Akathist refers to the unspeakable mystery of the God’s condescension and of His Divine reconciliation (Romans 5:10), which means that it refers to the incarnation of Christ, God the Word, through the pure flesh of the Ever-Virgin Mary, as St. Andrew of Crete very clearly states: “We celebrate the union of God with men, the deification of the human nature, the reform of our humankind, our change for the better, our lifting up and our ascension to heaven”.
This is the purpose of the prayer and repentance during the fasting of the Great Lent, to “the deification of the form which we have received”, for which St. Gregory of Nazianzen writes: “For that which has not been received is incurable; but the one who is united with God, that can be saved”.
And we are wondering; what is that “which has been received”? It is no other, my dear ones, than our human nature which has fallen through sin and has been wounded, the human nature which “the Son and Word of God, Christ, has transformed in Himself, namely, has healed, rendering to it [our human nature] the first gift of “being according to the image” which was the first honour that man lost by the carelessness of our ancestors, as St. Andrew of Crete says.
The mystery of the salvation of man is owed to the unspeakable and indescribable contribution of the Most Blessed Theotokos Mary and the gratitude of our Holy Church is addressed to her.
Let as hear therefore, the relative to this event interpretation of St. John Chrysostom, regarding the narrative of St. Luke the Evangelist about Virgin Mary: “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth…and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27), and he had received such orders from God: “Go to Virgin Mary. Go forth to the living city for which the prophet said: “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (Ps. 87:3). Go to my logical paradise, go to the gate which is on the east (Ezekiel 40:6, 22:40), go to the worthy dwelling place of my Word (Ps. 32:14)…., go and greet Mary with the words “Rejoice thou who art full of grace” (Luke 1:28), so that I may have mercy upon Eve who has fallen”. Behold therefore, why the hymn writer of the Church exclaims: “Rejoice thou through whim joy shall shine forth; rejoice, thou through whom the curse shall be blotted out” and “Rejoice heavenly Ladder whereby God came down. Rejoice Bridge leading those of earth to Heaven”.
Our Holy Church my dear brothers and sisters is the Ark of our salvation, namely of the healing and the freedom in Christ. Christ’s Cross and His Passion on the Cross are the heavenly ladder through which God humbled Himself in Jesus Christ, becoming “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). Moreover, Christ’s Cross is the bridge through which we are carried from the death of the passions, of the corruption and sin of this world, to the immortal and eternal life, namely to the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Let us therefore entreat the Theotokos that with her intercessions we may be deemed worthy to complete the period of the Great Lent and conclude to the Glorious Resurrection of Christ, in Whom and through Whom we will also be resurrected. Amen.”
THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON THE GOD-RECEIVER AT THE PATRIARCHATE
On Sunday, February 3/16, 2020, the Patriarchate celebrated the commemoration of Saint Simeon the God-receiver at the Holy Monastery dedicated to him, which is in New Jerusalem, near the Holy Monastery of the Sacred Cross and of the Hebrew Knesset.
On this feat the Church commemorates Saint Simeon the God-receiver, who received in his arms the forty-days-old Lord and cried out, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
In this old Monstery, where St. Simeon’s Tomb lies, Vespers for the feast was held in the afternoon, by Archimandrites Mattheos and Ieronymos and the Divine Liturgy in the morning led by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with co-celebrants their Eminences, Archbishop Methodios of Tabor, Metropolitan Panteleimon from Xanthi of the Church of Greece, and Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks and Arab-speaking Priests. The chanting was delivered by Mr. Vasilios Gotsopoulos and the service was attended by a congregation of local Orthodox Christians and pilgrims from Greece, Russia and Romania, as well as members of the Greek Consulate in Jerusalem.
His Beatitude read the following Sermon to this Congregation.
“The Elder, having seen with his eyes the salvation that was to come to the peoples, cried aloud unto Thee: ‘O Christ that comest from God, Thou art my God”. (Lord, when the Elder Simeon saw with his own eyes the Saviour that had come for all peoples, he cried aloud to you: Christ You are my God, the One Who has been born from God the Father, the melodist of the Church St. Cosmas Bishop of Maiouma exclaims).
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Noble Christians and pilgrims
The grace of the Holy Spirit which overshadowed Saint Simeon the God-receiver has gathered us all in this Holy place, where the Tomb and the honoured Saint lies, in order to celebrate in Eucharist the Meeting of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, when Righteous Simeon received Him in his arms.
This feast of the Meeting of the Lord is a projection of Christmas, and this is so because God the Word who became incarnate from the pure Ever-Virgin Theotokos Maria, and was made a perfect man, was also following the Law of the Old Testament to the letter, according to the custom of the time.
According to the Law of Moses, the Lord said; “Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast” (Exodus 13:2, 12-13). And with their entry to the Temple after the completion of forty days since their labour, the women who bore children had to offer “a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest” (Leviticus 12:6); or in case of being poor, “two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering” (Levit. 12:8).
Joseph and the Mother of Jesus, “when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him [Christ] to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord” in Solomon’s Temple , where the righteous Elder Simeon received Jesus as a baby in his arms according to the witness of Luke the Evangelist (Luke 2:22-35).
Today, the Holy Orthodox Church and especially the Church of Jerusalem honours and venerates the synaxis of the Holy and Righteous Simeon the God-receiver and of Anne the Prophetess; because the pious and righteous Simeon recognized the incarnate Son and Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. “The same man (Simeon) was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” Luke the Evangelist narrates (Luke 2:25-26).
According to Saint Basil the Great, Elder Simeon and Prophetess Anna saw the divine power in Christ “like light through light bulbs through the human body”. In other words, just as we see the light inside the light bulbs, likewise those who are pure in heart see and distinguish the divine light through Christ’s body. And according to Saint Athanasius the Great, while appearing to be a normal man, righteous Simeon was however a man of a higher status in meaning. He had the earthly and visible Jerusalem as a home city, but his metropolis was the heavenly Jerusalem.
This is theologically depicted in the hymn of Saint Cosmas Euhaiton by; “Thy virtue, O Christ, hath covered the heavens, for proceeding forth from the Ark of Thy sanctification, from Thine undefiled Mother, Thou hast appeared in the temple of Thy glory as an infant in arms, and the whole world hath been filled with Thy praise”.
According to the hymn writer Cosmas, the Theotokos Maria, being a new tabernacle “with a soul and logic”, according to St. John Damascene, held within her as a fetus the “sanctification”, namely “the holy body of the Lord, which was sanctified and deified by the divinity it had before it was conceived”. Therefore, “having come forth” from his immaculate mother, Christ appeared as a baby “in the temple of glory” “being brought into their arms”. “For while being God”, said John Damascene says, “he becomes a man…and is being held in the arms of men as a baby”.
And the “earthly arms” are those of the Elder Simeon. St. Luke the Evangelist says that Simeon “then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:28-32).
The gift of prophesy St. Simeon had enabled him to foresee that this baby, Christ, was to be the Saviour of the whole world, as Prophet Isaiah also said: “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6). And according to the psalmist; “The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen” (98:2).
The apostolic reading of the main feast is related to the event of today’s feast. “And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better” (Hebrews 7:7), St. Paul preaches, referring to the meeting of Patriarch Abraham with Melchisedek, the King of Salem and priest of God (Genesis 14:18-20). This is precisely what happened with the meeting of the baby Christ by the Elder Simeon. The eternal and Great High Priest Jesus Christ as a forty-day-old child is met with Elder Simeon in the temple and just like Abraham was blessed by Melchisedek, likewise, Simeon is being blessed by the Lord as he received Him in his arms (Luke 2:28).
In other words, the pious Simeon realized that this divine child is above him, while he is below, and rejoicing he cried out “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace” (Luke 2:29).
If we want, my dear brothers and sisters, to become communicants of the blessing that the righteous Simeon received, we should have as a prototype the faith and the desire, along with the patience he had, when we approach the Lord of glory, namely our Lord Jesus Christ, in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, where we become of one body and of one blood with our God and Saviour.
And along with the hymn writer let us say: “Come let us as well with songs inspired of God, go together to meet Christ; and receive Him Whose salvation Simeon hath now beheld. This is He Whom David proclaimed; this is He that in the Prophets hath spoken; Who is incarnate for our sakes, and Who speaketh in the Law. Let us worship Him” (Minaion 2 February, Great Vespers, Sticheron 3). Amen.”
After the Divine Liturgy the renovator of the Holy Monastery and the Church Elder Archimandrite Theodoritos offered a reception to the Patriarchal entourage at the Hegoumeneion and to the congregation at the courtyard of the Monastery.
HIS BEATITUDE AT THE 60TH BIRTHDAY OF THE HEAD OF THE RUSSIAN MISSIA IN JERUSALEM
On Wednesday evening, January 31/ February 12, 2020, the Head of the Russian MISSIA Archimandrite Alexander celebrated his 60th birthday.
First invited among other guests was His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, accompanied by Hagiotaphite Fathers, and He addressed Archimandrite Alexander as follows;
“Dear Archimandrite Alexander,
Members of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission,
We are delighted to take this opportunity, dear Archimandrite Alexander, to offer you sincere greetings to you on this blessed occasion of your 60th birthday.
We are grateful to you for gathering all of us together here at the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, for this gathering reflects the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious landscape that is at the heart of the true identity of this Holy City of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Indeed, the Russian Mission itself, which celebrated its 170th anniversary two years ago, is a living testimony to this unique mosaic of cultures, ethnicities, and religious traditions.
We do not take this rich diversity for granted, and we would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to you and to all who work at the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission for your commitment to our common mission here. We are deeply aware of the pastoral care that you extend to the monasteries of the Mission, as well as the many thousands of pilgrims who come to the Holy Land from the Russian Orthodox Church, and we know how deeply the pious peoples of the Russian Church love and venerate the Holy Places, and most specifically the Holy Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As the Psalmist says,
O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling (Psalm 42 : 3).
So many follow the prompting of the spirit to come to this holy hill – to Jerusalem – which is the spiritual home of all humankind.
We wish you, dear Archimandrite Alexander, the happiest of birthdays, and we pray that God will grant you many years in the service of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as a worthy successor to your predecessors who served sacrificially and maintained the bond of the love of Christ and the harmonious relationship between the Christians of the Russian lands and the Christians of the Holy Land.
In token of our prayers and our Patriarchal blessing, we wish to present to you this pectoral cross.