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THE FEAST OF THE SYNAXIS OF THE APOSTLES AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Tuesday, 30 June /13 July 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles.

By the word “Synaxis”, the Church does not mean the Gathering of the Apostles, but that of its faithful, in order to honour the twelve Apostles and Lord’s Disciples, for the mission they offered Christ and the Church, namely of the preaching about Christ and the spreading of the Gospel, through which they “didst draw the world into His net”.

The Church of Jerusalem was gathered for this feast at the Church of the Twelve Apostles in the centre of the city of Tiberias, on the northwest shore of Lake Gennesaret, the place of the appearance of the Lord after His Resurrection according to the 10th Matins Gospel (John 3:21).

There, on the feast day, the Divine Liturgy was officiated by His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the co-celebration of their Eminences: Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks with first in rank Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, the Archimandrites, Chrysostom, Artemios, Arab-speaking Priests from Nazareth district, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Eulogios. The chanting was delivered by the Byzantine choir of Acre under the lead of Archimandrite Philotheos, with the participation of Russian and Arab-speaking faithful Christians. 

Before the Holy Communion His Beatitude delivered the following sermon:

“Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:4), the psalmist proclaims.

Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

The grace of the sacred chorea of the Holy glorious and all-lauded Twelve Apostles has gathered us today in this Holy place of the Tiberias Seashore, where Jesus stood (John 21:4) and where the Apostles’ Monastery lies, to celebrate their commemoration.

In his “Revelation”, John calls the twelve Apostles the foundations of the Holy city of Jerusalem, which is the Church; “And I saw a new heaven and new earth…And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband [Jesus Christ] … And the wall of the city had twelve foundations and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21: 1-2, 14).

Talking about the mystery of marriage between a man and a woman, Saint Paul says; “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). It is noteworthy that Paul compares the union of marriage with the mysterious and unbreakable union of Christ with the bride Church. Therefore, he preaches that the Church is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:23) and He is the head of the body of the Church (Col. 1:18). Paul also says in his teaching that God the Father united the gentiles and the Jews in one Church through His Only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: “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 cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20).

From the aforementioned Biblical testimonies, we see the unbreakable relationship of Christ with the Church and the fundamental relationship between the Apostles and the Church of Christ, His body. The Apostles received their calling from Jesus, not from the people: “Have not I chosen you twelve?” (John 6:70). “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16). The power given to the Apostles was gushing out from Jesus Christ Himself, Who said: “take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matt. 10:19-20).

The great and wondrous day of Pentecost on which the Apostles received the uncreated energy of the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4), made them vessels of the gift of the Holy Spirit and preachers of the Word of the Gospel, and inaugurators of the Churches that were founded all over the world, along with the Bishops who were ordained and established by the Apostles.

“We are made as the filth of the world” (1 Cor. 4:13) as blessed Paul says about the Apostles, proven to “have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7), that they were “ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1), and that “this grace is given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:8-9), and moreover, that they are “the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 8:23).

Indeed, the Apostles are the “glory of Christ” and therefore, of His Church, because upon their calling they were given “power against unclean spirits” (Matt. 10:1) and “over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). And before his separation from His disciples, the Lord said to them: “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 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 14:25-26).

Interpreting these words, Cyril of Alexandria says: “the perfect and precise revelation of the mystery is given to us by the Comforter, namely of the Holy Spirit Who was sent by the Father in His Name, I say of the Son, [and our Lord, Jesus Christ]”.

This authority that the Apostles received by Christ upon their calling, as well as the perfect and precise revelation of the mystery of the Divine Providence, through the Comforter, namely the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, proves clearly the magnitude of the apostolic preaching on the one hand, and on the other, the extreme value of the Apostolic succession which brings together the institution of the divine-human body of the Church through the Holy Spirit.

Behold, therefore, why the Holy Apostles are the foundations of the Church of Christ and behold why the Holy God-bearing Fathers called the Church “Apostolic” in The Creed.

We, my dear brethren, who honour the commemoration of the Holy Apostles, would like to pray to our God and Saviour Jesus Christ and say along with the hymnographer: “Thou Who art Light that existed ere all ages, when Thou didst vouchsafe to come to me, the lowly man, through Thine ineffable love for man… Thine Apostle and disciples didst Thou then reveal as second lights brightly glittering with the resplendence and the dread lightning that flasheth froth from Thee; and being sent forth, they illumined all of creation with Thy light divine, O Lord. And they ever beseech Thee to enlighten and to save our souls” (Matins, praises, Troparion 3). And let us say to the Theotokos: “Thee do we bring forward as an indestructible weapon against our enemies; thee, O Bride of God, do we possess as the anchor and hope of our salvation”(Matins, Ode five, Theotokion). Amen. Many happy returns!”

After the Divine Liturgy, the good carer of the Monastery Archimandrite Parthenios hosted a meal for the Patriarchal entourage.

From Secretariat-General




THE FEAST OF THE HOLY APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Monday, 29 June/12 July 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of the Holy glorious and chiefs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

On this feast, the Church commemorates these two Apostles and their missionary work for Christ. The Church commemorates that Apostle Peter preached Christ Crucified and Resurrected, to the circumcision, namely to the Jews, while Apostle Paul preached to the nations and both of them became pillars of the Church, with the cooperation of the other Apostles.

The Church of Jerusalem celebrated this feast in Capernaum near the sea, on the northwest side of the river Jordan, where it meets the sea of Tiberias and in the Holy Apostles’ holy Church, which was built by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Damian in 1935.

The Divine Liturgy on the feast day was officiated by His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the co-celebration of their Eminences; Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina and Archbishop Isidoros of Hierapolis, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks with first in rank Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, Archdeacon Mark, Hierodeacon Eulogios and Arab-speaking Priests from the neighbouring areas of the Holy Metropolis of Nazareth. The chanting was delivered by the children’s Byzantine choir of Beer Sheva under the lead of His Eminence Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba in Greek, and the Byzantine choir of Acre under the lead of Archimandrite Philotheos in Arabic, with the participation of our flock from Galilee and elsewhere.

Before the Holy Communion, His Beatitude delivered the following sermon:

“The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen” (Psalm 98:2), the psalmist proclaims.

Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy hath” (1 Peter 1:3) gathered us in this holy place of Biblical Capernaum to celebrate the commemoration of the Holy Glorious and all-lauded Chiefs of the Apostles, Peter and Paul “who after the body were far apart, yet in the Spirit were bound as one” (Vespers, Troparion 1).

Peter and Paul are called chiefs of the Apostles because they were ear-witnesses of the Lord’s calling, Who said to Peter: “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:17-18), and to Paul: “I am Jesus whom thou persecute…And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision…Arise,  and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus…for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel…Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:5-20).

The special characteristic of Peter and Paul is the undeniable fact that they both confessed, by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, of course, that “Jesus is the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16, Acts 9:19-20). Moreover, Peter explicitly received the order by the Lord: “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?… Feed my lambs…  Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

Interpreting these words, Saint Cyril of Alexandria says: “with the triple confession of blessed Peter, the offence of the triple denial was abolished; and through the Lord’s words ‘feed my sheep’ there is a renewal of the mission that was already given to him, by which he solved the shame of sins and wiped out the cowardice which stems from the human inability”.

As for Saint Paul, he “knew a man in Christ …such a one caught up to the third heaven…How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. 12:2-4). Referring to this remarkable experience of Paul, Saint Chrysostom wonders; “for which reason was he caught up? So that he would not think himself inferior to the rest of the apostles. Because they were with Christ, but he was not, for this, he also was caught up in glory”.

Saint Paul was glorified by God because he became the primary Apostle of nations, according to his own witness: “inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office” (Romans 11:13). Moreover, he honoured his apostolic office not only through the redeeming preaching but also through his mission, namely his personal care and sleepless daily concern for all the holy churches, according to his own words: “In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:27-28).

Likewise, blessed Peter was glorified, honoured, by the Lord’s words: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19). This gift of the power to bind and loose was equally received by all the Apostles, with, of course, Peter being the first, as Zigavinos comments: “This gift was given to the other Apostles, but Peter was the first one to receive it; because he was the first to confess Christ as the Son of God”.

Praising the apostolic mission of Peter and Paul, Saint Gregory Palamas says: “Υou see how brilliant and equals Peter and Paul are and how the church of Christ is supported? For this reason [the church] now gives one and the same honour to both of them, co-celebrating them equally today”.

Calling upon the holy and God-pleasing end of the life and apostolic behaviour of these two Holy Apostles, our Father Gregory urges us to imitate them in their humility and correctness through repentance. Therefore, we say along with the hymnographer: “Rejoice, O Peter, Apostle and true friend of thy Teacher, Christ our God. Rejoice, most dearly beloved Paul, preacher of the Faith and teacher of the whole world. O holy and elect yoke-fellows, since ye have boldness, entreat Christ our God [along with the intercessions of the Most Blessed Theotokos Mary] that our souls be saved” (Vespers, Aposticha Glory). Amen. Many happy and blessed returns!”

After the Divine Liturgy, the good keeper and renovator of the Monastery Monk Eirinarchos hosted a meal for the Patriarchal Entourage and the congregation at the beachfront.

From Secretariat-General




THE AMERICAN CONGRESSMAN MR. FRENCH HILL VISITS THE PATRIARCHATE

On Thursday, June 25th / July 8th, 2021, the distinguished and honoured American Congressman French Hill, accompanied by his associates, visited the Patriarchate.

Mr French Hill was received by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos and Hagiotaphite Fathers and representatives of the other Christian Churches in Jerusalem, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal on behalf of the Franciscans Brotherhood, Fr. Don Binder from the Anglican Church, and Fr. Antonios from the Coptic Church, addressing him as follows:

“Mr Chairman,

Representative Hill,

Respected Members of your Delegation,

Your Beatitudes,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is our joy and privilege to welcome you to the Holy City of Jerusalem and to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. You make your visit to us at a crucial time in the life of the peoples of this region, and we are encouraged that by your meeting with this gathering of the Heads of the Churches you understand the supreme importance of the role of religion in our life here, and we know of your concern for our life and well-being.

The United States has a particular and unique relationship with our region. Not only are there long-standing governmental, economic, and political relationships, as well as relationships with a host of non-governmental agencies; there are also religious ties. Jews, Christians and Muslims, both here and in the United States share historic family and spiritual connections. Indeed, many families have members living both here and in your country. And of course, from the United States, many thousands of pilgrims from all the Abrahamic traditions come here every year on pilgrimage to the Holy Places. By choosing to come to our Patriarchate, you number yourselves among those who are true pilgrims, whatever other purposes their trip may have. It is even said that President Lincoln had wanted to visit Jerusalem on pilgrimage, and we look forward to welcoming back pilgrims from the United States when international travel becomes easier.

As in every corner of the world, the last months have been extremely challenging for us in the Holy Land. Because of the pandemic, our churches and Holy Sites have suffered significant restrictions and prolonged closure. We have been unable to share hospitality with pilgrims and tourists from around the world and our own communities have suffered significant hardship and deprivation. While COVID-19 has radically diminished our economic resources, we have continued, by God’s grace, to try to meet the great spiritual, physical, educational, and financial needs of our local communities.

After this period of prolonged hardship, the conflicts of recent months in the Holy Land have proven extremely difficult and devastating. The violent outbreaks have served only to deepen the problems that the pandemic has caused. For many in our communities, a crisis has become a catastrophe.

The broad media coverage and the recent violence has brought global attention to our local suffering. Despite all this coverage, the true beginnings of this most recent conflict remain largely untold. We think that it is incumbent upon us to be clear that these tragic events are the direct result of years of the growth of extremist ideologies and attacks by a growing number of radical groups which have gone unchecked and unpunished. These radical groups are intent on driving out Christians, Muslims and even some Jewish groups from the Holy City of Jerusalem and other communities of our region.

The attacks range from the verbal abuse of and physical assaults against clergy, and worshippers as we go about our daily business to the frequent vandalism and desecration of church property and Holy Sites. Just a few weeks ago we saw a vicious assault of two Armenian clergy right outside their monastery in the Armenian Quarter and an intrusion into our School on Mount Sion by radicals. Sadly, and worryingly, these kinds of incidents are no longer exceptions; they are a regular part of our life. And it is intolerable.

As spiritual leaders, we have no desire to enter into politics or to make political statements. Our only concern is the safety and continuing flourishing of the Christian community in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. As Churches, we have stood strong and united in the face of ongoing violence and vandalism. But the situation has changed significantly. Were we simply dealing with harassment, we could manage this. But the stakes are now too high. For we are face-to-face with radical groups who seek and are working systematically for our eviction from the Holy City, whether in the threat to seize church properties and specifically at the Jaffa Gate – which is the entrance to the Christian Quarter and the route of pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre – or in Sheikh Jarrah – where attempts forcefully to displace local citizens in recent days erupted into the violence and even death which we have seen on our TV screens.

The Christian presence in the Holy City and in the Holy Land is vital for the well-being and integrity of this region. For centuries we have inhabited a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious landscape that has given this region its unique character as the land of the divine-human encounter. And while the three Abrahamic faiths all have Holy Sites here, it is the Christian Holy Sites that guarantee a truly universal welcome to all people of goodwill, without distinction. In other words, the Holy Sepulchre is the main destination of all pilgrims and visitors of Jerusalem. This unique character is now under serious threat as never before.

This is another aspect of our lives here that unites us in a common understanding, for both your great country and this region alike live in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious national life. One must understand that this region, however, because of its historical and religious significance, does not belong just to one group. It is connected with sacred history and with moral values which are of universal significance, and we are both well aware of the importance to our mutual flourishing of protecting and defending this diversity of human, cultural, and spiritual experience.

The Churches and Christian Communities of the Holy Land remain firmly committed even in the face of unprecedented opposition and attack, to act as peacemakers and to carry out our spiritual mission. The mission of the Church has been fundamental in guaranteeing the sacredness of the rich cultural heritage of the Holy Land. Furthermore, we will continue to preserve the Holy Sites as places of worship and to keep them accessible to all who come here on pilgrimage.

However, we cannot remain silent to the reality that we are facing from the growing challenge to our very existence from radical groups. Nor can we do this on our own. We need our partners in the international community, and especially our friends and allies in the United States, and particularly in the government, who espouse respect for human dignity, to do this and through you, we call on the leaders of the Congress to a robust defence of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, against those who would work to undo our life here.

May God grant success to your mission. Through you, we seek to extend our partnerships in the United States. We look forward to working together, with the conviction that, with your support, we can continue to enable peoples of all faiths to thrive together in our beloved Holy Land.

Thank you.”

The address underlined the vital problems faced by the Churches of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the place of worship of the three Abrahamic religions but also of the current political instability and quarrels.

Replying, Mr French Hill said that one of the basic principles of The USA is the freedom of religion, which is also used by the US for the peaceful coexistence of the religions in the Holy Land and the support of the Christian identity.

On this visit, Mr French Hill offered His Beatitude an album with the title “Congregational Testimonies of Faith”, while His Beatitude offered him in return an icon of the Theotokos and a silver painting of Jerusalem, along with memorable dentist John Tleel’s book “I am Jerusalem”, and blessing from Jerusalem to his companions. 

From Secretariat-General

 




THE SYRIAC-CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF ANTIOCH VISITS THE PATRIARCHATE

On Monday morning, 22 June/5 July 2021, His Beatitude the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syriac-Catholic Church, Mar Ignatius Youssef III Younan and his entourage visited the Patriarchate.

This visit was a continuation of his visit in Israel from Lebanon to settle His Eminence Mar Yacoub Ephraim Semaan as the Representative-Exarch of the Syriac-Catholic Church in Jerusalem. In this enthronement ceremony, the Rum Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem was represented by His Eminence Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias.

While at the Patriarchate’s Reception Hall, His Beatitude the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syriac-Catholic Church Mar Ignatius Youssef III Younan was received by His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos and Hagiotaphite Fathers. His Beatitude addressed the visitors and referred to their cooperation at the Middle East Church Council. His Beatitude’s address follows below:

“Your Beatitude,

Your Excellency,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Dear Fathers,

It is a joy to welcome you, Your Beatitude, to the Holy City of Jerusalem, and especially for the blessed occasion of the enthronement of His Excellency Bishop Yacoub Ephraim Semaan as your Exarch in Jerusalem. We wish to express our formal congratulations to him as he assumes his responsibilities and joins us among the Heads of the Churches and Christian Communities of the Holy Land.

By the presence of your Exarch in Jerusalem, Your Beatitude, you affirm the spiritual significance of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is both the spiritual capital of Christianity and the spiritual capital of the whole world. And it is, therefore, the spiritual home of all people of goodwill. Here we live a truly ecumenical life. For we inhabit a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious landscape that has embraced many peoples for millennia. It is important that Jerusalem is the host of all our Christian traditions as part of this essential diversity of our experience in this region.

Your Beatitude is well known for your advocacy on behalf of Christians in our region, and you know well that our mission here is one of peace, mutual respect and co-existence., and reconciliation. We are called to the martyria of the love of God that is made known in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We pray that you will have a pleasant stay among us while you are in the Holy City, and we pray also for your new Exarch. May the light of the Holy Tomb enlighten him as he leads his community in the path of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May God bless all the peoples of Lebanon, Syria, and our beloved Holy Land.

Thank you.”

During this visit, there was also mention of issues related to the Middle East Christians.

His Beatitude the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos offered His Beatitude the Patriarch of the Syriac-Catholic Church of Antioch a silver painting depicting Jerusalem, and an icon of the Theotokos, while to His companions He offered blessings from Jerusalem. His Eminence Ignatius offered His Beatitude an icon of the Theotokos.

From Secretariat-General




THE FEAST OF PROPHET ELISHA AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Sunday, 14/27 June 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the commemoration of Holy Prophet Elisha in Jericho, the main place of his life and action.

On this feast, the Church commemorates that Prophet Elisha, son of Safat from the town Avel Meoul in the land of Manasi, was a farmer by profession and was called by Prophet Elijah to follow him. In the Books of the Old Testament and especially in 4 Kings there are many signs of God’s gifts to him.

In Jericho, he turned the bitter into drinking waters with his prayer. He saw his teacher Prophet Elijah being lifted up into the heavens in a fiery chariot and this was the sign that he was going to receive double the Prophet’s grace. Prophet Elijah threw down on Elisha his fleece and he placed it on the surface of the River Jordan and crossed on the other side.

In honour of this prophet, “who drove away sicknesses and healed the leppers”, the Divine Liturgy was officiated at the Church bearing his name in Jericho, by the sycamore tree of Zacchaeus, by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with the co-celebration of their Eminences; Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, the Hegoumen of the Holy Monastery of Saint Gerasimos, Archimandrite Chrysostom, the Hegoumen of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, Archimandrite Ignatios, the Hegoumen of Sarantarion Mount, Hieromonk Onuphrius, Father Gabriel and Archdeacon Mark. The chanting was delivered by Archimandrite Chrysostom in Greek on the right, and the Jericho Byzantine Choir on the left in Arabic, at the attendance of faithful from Jericho and other towns.

Before the Holy Communion His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon:

“But the righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High. Therefore, shall they receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord’s hand: for with his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he protect them”, we read in the Holy book of the Wisdom of Solomon (Wisdom of Solomon 5:15-16).

Beloved brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

The grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us all in this biblical place of the ancient city of Jericho today, on this Sunday after Pentecost, to celebrate the feast of All the Saints, and especially honour the commemoration of Prophet Elisha, in his Monastic Church.

“The righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High” the holy writer says (Wisdom of Solomon 5:15). To the question, who are righteous? Our Lord Jesus answers by saying: “Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, he will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, he will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33).

In other words, if one confesses God on this earthly life, Christ will confess for him before the Father in the eternal heavenly life, namely in His Kingdom. And if someone denies Jesus Christ as God-man and Saviour before the people in this world, Christ will also deny him before the people and the holy angels in eternal life.

The “Righteous”, in essence, are those who confess Christ as perfect God and perfect man, having received flesh from the pure flesh of the Ever-Virgin and Theotokos Mary through the Holy Spirit. These Righteous are, according to Saint Paul, the ones who make “the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23), and they are the ones who pleased God of old, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Ascetics, Hierarchs, Teachers, Righteous and the chorea of the Holy Women. That is why the hymnographer says: “They that have borne witness in all the earth and have transferred their dwellings to the Heavens, who have imitated Christ’s Passion and take away our passions, are assembled here today, showing that the Church of the first-born furnisheth a figure of the Church above as she crieth out to Christ: Thou art my God; preserve me through the pure Theotokos, O Thou Who art greatly merciful” (Pentecostarion, Feast of All Saints, Matins, Oikos).

“Therefore, shall they receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord’s hand: for with his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he protect them” (Wisdom of Solomon 5:15-16). This means that God the Father, Who has undertaken the care of the righteous, will reward them in His Kingdom. All Saints, namely the Righteous, will be crowned with a glorious crown in the Kingdom of Heaven.

All the Saints, or the Righteous, include the Holy Prophets of the Law of Moses, among whom Prophet Elisha, who we honour today is distinguished. Blessed Paul refers to the innumerable crowd of the martyrs of truth and projects them to the temporary Christians as an example to imitate, with the words: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). [And in more detail: therefore, as we are surrounded by such a great cloud of people who suffered a martyr’s death for the sake of the truth of faith, let us free ourselves from the weight of any worldly cares, moreover of sin, to which one can be easily drawn, and let us run patiently the race that the enemy puts in front of us. And let us not turn our eyes and attention to no other but Jesus Christ, Who is the Chief and founder of our faith, and makes us perfect in it].

Interpreting these words of Paul, “we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), Saint Chrysostom denotes that the Apostle is not only referring to those who preached the truth in the New Testament but also in the Old; “as they also martyred the majesty of God”.

And what is God’s majesty? It is the mystery of the Divine revelation, the Divine Providence, which was dimly revealed to the Prophets, but in full essence in God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. And we say this, because Christ is the fullness of the Law of Moses and of the Prophets, as the Lord Himself says: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17).

Our Holy Church honours and venerates the commemoration of Holy Prophet Elisha, because he acquired the deepest knowledge of the beyond-our-mind mystery of God, prophesied about the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and many wonders did God make through Elisha, who was a disciple of prophet Elijah.

As for us, my dear ones, let us entreat the holy prophet Elisha and say along with the hymnographer: “With hymns let us the faithful honour Elias and Elisseus, the pinnacles of the Prophets, those brightly shining luminaries of the whole world; and let us cry out in harmony unto Christ: O compassionate Lord, by the entreaties of Thy Prophets, [the also celebrated today, Saint Methodios, Archbishop of Constantinople, Holy Hieromartyr Cyril, Bishop of Gortyna of Crete, along with the intercessions of the Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary] grant Thy people forgiveness of sins and great mercy. Amen. Many happy returns, free from the corona plague!”

The Divine Liturgy was followed by a small reception and then a meal, hosted by the good keeper of the Monastery Archimandrite Philoumenos and Archimandrite Chrysostom. His Beatitude thanked them for their Hagiotaphite care and later on visited the neighbouring Monastery of the Life-giving Spring and the newly constructed buildings by Archimandrite Chrysostom.

From Secretariat-General




THE FEAST OF SAINT ONUPHRIUS AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Friday 12/25 June 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of our Holy Father Onuphrius the Egyptian. The Church commemorates Saint Onuphrius from Egypt, who left the Coenobitic life, retreated in the desert for sixty years in strict ascesis and solitude, and became known to the Fathers when Saint Paphnutius found him.

The commemoration of the Saint was observed at the Holy Monastery dedicated to him, near the pool of Siloam, at the Potter’s field, which the Sanhedrin bought to bury the foreigners with the thirty pieces of silver that Judas returned to them (Matt. 27:1-11).

Among the many carved tombs in the Monastery lies the tomb of Saint Iouvenalios, the first Patriarch of Jerusalem (AD 451).

At the Holy Church of this Monastery, which is inside a carved rock, the Divine Liturgy was officiated by His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with the co-celebration of their Eminences, Metropolitans Kyriakos of Nazareth and Isychios of Kapitolias and Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Elder Dragoman Archimandrite Mattheos, Archimandrite Makarios, Priest Yusef, Priest Elias and Priest Simeon, Archimandrite Isidoros, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Eulogios. The chanting was delivered by Mr Gotsopoulos and Archimandrite Eusevios, as the Service was attended by Monks, Nuns, the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Evangelos Vlioras and many faithful Christians.

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

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:”16-17), Saint Paul says.

Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

The strengthening grace of the Holy Spirit, Who came in the form of tongues of fire upon the Holy Apostles and Disciples of the Lord, has gathered us in this place of “the potter’s field”, which is also called “the field of blood” (Matt. 27:7-8), to celebrate the holy commemoration of our Righteous Father Onuphrius the Egyptian, at the Monastery dedicated to him, which was founded by the reverend Hagiotaphite Fathers.

Our Holy Father Onuphrius envied the manner of living of Saint John the Baptist and of Prophet Elijah, and of his fellow countryman Saint Anthony and retreated in the desert “where he lived for sixty years having seen no man” according to his synaxarist.

His truly ascetic and angelic life made Saint Onuphrius worthy of the crown of righteousness, which the Lord prepared for him, as the hymnographer says.  And what is the crown of righteousness that our Holy Father Onuphrius received by the Lord?

We hear Saint Paul saying: “And if a man also strives for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strives lawfully” (2 Tim 2:5). Again, referring to himself, Saint Paul says: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim 4:7-8).

Interpreting this word of Paul, Saint Chrysostom says: “the one who loves [the righteous Judge, the Lord’s] presence, does all things so that before the Second Coming, it will be done unto him to live within him the personal coming, according to Saint John the Evangelist: “if a man loves me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

Interpreting these words, Saint Cyril of Alexandria says: “Those whose mind is excessively enlightened by every kind of virtue, and thus they have become able to comprehend the divine and hidden mysteries, they will carry the torch of the Holy Spirit and behold the Lord with their mind’s eyes, as He has dwelled within them. Therefore, the knowledge of the Saints is not common to all, but it is something special and marvellous and differs greatly from the knowledge of the rest of the faithful”.

It is made clear, that the crown of righteousness that our Holy Father Onuphrius received is “the special and marvellous and very different knowledge”. And this knowledge is the one that enlightens the mind through the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit. Christ, Saint Cyril says, is the One who helps us in every word and manner. Firstly, Christ is the One who determines precisely who is the one that loves Him, and who is worthy to receive the power of the gift, namely the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit. The one who can “boast” (Romans 4:2) on the genuine relationship with Christ, through the keeping of His commandments.

Behold, therefore, my dear brethren, why our Holy Church of Christ honours and projects the commemoration of the Saints on the one hand, and calls every one of us through the Chief of the Apostles Peter’s mouth on the other, with the 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” (A Peter 1:15-16).

God the Father Who has called us, is undefiled, so He is Holy and no one can come near Him, because he will be burnt, “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29), “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13) and is “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto” (1 Tim. 6:16).

Through his strict ascetic life, our Holy Father Onuphrius managed to cleanse his heart according to the Lord’s command: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8), and ascend the ladder of righteousness, sanctification and deification, becoming thus “partaker of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

Let us entreat our Lord Jesus Christ, who crowned our Holy Father Onuphrius with the crown of glory and righteousness and say along with the hymnographer: “We the multitudes of the monastics, honour thee, our teacher, Onuphrius; for through thee have we learned to walk the truly straight path. Blessed art thou, who hast laboured for Christ, and hast triumphed over the might of the enemy, O companion of the angels, and co-dweller of the righteous and the just. Together with them, [and the intercessions of the Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary] intercede with the Lord that He may have mercy on our souls” (Minaion, June 12, Vespers, Glory, tone plagal of fourth). Amen.”

After the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy, there was a memorial service at the owner’s grave and at that of Nun Seraphima and the prayer for the figs and grapes was read.

The Patriarchal Entourage was offered a reception by the good keeper and renovator of the Monastery Reverend Nun Paissia.

From Secretariat-General




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

On Monday 8/21 June 2021, the feast of the Monday of the Holy Spirit was celebrated at the Church of the Holy Trinity of the Russian MISSIA of the Russian Patriarchate, which is located in new Jerusalem, not very far from the northwest side of New Gate.

The Divine Liturgy was officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with the co-celebration of their Eminences, Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, the Archbishops Aristarchos of Constantina, Theodosios of Sebastia, Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis and Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba, Hagiotaphite Hieromonks, the Head of the Russian MISSIA Archimandrite Alexander and other Priests and Archdeacon Mark. The chanting was delivered by the choir of the MISSIA and the Service was attended by many faithful Christians, the Russian Ambassador in Israel and Palestine and the representative of the Latin Patriarchate and the Custody of the Holy Land.

Before the Holy Communion His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon:

“O Holy Sion, thou Mother of all the Churches of God, in thee in fiery likeness did the Comforter Spirit come down on the Apostles with awesome descent. So rejoice now and celebrate this day of Pentecost longed-for by all the world, and keep festival with us in joy” (Pentecostarion, Friday of Pentecost, Matins, Praises, Troparion 3).

Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians,

The grace of the Holy and Life-giving Spirit has gathered us all in this Holy Church of the Holy Trinity, to co-celebrate in Doxology and Eucharist the life-giving and all-mighty Spirit, the One Person of the God of Trinity, Who is of the same honour, essence and glory with the Father and the Son.

The Mother of all the Churches, the Holy Zion, rejoices today because it was here that the Comforter Spirit came down to the Apostles in the form of tongues of fire, as the hymnographer says: “On this day the working of Thy Holy Spirit the Comforter came upon Thine Apostles’ choir, O Lord; and He showed them forth wise in divine knowledge. For, behold, He filled them completely and abundantly with that most blessed of doctrines taught by Thee. We, therefore, glorify Thy saving dispensation, O Friend of man, O my Jesus, Al-mighty Lord, Thou divine Saviour of our souls” (Tuesday of Pentecost, Vespers, Aposticha 1).

The power of the All-holy Spirit, which is common in all three Persons of the Holy Trinity, is no other than the grace, which the Apostles received, from the fulness of God the Word, our Saviour Jesus Christ, as Saint John the Evangelist says: “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17).

Christ set the Apostles first in His Church (1 Cor. 12:28). And having become the vessels of the shedding of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles became the foundation stone of the structure of the Church, while Christ is its cornerstone. And the Church is the dwelling place of God in the Holy Spirit, as Saint Paul preaches: “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:20-22).

It is noteworthy that the Lord promised to the Apostles the sending of the Holy Spirit, both before His Passion on the Cross and after His Resurrection. According to the testimony of Saint John the Evangelist, Jesus told His Disciples right after the Last Supper: “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). And after His Resurrection, the Lord said to the Apostles: “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

The Promise of God the Father is no other than the Comforter, namely the Holy Spirit, Whose divine power was going to be given as armour to the Apostles.

Precisely this divine power from on high, namely the power of the Comforter Spirit is the one Who “holdeth together the whole institution of the Church”, as the hymnographer says. “The Holy Spirit provideth all things; He gusheth forth prophesy; He perfecteth the priesthood; He hath taught wisdom to the illiterate. He hath shown forth the fishermen as theologians. He holdeth together the whole institution of the Church. Wherefore, O Comforter, one in essence and throne with the Father and the Son, glory be to Thee” (Saturday Vespers of Pentecost, Troparion 3).

And according to Saint John Damascene, the Holy Spirit makes “luminous the children of the Church”. And this is so, because, as Saint Gregory, the Theologian says, “the enlightenment, is the brightness of the souls…denaturation of light, and abolishment of darkness”. “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) the Lord says.

And being the body of Christ (Col. 1:24), the Church has the light of life, while its members are called by Saint Paul, in order to walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8). And this, because the members of the Church, namely of the body of Christ, are according to Apostle Peter “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

This “marvellous light” is the Grace of the Spirit of our Saviour Chris, which was foretold by the Prophets and shone forth through the Apostles. “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17), Saint Paul preaches. This liberty, which we have “in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 2:4) is the mindset of the Church.

And this mindset is the power of the Holy Spirit, which gathers together and sustains the unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of ours, namely the brotherly Orthodox Churches of the same doctrines.

This witness of unity we testify along with the brotherly Orthodox Churches through this festive Holy Eucharistic gathering, on this joyful day of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at the Upper Room of Jerusalem, hearkening to Saint Paul’s advice:

“I beseech you…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” (Eph. 4:1-3).

The All-holy Spirit – according to the hymnographer – “Filleth with tranquillity man’s heart and spirit” (Matins, Ode 1, Iambic Canon, Troparion 3). Therefore, in David’s words, we chant: “take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11), we beseech Thee, Lord, Friend of man.

And along with the hymnographer, let us say: “Of old, the tongues were confounded because of the audacity in the building of the tower, but now the tongues are made wise for the sake of the glory of the Divine knowledge. There, God condemned the impious because of their offence; and here, Christ hath enlightened the fishermen by the Spirit. At that time the confusion of tongues was wrought for punishment, but now the concord of tongues hath been inaugurated for the salvation of our souls” (Saturday Vespers of Pentecost, Aposticha Glory; both now).

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, through the intercessions of the Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and of Your Apostles, Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen. Many Happy returns!”

After the Divine Liturgy, there was a small reception at the MISSIA office, which was followed by a meal, at the presence of the Russian Ambassador in Ramallah and other officials. During the meal His Beatitude delivered the following address:

“Dear Father Alexander,

Respected Members of the Russian Diplomatic Service,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Dear Fathers,

Beloved Monastics,

Sisters and Brothers,

As we join you today for this blessed feast, we recall the words that we sing at this time:

When the Most High came down

and confounded tongues of men at Babel,

he divided the nations.

When He dispensed the tongues of fire,

He called all to unity,

and with one voice we glorify the Most Holy Spirit.

(Kontakion of the Feast of Pentecost)

We have just demonstrated in a tangible way the oneness of our Orthodox Church in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. This oneness that finds its expression in the sharing of the common Chalice is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is the Comforter, and who governs the whole life of the Church. In this way, we live in our own day the same unbroken unity that was given to the Church at Pentecost.

We see in our world the phenomenon of economic, technological, and entrepreneurial globalization. So much activity on which our life depends is exercised at an international level. But we Christians cannot forget that we live our own universal life. We too occupy the oikumene. We are truly global. This is because the Church lives the life of the Holy Spirit, and this life is the universal gift to humankind. It is available to all, open to all, a free gift to all.

We know this because as Christians generally and as Orthodox, in particular, we have a mission to the whole world – a global mission if you like – to be living martyria to the truth of God and the light of the Holy Spirit which we have received from the Apostles. This truth is the wellspring of eternal life and salvation for all humankind, and this truth is of ultimate importance for all peoples.

This is why our unity – the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – is crucial, for our unity is itself both a fruit and a witness to the truth of God. In all things, we must endeavour to overcome our human weaknesses and temptations that threaten our unity, and allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and dwell in our hearts. Before we can show this to anyone else, we must live this in the life of the Church, and we are called to do everything in our power to overcome any anomalies of Church life that our human weakness and sinfulness can so easily cause.

It is incumbent upon us all, the Orthodox faithful, as well as the leaders of our Orthodox Churches, to place ourselves under the obedience of the unity of the Holy Spirit. In a world that is torn apart by human divisions, fear, prejudice, and selfishness, the Church must live a different life if we are to be able to carry out our mission.

This is important for Churches in traditionally Orthodox countries as it is for Orthodox Churches in multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic societies. We all have the unique and challenging responsibility to follow faithfully in the footsteps of the Apostles by the living truth that has been given to us by God and expressed in our own unity. May God continue to bestow His grace upon us that we may be faithful to this vocation, so that we may make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).

We take this opportunity to wish His Excellency Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, health, happiness, and strength in his leadership. We acknowledge with deep gratitude his commitment to the support of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

We would also like to express our fraternal love in Christ for our brother His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All Russia and wish Him many years in His primatial ministry. The country of Russia and its peoples have had a long and close relationship with the Holy Land for centuries, and we cherish the bond of unity that we enjoy.

Thank you.”

The feast of the Holy Spirit was also celebrated at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toubas of north Samaria, led by His Eminence Archbishop Theophanes of Gerassa, with the participation of many faithful Christians.

From Secretariat-General




THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Thursday, 28 May/10 June 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of the Ascension.

On this feast, the Church in thanksgiving and mixed joy with sadness, commemorates that our Lord Jesus Christ was ascended into the heavens, forty days after His Resurrection, and after many appearances to His Disciples. He was ascended into the heavens in glory and sat at the right side of the Father, deifying the human flesh He had assumed and He is to come again, to judge both the living and the dead.

The Church of Jerusalem celebrated the feast at the very place of the Ascension, on the Mount of Olives, with Great Vespers on Wednesday afternoon, which was led by His Eminence Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba, with the co-celebration of Hagiotaphite Hieromonks and Deacons, and Arab-speaking Priests, with the attendance of faithful from Jerusalem. The chanting was delivered by Mr Vasilios Gotsopoulos and the Patriarchal School Students on the right, and the choir of Saint James Cathedral under Mr Rimon Kamar on the left.

Vespers was followed by a Procession to the Monastery of the Men of Galilee, where His Beatitude was waiting to give His blessing according to the custom.

On the morning of the feast day, the bloodless Sacrifice was held at the same place, by His Eminence Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba, with the co-celebration of the Hagiotaphite Archimandrites; Kallistos, Dionysios and Stephanos, Arab-speaking Priests, and the Hierodeacons Eulogios and Simeon. The chanting was delivered by the choirs who also chanted at Vespers, and the Service was attended by the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Evangelos Vlioras and many faithful Christians.

During the Divine Liturgy, H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Fathers-members of the Holy Synod came for veneration and then visited the adjacent to the Mosque Imam for reasons of goodwill. Then the Patriarchal Entourage visited Monk Achilios at the Holy Church of the Ascension opposite the Shrine, the Russian Monastery of the Ascension, where His Beatitude addressed the Head of the Monastery, Archimandrite Romanos as follows:

“Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Dear Father Romanos,

Respected Clergy,

Beloved Monastics,

Sisters and Brothers,

On this glorious Feast of the Ascension, which is the seal of the resurrection, we join in the words of the ancient hymn:

O Christ our God,

upon fulfilling your dispensation for our sake,

you ascended in glory, uniting the earthly with the heavenly.

You were never separate but remained inseparable,

and cried out to those who love you,

“I am with you and no one is against you.”

Here we understand the profound meaning of the Ascension, that, though our Lord Jesus Christ has gone to the Father to prepare a place for us, even so, we are still intimately connected with Him. As the hymn says so clearly, we are inseparable.

This unbreakable relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, which finds its greatest expression in this life in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, is the assurance of our final deification. This is the goal of every Christian, and this goal of complete union with God must be the daily focus of our spiritual lives. And this assurance is also our strength and consolation in times of suffering and difficulty.

Last year at this feast, we were not able to be with you. But this year our joy is full in our ability to be in this holy place on this day. And so we are reminded forcefully that the Holy Places, which the Divine Providence has placed under the guardianship and protection of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are not just archaeological curiosities; on the contrary, they are living witnesses to our sacred history and are places of prayer, worship, and most especially places where were celebrate the Divine Eucharist.

It is in this action of the Divine Liturgy that the Mother Church of Jerusalem gathers all Orthodox faithful in the embrace of the true Orthodox ecumenical spirit. We are glad today to have with us the representatives from Orthodox national Churches, so that we may show to the world our united Orthodox faith and witness. This is a powerful visible sign of our unity, which is a precious gift that must be nurtured and sustained by all.

And yet, it is further the case that we have the responsibility to ensure that the Holy Places are open to all people of goodwill without distinction, for the true Orthodox ecumenical spirit welcomes all, so that all may know the spiritual refreshment of those places that are signs of the divine-human encounter. In this way, the Patriarchate guarantees the Christian character of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

We rejoice, therefore, on this great feast, and we pray that our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus may enlighten our hearts and strengthen us in our mission. Amen.”

His Beatitude offered Archimandrite Romanos an icon-painting of Jerusalem and received an icon of the Theotokos in return.

The Patriarchal visits concluded at the Monastery of the Men of Galilee, where the Hegoumen Archimandrite Anthimos offered breakfast, with milk and eggs.

From Secretariat-General

 




SPEECH OF HIS BEATITUDE PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS III FOR THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES AT THE ELEONA MONASTERY

 

Dear Father Romanos, 

Respected Clergy, 

Beloved Monastics, 

Sisters and Brothers, 

 

On this glorious Feast of the Ascension, which is the seal of the resurrection, we join in the words of the ancient hymn, 

 

O Christ our God, 

Upon fulfilling your dispensation for our sake, 

You ascended in glory, uniting the earthly with the heavenly, 

You were never separate but remained inseparable, 

And cried out to those who love you, 

“I am with you and no one is against you,”  

 

Here we understand the profound meaning of the Ascension, that, though Our Lord Jesus Christ has gone to the Father to prepare a place for us, even so we are still intimately connected with him. As the hymn says so clearly, we are inseparable. 

 

This unbreakable relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, which finds its greatest expression in this life in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, is the assurance of our final deification. This is the goal of every Christian, and this goal of complete union with God must be the daily focus of our spiritual lives. And this assurance is also our strength and consolation in times of suffering and difficulty.  

Last year on this feast, we were not able to be with you. But this year our joy is full in our ability to be in this holy place on this day. And so, we are reminded forcefully that the Holy Places, which Divine Providence has placed under the guardianship and protection of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, are not just archeological curiosities; on the contrary, they are living witnesses to our sacred history and are places of prayer, worship and most especially the Divine Eucharist.  

It is in this action of the Divine Liturgy that the Mother Church of Jerusalem gathers all in the embrace of the true Orthodox ecumenical spirit. We are glad to have with us representatives from Orthodox national Churches, so that we may show to the world our united Orthodox faith and witness. This is a powerful visible sign of our unity, which is a precious gift that must be nurtured and sustained by all. 

And yet it is further the case that we have the responsibility to ensure that the Holy Places are open to all people of good will without distinction, for the true Orthodox ecumenical spirit welcomed all, so that all may know the spiritual refreshment to those places that are signs of divine-human encounter. In this way the Patriarchate guarantees the character of Jerusalem and the holy land. 

We rejoice therefore on this great feast, and we pray that our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus Christ may enlighten our hearts and strengthen us for our mission. 

 

Amen.




HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS CELEBRATES THE DIVINE LITURGY IN TUR’AN OF GALILEE

On Sunday 24 May /6 June 2021, Sunday of the blind man according to the book of Pentecostarion, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos officiated the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Church of Saint George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer, in the Rum Orthodox Arab-speaking Community of Tur’an, a small town near Cana which belongs to the Metropolis of Nazareth.

The Rum Orthodox Community has approximately 400 members and is supervised by Dean Priest Spyridon.

His Beatitude was warmly received by the Scouts, the Priests and the parish members.

Co-celebrants to His Beatitude were their Eminences: Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Archimandrites; Parthenios, Hilarion and Artemios, Dean Priest Spyridon and other Arab-speaking and Russian-speaking Priests, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Eulogios. The chanting was delivered by the parish choir, as the service was attended by the people of this community. 

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

“As Jesus passed by on His way from the temple, He found a man who was blind from his birth; and taking compassion on him, He put clay on his eyes and said unto him: Go wash in the pool of Siloam. And when he had washed, he received his sight, and sent up praise unto God” (Vespers, Sticheron 2).

Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

The almighty grace of our Saviour Christ has gathered us today in your beautiful town Tur’an of south Galilee, to co-celebrate the miracle Christ worked on the man who was born blind.

“Jesus answered, I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way, therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:3-7).

Interpreting these words of the Gospel, Saint Cyril of Alexandria notes: firstly, that Christ is both physical and noetic light. “Without doubt, the Only-begotten Son is also noetic light, and knows and is able to illumine not only the things of this world but also the whole of the other creation above this world”.

Secondly: That He cured the blind man willingly and impulsively, while the healed man did not recognize Christ. “The Saviour made the decision to cure the blind man, out of His own will and impulse, without any petition, and without anyone’s asking of Him to do so”.

Thirdly, Christ showed that He was the One who fashioned man out of clay (Gen. 2:7). “The Saviour does not do anything by chance. By anointing the blind man with the clay, He completed that which was lacking from the nature of the eye, and this way, He shows that He is the One who fashioned us from the beginning, the founder and creator of everything”.

It is noteworthy, that in Jesus’ command, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent)”, Saint Cyril distinguishes a hidden reason, as he says: “We consider that the ‘Sent’ is no other than the Only-begotten Son of God, Who was sent by the Father and visited us from above, to banish the sin and deception of the devil. Knowing that the Saviour invisibly swims in the waters of the Holy Pool, we are washed in faith, not for the cleansing of the impurity of the flesh, according to the scriptures (1 Peter 3:21), but for the washing of the infection and impurity of the noetic eyes, and having been cleansed, we may be able to gaze at the divine beauty clearly. This way we believe that Christ’s body is life-giving, since it is both the temple and the dwelling place of the Living Word of God, and has the fulness of the energy of God. Likewise, we say that He is also the reason of illumination. Because it is the body of the One who is light both in nature and truth”.

In other words, the sight the blind man received by Jesus’ touch proved that Christ is the Son and Word of God, perfect man and perfect God. It also proved that not only through the divine power of His word, but also through the divine power of his body and hands, He raises the dead, as He did with the son of the widow in Nain (Luke 7: 13-14), and gives sight to the blind as in the case of this man.

To those who “turn away their ears from the truth” (2 Tim. 4:4), namely those who do not believe and refuse the wonders Jesus worked before them, Jesus says: “But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10:38).

Christ, my dear brethren, is present, living and acting from within through the Church, especially at the Holy Eucharist Sacrament. Christ, we repeat, is the physician, the healer and the illuminator of our souls and bodies. This is testified by the words of Saint Luke the Evangelist: “Jesus cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits, and unto many that were blind he gave sight” (Luke 7:21). And He gave this authority and power to His disciples, as Saint Matthew writes: “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).

In other words, Christ, whose God-human body is the One Catholic and Apostolic Church, is the spiritual pool of Siloam, as Saint Chrysostom says: “Just as Christ was a spiritual rock, likewise, Siloam (which means Sent) is also spiritual”.

We are called to seek this divine power of the spiritual pool of Siloam in faith, love and humility. And let us say along with the hymnographer: “Thou spiritual sun of righteousness, Who with Thine immaculate touch didst enlighten both the body and soul of him who from his mother’s womb was deprived of sight, illuminate the eyes of our souls also, and show us to be sons of the day, that we might cry to Thee with faith: Great and ineffable is Thy compassion toward us, O Friend of man; glory be to Thee” (Vespers Stichera Pascha, Glory, tone 5).

Christ is risen! Many happy returns!”

The Divine Liturgy was followed by a reception and then a meal at noon, where His Beatitude addressed those present as follows:

“The Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” (Psalm 135: 5-6).

Your Excellency Mr President of the Ecclesiastical Committee,

Respected members of the Ecclesiastical Committee,

Dear Brethren in Christ,

Our meeting on this Paschal day, the sixth Sunday after Pascha has a special meaning. Because by the ineffable mercy of our Holy Trinitarian God the forced obstacles of the covid-19 pandemic have been lifted.

Of course, we as members of the Holy Church of Jerusalem never ceased to serve in our ministry in Christ, both the liturgical and the pastoral. This spiritual ministry has always covered the physical distance between us.

The Church of Christ, which is the body of Christ, cannot be comprehended without its members. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, … and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:12-13) Saint Paul preaches.

The Church of Christ, as we mentioned in our Sermon, is the spiritual pool – according to Saint Chrysostom – and Christ is Siloam, which means the ‘Sent’ by God the Father, His Son and Word.

This means that we see our Lord Jesus Christ in the Church, as the physical and spiritual healer of our bodies and souls. In other words, my dear brethren, the Church of Christ is our secure refuge, the Ark of salvation and the Pool of our regeneration in the Holy Spirit. These words are not vague but true. These words become clear when our faith in Christ crucified and resurrected remains steadfast and increases. Christ is the Light of the world and especially the Light of those who love and believe in Him. And the Church of Christ is the sanatorium for all our infirmities. Therefore, as Saint Paul advises, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught,… Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (2 Thess. 2:15-17).

Christ is risen! Many Happy Returns!”

From Secretariat-General