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THE FEAST OF SAINT GERASIMUS OF THE JORDAN AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Thursday of the 1st Week of Lent, 5/18 March 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated by transference the commemoration of our Holy Father Gerasimus of the Jordan at his Holy Monastery, in the desert of the river Jordan, at a short distance from the river’s estuaries towards the Dead Sea, on the West Bank.

This Monastery was founded by Saint Gerasimus when he came to the Holy Land from his hometown Lycia of Asia Minor, at the time of the Monophysites’ turbulences in AD 451.

For a short while Saint Gerasimus was influenced by the Monophysites’ groups, but Saint Euthymius the Great returned him to the Orthodox faith and since then they co-operated and Saint Gerasimus became an enlightened spiritual guide in this Monastery. The Monastery was a Coenobium and a Lavra at the same time with thousands of Monks and laity, and the Saint was granted by God the gifts of healing, wonder-working and clairvoyance, as well as the grace to tame wild animals, a fact that is depicted in his icon with the lion.

In this Monastery the Divine Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts was celebrated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos with co-celebrants their Eminences; Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias, Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, Elder Dragoman Archimandrite Mattheos, Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Eulogios. The chanting was delivered by His Eminence Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba and Hierodeacon Simeon. The service was attended by the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Evangelos Vlioras and only a few faithful due to covid-19 restrictions.

Before the Holy Communion His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon:

“The righteous man shall flourish like a palm tree, and like a cedar in Lebanon shall he be multiplied” (Psalm 91:11), the Psalmist says.

Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

The Jordan desert is rejoicing because the holy commemoration of the Righteous man of God, our God-bearing Father Gerasimus the anchorite, who came from Lycia, has flourished today. The Monastery bearing his name is also rejoicing, the Lavra of old, where the Grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us all, in order to glorify God in Eucharist, the One who has glorified those who glorify Him.

Paying heed to the Lord’s words: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35); “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37); Saint Gerasimus retreated to the deeper desert of Thebes and then to the blessed desert of the Jordan, where “he shone like a luminary and sowed the seeds of reverence” Saint Cyril of Scythopolis says.

Having become an imitator “of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises [of the Kingdom]” (Hebrews 6:12), Saint Gerasimus was established as a famous habitant of the Jordan and co-citizen of the Great ascetics, Euthymius the Great, Savvas the Sanctified, Saints Martyrios and Theoktistos and many other anchorites of the Judea desert, who followed the advice of King-Prophet David: “Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth” (Psalm 105:4-5).

Contemporary to him writers, who were also eye-witnesses to his manner of living, present God-bearing Gerasimus not only as “a lover of the things beyond this world”, but also as “a charity treasury” and “a temple of meekness”. In addition to other mortifications of the human passions, the Saint would pass the whole Great Lent without any food but the Holy Communion, for which reason he attained to the height of the vision of the divine glory, as his hymnographer says: “The ladder of divine virtue, thou didst scale with ardour, and thou didst attain to the height of divine noetic vision, receiving reflections pure and clear revealing the divine mysteries of Christ. Hence we honour thee with piety, as we cry, Gerasimus, thou God-bearer: Glory to Christ, Who hath given thee strength. Glory to Him Who hath crowned thee. Glory to Him Who worketh healings for all through thee” (Minaion, March 4, Matins, Sessional Hymn, tone 1).

The noetic vision our Holy Father Gerasimus attained, is no other than the vision of the glory of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who asked His Father not only for those who believed in Him but also for those who would believe in Him through their words [the Disciples’ preaching] “… [24] that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:20-24).

Interpreting these words of the Lord, Saint Cyril of Alexandria says: “the vision of Christ’s glory will neither be granted to the profane and the sinners, nor to those who defile the divine Law, but only to the holy and the benign. And we know this because Prophet Isaiah says: “Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord” (Isaiah 26:10). And in His Gospel preaching, Christ says: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). And who are those who are able to have a pure heart? Without doubt, those who through their union with God, which is made through the Son by the Holy Spirit, have refrained from any kind of love of the flesh, and abhorred worldly desires to the highest level possible. They have refused their lives and submitted them to the will of the Holy Spirit, following Christ’s manner of living in purity and in all other manners. Saint Paul was one of them, who in his utmost purity did not hesitate to say: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20).

To our question, in what manner do the Holy and the meek, the pure in heart achieve their union with God, or better say, their deification, the established Church Father Cyril replies: “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:23). For the Son becomes one with us, in flesh, as a man, joined to us with a mystical blessing; and spiritually, as God with the energy and grace of the Holy Spirit, Which regenerates the spirit in us towards a new life and makes us communicants of His divine nature”. The link of our unity with God the Father is always the Son, our Holy Father Cyril remarks. “We complete our unity with God the Father through the intercessor Christ”.

It is precisely this divine completion in Christ, through the intercessor Christ, that Saint Gerasimus achieved, through his ascetic striving of fasting, abstinence, unceasing prayer and defeating hordes of demons, as his hymnographer says: “with the assaults of thy prayers, thou didst valiantly pierce the hordes of demons, through with wounds, O Gerasimus, and didst praise Christ the Son of God” (Matins, Ode 5, Troparion 3).

Today’s festive commemoration of our Holy Father Gerasimus in his Monastery, in this first week of Lent, and amidst the pandemic plague of covid-19, urges us, my dear brethren, through Saint Paul’s advice: “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others [who do not know Christ]; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:6-8). And this is so, because as the hymnographer says: “The wealth of the grace of the Holy Spirit is offered unto all who gather it by the labours of abstinence” (Matins, Ode 9, Troparion 2).

Let us entreat our Holy Father Gerasimus and say along with the hymnographer: “He that became flesh of Thine all-holy blood, O immaculate Lady, Himself purgeth us of defilements of the flesh through fasting and labours, giving us strength by Thine unceasing entreaties, O Virgin Theotokos” (Matins, Ode 8, Theotokion). So that in repentance, humility and patience we may reach the luminous Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and be co-resurrected with Him. To Him belongs the glory and the might unto the ages. Amen.”

After the Divine Liturgy, the hardworking and hospitable Hegoumen Archimandrite Chrysostom hosted a fasting meal for the Patriarchal Entourage and the congregation.

From Secretariat-General




HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS III AT A PASTORAL TELE-COMMUNICATION WITH THE FLOCK OF JORDAN

On Tuesday, 24 February /9 March 2021, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos had a pastoral telecommunication through zoom with His Eminence Archbishop Christophoros of Kyriakoupolis and the Clergy of Jordan.

The opening of the teleconference was done by His Beatitude with the following address:

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12); Saint Paul advises his disciple Timothy and through him, every single one of the Pastors of Christ’s Church.

Beloved Brethren in Christ and Reverend Fathers,

By the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, we have entered the preliminary period of the Great Lent, leading to the Holy Pascha. This is linked to the Book ‘Triodion’ of the Church, where, in a form of advising hymns, we hear the redeeming and divine words of the Holy Scriptures, along with the words of the Holy Fathers, the great and God-inspired teachers and theologians of the Church.

The Book of “Triodion” and the preliminary stage of Lent begins with the known Gospel parables of the Lord about “The Publican and the Pharisee” and of “The Prodigal Son”. Denoted in these parables are the basic virtues of the Christian faith, ‘humility’ and ‘repentance’, which guide man to the light of Christ’s truth.

To the reasonable question, ‘what is humility?’ the holy writers of the New Testament answer referring to the Prophet Isaiah who says: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he, not his mouth… In his humiliation, his judgment was taken away” (Acts 8:32-33, Isaiah 53:7-8). In other words, the righteousness of Christ was elevated through His humility, as Saint Paul preaches: “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit” (1 Tim. 3:16).

And according to Saint John of the Ladder, humility, which is revealed in a mystic way and abolishes the passions, is “the anonymous grace of the soul, which can be named only by those who have experienced it. It is an unspeakable wealth, the name of God, a gift of God, since He says: ‘Learn not by an Angel, nor by any man, but by me’, meaning, by my habitation in you, and my illumination and energy within you, “for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29).

As for the question; “what is repentance?”, the Holy writers answer again through the Lord’s words: “And Jesus answering said unto them [the Pharisees], They that are whole need, not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). Interpreting these words, Saint Theophylactos says: “I have not come to call the righteous, namely, us who justify ourselves on our own, but I have come to call the sinners, so that they will not remain in sin, but are led to repentance”.

According to Saint Chrysostom, repentance is the medicine to our salvation. Repentance is not only preached by words but confirmed by actions, washing away the filth of irreverence”. Let us also hear the words of Saint John of the Ladder: “Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is an agreement with God for a new life. Repentance is the buyer of humility. Repentance is the thought of self-condemnation; carelessness for all things and care for the salvation of ourselves. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. To be repentant means to be a convict free from shame”.

From the above, it is shown that through repentance, the Prodigal Son became the buyer of the Publican’s humility, while through his humility, the Publican became the buyer of the Prodigal Son’s repentance.

Beloved Fathers and Brethren, your Priestly Assembly under our Bishop and Patriarchal Representative in Amman, and through him, under Our Mediocrity, is not a simple gathering, but “a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12), of the unity in Christ of our Holy Church and of our good works, as the Bible says: “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (1 Peter 2: 12-17).

Precisely because God’s will is our freedom, which we gained through our baptism, the God-inspired Church Fathers established the period of the Holy Lent, in order to prevent us from despair and indolence. “Despair leads us to worse things than indolence,” Saint Chrysostom says. And despair makes man a slave of his sin and discourages him from following the path of freedom, namely the Pascha of his co-resurrection with Christ. “For even Christ, our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7), Saint Paul preaches. Again, Saint Paul urges us: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col.3:1-3).

Dear holy Fathers and Brethren, the infinite mercy of God and the Grace of the Holy Spirit have made us workers in the vineyard and ministers of the ark of salvation, which is His Church, in order to “rule well, and be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, the labourer is worthy of his reward” (1 Tim. 5:17-18). This is also our Priesthood’s mission, as shepherds of logical sheep, so that we may “shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15), applying the words of the Gospel and fighting the good fight of our Orthodox faith, and confessing Christ, Crucified and Resurrected from the dead, especially at the current crucial time of the Covid-19 pandemic plague.

Let us entreat the physician of our souls and bodies, our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, that through the intercessions of our Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, we may be deemed worthy to go through the period of the Blessed Great Lent, in fasting, repentance and humility, and be granted the vision of the glory of the Unweaning Light of the luminous Resurrection of our Saviour Christ; the might of His Kingdom be blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen!”

Further to this communication, Archbishop Christophoros and the Clergy informed His Beatitude on the matters of the flock of Jordan, under the shadow of the covid-19 pandemic, and received His instructions on overcoming the difficulties and achieving spiritual progress and social improvement of the services helping the flock. Instructions both spiritual and material, for the benefit of the souls of the faithful, especially now, at the beginning of the beneficial fast of the Great Lent.  

From Secretariat-General




HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS CELEBRATES THE D. LITURGY AT ST ONUPHRIOUS’ MONASTERY

On Meat fare Sunday, 22 February / 7 March, 2021, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos officiated the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Church of Saint Onuphrious’ Monastery.

The Divine Liturgy was celebrated on the Sunday of the commemoration of the Last Judgement of God, according to the Gospel narrative of the Second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Monastery of Saint Onuphrious is located opposite Silouan’s pool, at the potter’s field, which was bought by the Jews with the thirty pieces of silver that Judas returned to them, when he repented his action of betrayal; this field was bought for the burial of the foreigners.

Co-celebrants to His Beatitude were their Eminences the Metropolitans Kyriakos of Nazareth and Joachim of Helenoupolis, the Hagiotaphite Archimandrites Nectarios and Mattheos and Archdeacon Mark.

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

 “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?… And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:37-40).

Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

The Gospel narrative of this Sunday of the Last Judgement refers to the Second Coming of the Lord and the Last Judgement: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matt. 25:31-33) the Lord says.

Interpreting these words, Zigavinos says: “Therefore [the Lord] narrates all things regarding His Second coming to invoke fear and correction to those who hear Him”. And Saint Chrysostom says: “Now they are not excommunicated ones, but all people are mixed together; however, their division then will be with exact precision”. And Saint Cyril of Alexandria says: “The sheep denote the chorea of the reverend faithful, who are loaded with the fruits of righteousness, just like the sheep are loaded with their wool”.

Referring to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Saint Peter says: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

The Chief of the Apostles Peter urges us to keep ourselves clean from the world in all our communication in it, as well as to train ourselves in reverence and every virtue. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11). And again, Saint Peter advices thus: “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14).

In these fatherly words of Saint Peter we distinguish God’s righteousness, as well as His judgement, as Saint John the Evangelist also testifies: “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man” (John 5:26-27). And Jesus says: “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).

Indeed, the judgement of our Lord Jesus Christ is just, because it stems from His righteousness, His holiness, as the Apostle Peter says to his fellow Jews: “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just” (Acts 3:14). In other words, those who denied Christ and His redeeming truth, will be judged by Him, as Saint Paul preaches: “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:12). “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17).

Moreover, those who believe in the truth, in the “Sun of righteousness”, Christ, should “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). And this is because, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” (James 2:14), Saint James the Brother of God says.

Faith in the Living God, my dear brothers and sisters, cannot be confirmed without the divine righteousness, which is the final judgement of the people’s actions, as Jesus Christ Himself said: “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? … And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:37-40).

The least of Christ’s brethren are Christ Himself, who put upon Himself our human flesh and suffered death on the Cross for our salvation. Saint Paul preaches: “so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death… For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection… Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Romans 6:3-6, 8). “and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16) Saint John advices. This means that the genuine Christians are distinguished by sincere manifestations of affection and sympathy through works, toils and sacrifices of selfless love. This way, my brethren, as Saint Gregory the Theologian preaches, “it is Christ we visit, it is Christ we heal, it is Christ we feed, it is Christ we clothe, it is Christ we meet, it is Christ we honour… but because the Master of all wants mercy and not sacrifice, and as compassion is better than myriads of well fed sheep, let us offer Him that, for the poor and the meek today, so that when we are freed from this life, they will receive us in the eternal tabernacles, in Him, Christ our Lord, to Whom belongs the glory unto the ages”.

And let us say along with the hymnographer: “As I ponder the fearful day of Thy judgement and ineffable glory, I am altogether full of fear, O Lord, and trembling in terror I cry: Righteous Master, who alone are most merciful, accept me in repentance, by the intercessions of the Theotokos”. Amen.”

After the Divine Liturgy, the good keeper of the Monastery Reverend Abbess Paissia hosted a modest reception for His Beatitude and entourage.

From Secretariat-General




THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON THE GOD-RECEIVER AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Tuesday, 3/16 February 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the feast of Saint Simeon the God-receiver.

On this feast, the Church and especially the Church of Jerusalem commemorates the co-operation of Saint Simeon in the mission of God’s Providence for our salvation. Saint Simeon was a righteous and holy man, who lived on the borderline between the Old and the New Testament and was informed by the Holy Spirit that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26).

This prophecy of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled when the Lord’s parents brought Him for his sanctification when He was forty days old to the Temple of Solomon. Then Simeon rejoiced in recognizing the infant is his arms to be “the salvation” of the 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).

This feast was officiated at the Holy Monastery of Saint Simeon by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with co-celebrants their Eminences the Archbishops; Aristarchos of Constantina, Theodosios of Sebastia and Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios, the representative of MISSIA of the Moscow Patriarchate, Hegoumen Archimandrite Alexander, Archdeacon Mark, the Hierodeacons Simeon, Eulogios, Marcellus and other Fathers.

The chanting was delivered by Mr Vasilios Gostopoulos and the Patriarchal School students, and the service was attended by the Consul General of Greece in Jerusalem Mr Evangelos Vlioras and quite a few faithful.

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. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Psalm 98: 2-3) the psalmist proclaims.

Noble Christians,

The Holy Church of Christ, hearkening to David’s words: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise” (Psalm 98:4), has gathered all of us in this Holy place where the tomb of Saint Simeon the God-receiver is preserved, in order to celebrate both his commemoration and contribution to the historic event of the meeting with the new infant, our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Altar of God, in the Temple of Solomon.

“When the Elder had seen with his eyes the salvation that came from God unto the peoples he cried to Thee: O Christ, Thou art my God” (Katavasia, Ode six); and in simple words: Lord when the Elder Simeon saw with his own eyes the Saviour that had come for all the nations, he cried with a loud voice: “Christ, You are my God, Who was born from God the Father”, and Cosmas the melodist says according to the testimony of Saint Luke the Evangelist: “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord… 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 2:27-32).

According to the interpretation of the inspired Church Fathers, “the salvation of God” who Elder Simeon’s eyes beheld, is no other than Christ. “Salvation he called the incarnation of the Only Begotten”, Saint Theophylaktos says; “born for the salvation of the people”, Zigavinos adds. “It is customary for the Bible to call the Christ of God as salvation”, Saint Basil the Great notes. And being the salvation means His incarnate presence according to Saint Athanasios. “He had prepared [the salvation] of Christ from the beginning of the world and it was revealed to us in the last ages” Saint Cyril of Alexandria comments, and quotes Apostle Peter: “ye were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:18-20).

It is made clear thus, that the “salvation of God” is the Word of God “Who for our salvation, in the last days, dwelt in the womb of the Holy Virgin and through her He was born in the flesh without any alteration” according to Saint John Damascene.

The righteous Simeon did not only confess that the infant in his arms is Christ, the Saviour of the world but also became a seer of the unapproachable and uncreated light, of the divinity of Christ, as Saint Basil the Great teaches clearly: “Anna was announcing, Simeon held in his arms a small infant the great God, worshipping Him; they did not despise the vision but glorified the greatness of His divinity. For the Divine Power was visible like light through glass threads through the human body, shining through those who had the eyes of the heart purified”.

It is noteworthy that indeed it was said to Simeon that “he should not see death before he would see the Christ of the Lord” (Luke 2:26). But Saint Simeon never ceased keeping the eyes of his heart purified. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”(Matt 5:8) the Lord says. “The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out” (Proverbs 13: 9) the wise Solomon says.

Elder Simeon is distinguished among the great personalities and the Prophets of the Old Testament because he was deemed worthy to worship “the great God as a small infant”, namely Christ, while the other Prophets foretold God the Word, Christ, Who would become incarnate through the Virgin. And the preserved incorrupt relics of Saint Simeon is a great witness of the Grace and the glory he received by God, as the psalmist says: “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart” (Psalm 97:11). “The noetic and divine light shines in the mind and heart of everyone who is pure and righteous,” Saint Cyril of Alexandria says.

And the divine light that dawns in the righteous ones is no other than the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, through which Simeon the God-receiver prophesized to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

Interpreting these words, Saint Cyril of Alexandria says: “Emanuel is set by God the Father as the foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16), “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever, it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21:44). And referring to the Mother of Christ, Zigavinos says: “He called ‘a sword’ the honourable and sharp pain that pierced the Theotokos’ heart when her Son was crucified. Simeon prophesied about this deep pain.” And Saint Cyril clarifies this by saying: “Like by a sword, the Virgin was pierced and wounded when she saw the One who was born from her in the flesh to be crucified”.

Let us entreat today’s honoured righteous Simeon the God-receiver, so that we who believe in God the Word who was born by the Holy Virgin in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, will not be put to shame, but by his prayers, we may be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. And let us say along with the hymnographer: “He who is full is emptied out; He who is before eternity receiveth a beginning; the word taketh on the grossness of matter; the Artificer is fashioned; the Uncontainable, assuming a body, is contained in thy womb, O Virgin, graced of God” (Minaion, Feb.3, Ode 1, Theotokion). Amen”.

After the Divine Liturgy, the Elder Hegoumen and renovator of the shrine Archimandrite Theodoritos hosted a reception for the Patriarchal Entourage and the congregation at the Hegoumeneion.

From Secretariat-General




HIS BEATITUDE THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM THEOPHILOS CELEBRATES THE D. LITURGY ON SARANTARION MOUNT

On Sunday 25 January / 7 February 2021, His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos officiated the Divine Liturgy on the commemoration of our Holy Father Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople, at the Holy Monastery of Sarantarion Mount.

This Mount is dominant over the city of Jericho, with its foot at the waters of Prophet Elisha. According to the faith of our Church, the Lord was guided by the Spirit on this Mount after His baptism in the River Jordan, where He accepted to be tempted by the demon according to the Holy Evangelists (Matthew Ch. 4, Mark Ch. 1, Luke Ch. 4), and He conquered every temptation after forty-day fasting, setting an example for us to fight and conquer our temptations.

This Divine Liturgy was also celebrated on the commemoration of the fact that many Fathers, great ascetics and other monks followed the Lord’s example, and used to retreat to the desert after the Feast of Theophany, living in ascesis until Palm Sunday, when they returned to their Monasteries, chanting: “today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us…”

Co-celebrants to His Beatitude were their Eminences; Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, and Elder Kamarasis Archimandrite Nectarios. The chanting was delivered by His Eminence Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba, and only a few monks attended the Service.

Before the Holy Communion His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon:

“Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

The grace of the Holy Spirit, which came down in the form of a dove and stood above Jesus Christ when He was baptized in the Jordan, has gathered us in his holy place, where Jesus was guided by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil, in order to celebrate the bloodless sacrifice and glorify His Holy Name.

According to the true witness of the Evangelists, after His baptism and the temptations, Jesus “departed into Galilee… he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:12-17).

These words: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17) are still being preached by the Holy Church of Christ, addressing every man who seeks the light of truth, namely of Christ, Who said: “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).

Interpreting these words, Saint Chrysostom says: “He talks about light and darkness in a noetic manner; meaning that one does not remain in fallacy and in sin”. And Saint Cyril of Alexandria says: “The one who follows Christ does not remain in the darkness at all, but will gain the light of life”. The one that hears my teaching, the Lord says, will not walk in darkness, but will be led to the light of life, namely to the revelation of the mysteries regarding Me, which will lead to the eternal life.

The approaching of the Kingdom of Heaven is no other than the revelation of the divine providence to the world, “and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:9-10).

In other words, Christ, according to Origen, is the “Self-Kingdom”. “For He [Christ] is the King of heavens, and just as He is the self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and self-truth, likewise, He is the self-kingdom”. This means that the Kingdom of Christ, who is the head of the Church body, is present, and therefore at hand, near us in the Church; and through both the earthly and the heavenly Church, or better say, “the militant and triumphant”. “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off” (Jeremiah 23:23)? And according to the psalmist: “Thou art near, O Lord; and all thy commandments are truth” (Ps. 119:151).

Our entrance and participation in the body of the Church [of Christ] through the holy baptism, denotes our familiarity to the Kingdom of God according to the testimony of Luke the Evangelist; “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).

Interpreting these words of the Lord, Saint Cyril of Alexandria says: “it is in our self-will and in our power to take it [the kingdom]; it is, therefore, imperative for every man to have the justification in Christ through faith, namely to enrich and adorn himself with every virtue in order to gain the kingdom of heaven”. And in more detail; it is up to your own will and power to gain the kingdom. Because every man who achieves the righteousness through faith in Christ, and is adorned with all virtues, is therefore deemed worthy of the kingdom of heaven. And Saint Theophylaktos says: “It is only then that God reigns within us when no worldly thing possesses our souls, but we live in a manner beyond this world for all things”.

Moreover, Saint Mark, the ascetic says on this matter: “it is necessary to have the grace of the Holy Spirit acting in the heart, and according to this analogy one may enter the kingdom of heaven”. Commenting on these words, Metropolitan Joel of Edessa says: “this means that the one who has the grace of the Holy Spirit working in his heart, has entered the Kingdom of God according to the degree of cultivating this. In other words, the one who does the will of God cleanses his mind and heart, distances himself from sin, lives in God, while he still is on earth”.

And we have this example from the Saints of our Church. And we say this because the worldly life of the Saints is the life that reveals Christ Himself, His Kingdom. Filled with divine love, the Saints of the Church of Christ are those who paid heed to Saint Paul’s voice: “having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23). “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

As for us, my dear brethren, let us entreat God the Word and our Saviour, who was made incarnate through the Virgin Mary and appeared to us, to deem us worthy of His Kingdom, saying: “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”. Amen.”

After the Divine Liturgy, the Hegoumen Archimandrite Onuphrios hosted a reception for the Patriarchal Entourage.

From Secretariat-General




HIS BEATITUDE’S SPEECH IN RECOGNITION OF NEW LATIN PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM

Your Beatitude, 

On this occasion of your official visit as the newly appointed Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, we welcome you not as a stranger, but as an old trusted friend. The news that His Holiness Pope Francis had appointed you as Latin Patriarch was widely welcomed both by your community and by all who are committed to the well-being of the Christian presence in the Holy Land.  

Saint Paul writes in the First Letter to Timothy 

“I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable, convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching… always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.” (2 Tim 4:1 – 2,5) 

For many years, first as Custos and then as a bishop, you have shown yourself to be a faithful pastor to all those entrusted to your care in the spirit of these words of Saint Paul. You are deeply familiar with your people and this place, and we are glad that in you as the new Latin Patriarch we have a colleague with experience who understands the problems and the challenges that the Christian communities are facing in our time. 

 During your time as Custos, and continuing after your appointment as Apostolic Administrator, the co-operation that has been built between our Brotherhoods and our communities has produced tangible fruits that have been crucial in helping us all deal with the common issues that we are facing in defending the Christian presence in the Holy Land and safeguarding the integrity of the holy places for the whole world. 

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of the mutual trust that has grown up among us. Never before has the co-operation between our communities proved so effective and productive in our common mission. We cannot forget the instrumental role that you played in the joint effort in the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  

The pandemic has only made our mission more complicated and urgent. We have greater responsibilities and our mutual respect and co-operation are more crucial than ever before. We have every confidence that in your role as Latin Patriarch, you will continue to give your best efforts to all that makes for stronger and even more effective relationships. 

As we know, Jerusalem is the womb from which the Church was born, and in our own time Jerusalem can be the womb from which new efforts for the unity of the Church may be delivered. Here in Jerusalem, we are a witness of the authentic spirit of ecumenism, for nowhere else on earth do so many Christian traditions celebrate together in one place in mutual respectunderstanding and harmony. We each have our traditions, customs and culture and we have a deeper understanding of the true nature of dialogue. Needless to say, we should also mention the special place that our Anglican and Lutheran sisters and brothers have in this ecumenical vocation.  

The Divine Eucharist is at the heart of the mission of the Church, and we must never lose our attentiveness to the path to the union of the Churches for which we pray in every liturgy that will restore to us the common Chalice, when once again we shall be able to be con-celebrants together at the altar. We are aware that we can never be complacent. We must deepen our communication with each other, and sustain this spirit in all that we do.  

We congratulate you as you assume your new responsibly in this difficult time, and we assure you of our prayers and support, as together we place the safety and security of the Christian presence in our beloved Holy Land and the holy places before all other considerations.  

May God bless you, and may God bless all the communities entrusted to your pastoral care.  

 

Thank you. 




THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIOS THE CENOBIARCH AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Sunday, 11/24 January 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the Feast of our Holy Father Theodosios the Cenobiarch.

On this feast, the whole Church, and especially the Church of Jerusalem commemorates Saint Theodosios, according to the synaxarion and other sources. The Church commemorates that Saint Theodosios came to the Holy Land from his hometown Mogaristos of Cappadocia around AD 450.

Having initially striven in ascesis at the Holy Monastery of Ikelia, near Jerusalem, he retreated to the desert of Judea and founded the Holy Monastery that bears his name to the present day, as a Coenobion. He received there the beginner monks, who were trained in obedience, common life and the work of handcrafts, and they provided for the poor and the needy. After this training, the monks would receive the blessing to enter a stricter form of ascesis at the monastic Lavra, such as that of Saint Savvas. Saint Theodosios became a Hegoumen / Exarch of the Coenobitic life in Palestine, while Saint Savvas had the same position for the life in the Lavra. Both Saints, Theodosios and Savvas, were from the same country, contemporaries, and co-operated in the fight against Monophysitism, and the establishment of the Doctrine of the 4th Ecumenical Synod in Chalcedon in AD 451, regarding the indivisible coexistence of the two natures of Christ, the divine and the human, in one hypostasis.

This Monastery is located at the place where the Wise Men from Persia stayed overnight on their return via a different route to their country. The Monastery has proven to be stronger than the destructions from various conquerors and the wear of time. It was renovated by the Cretan Monks Galaktion and Leontios in the beginning of the 20th century, later on in the same century by the blessed Archbishop Bartholomew of Madaba, and recently by the Elder Hegoumen Archimandrite Ierotheos, who built a new extension at the Monastery, completed the frescoes in the Church and protected the property of the Patriarchate in the surrounding to the Monastery area.

Due to covid-19 restrictions, an All-night Vigil was officiated at the Monastery by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, with the co-celebration of their Eminences, Archbishops; Aristarhos of Constantina and Theodosios of Sebastia, Elder Dragoman Archimandrite Mattheos, Priest Yusef and Priest George from Beit Jala, Archdeacon Mark and Hierodeacon Simeon. The chanting was delivered by His Eminence Archbishop Aristovoulos of Madaba, the spiritual father of the Monastery of Saint Savvas, Archimandrite Eudokimos and the Monks of the Monastery.

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

“Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour” (Ps. 15:1-3) the psalmist proclaims.

Beloved Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

Today, at the time of Epiphany, when Christ appeared to us in the river Jordan and illumined the world, the feast of our Holy and God-bearing Father Theodosios has also shone; therefore, both the clergy and the people have gathered in the place of his ascesis to glorify in Doxology our Holy Trinitarian God and honour the Saint.

Our Holy Father Theodosios, who cultivated the arid land of this desert of Judea, became worthy of dwelling in both the earthly and the heavenly dwelling places of the Lord, keeping all of God’s commandments, as Saint Basil the Great says: “One should not only do what is right, but also work inspired by a righteous disposition, according to: ‘That which is altogether just shalt thou follow’ (Deutoronomy 16:20)”.  In other words, Saint Theodosios combined in himself all the virtues that distinguish the righteous and holy man of God.

This is also expressed clearly in the hymns that Saint Theophanes wrote for him: “O righteous Father Theodosios, thou God-bearing Saint, with fervour thou didst struggle in this brief temporal life in hymnody and vigils and constant fasting. To thy disciples thou becamest a rule; the grace of the All-holy Spirit found thy stainless soul, in thee as brilliant and immaculate light, by whose mighty power, thou wast adorned in splendour to glorify Christ unceasingly, a single Son in two natures, both God and man, who at the hand of the Forerunner John was baptized, receiving witness from the voice of God the Father” (Minaion Vespers Sticheron 1).

And Cyril of Scythopolis, Saint Theodosios’ biographer calls him “blessed and citizen of heaven, the great glory of Palestine and the desert, the boast of the monastic schema, the stronghold of the true doctrines, the colonel and fighter, and the guide of the coenobitic rule”.

When our Holy Father Theodosios came to the Holy Land, he encountered the great Fathers of the time, Euthymios the Great, Savvas the Sanctified and the Holy Abbas Markianos who lived in a Coenobion in Bethlehem, and who had said to him: “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14). In you too, everything that is hidden will God make visible and denoted”. There was also a reverend Elder named Loginos of Cappadocia, who belonged in the Order of the Studious ones, of the Holy Sepulchre, who encouraged him to go to the Monastery of Ikelia by the Seat of Theotokos, where he served as a Steward after her death.

Our Holy Father Theodosios excelled so much in the ascesis of the true Orthodox faith, that his hymnographer says: “Though by nature a man, O Father, thou wast seen to be a fellow citizen of the Angels. For, while living like a fleshless being upon the earth, O wise Theodosios, thou didst cast away all the care for the flesh; therefore, thou hearest from us: Rejoice, for from thy youth thou didst follow after Christ; Rejoice, for thou didst wither the pleasures of the flesh” (Minaion Matins, Oikos).

Indeed, the citizen of the desert Theodosios did cast away the cares of the flesh and withered its pleasures, hearkening to Saint Paul’s voice: “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8).

Indeed, our Father Theodosios, who followed Christ from his early youth, has become a fellow citizen of the Angels. And this is because “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14), Saint Paul preaches. Interpreting these words, Saint Chrysostom says: “He didn’t say: ‘as many as receive God’s Spirit’; but ‘as many as are led by the Spirit’, showing that in this manner does [the Spirit] want to be the Master of our lives, just like the captain of the ship or the charioteer of the pair of horses”. And Saint Paul says: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

In other words, the crown of the victory of the Spirit over the Law, or rather, over the thinking of the flesh, is the liberty in Christ, as Saint Paul says: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). And this liberty in Christ is accomplished through the free will of man, on the one hand, in combination with the working of the Divine grace on the other.

Behold, therefore, why the hymnographer says: “forcing thyself on in martyric zeal with the blood of thy volition, and thou wast shown to be an unbloody Martyr of true religion” (Minaion Ode 9, Troparion 1). The Holy Church of Jerusalem boasts, because not only did it establish Martyrs of blood for Christ, but also unbloody Martyrs for the mystery of reverence, namely, of the keeping of God’s commandments. “Martyrs are not only those who received death for their faith in Christ but also those who died for the keeping of His commandments,” Evagrios says.

This bloodless martyr of the love for Christ’s commandments, the ladder of virtues and the beauty of the ascetics of the desert of Palestine, Theodosios the God-bearer, let us entreat, along with the Most Blessed Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, to pray to our Lord Jesus Christ, who was baptized in the River Jordan by Saint John, to grant our souls His great mercy and peace in our region and in the whole world. Amen. Many happy returns, free from the coronavirus plague.”

After the Vigil, the Hegoumen Archimandrite Ierotheos, who is suffering from poor health, offered a modest reception to His Beatitude, through his helpers.

From Secretariat-General

 

 




THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN AND GEORGE THE HOZEVITES

On Thursday, 8/21 January 2021, the Patriarchate celebrated the commemoration of Saints John and George the Hozevites.

On this Feast, the Church, and especially the Church of Jerusalem commemorates Saint John. He abandoned the general pastoral care and retreated in the valley of Chorath, at the hermitages of the first ascetic fathers, Zenon, Elias, Eandas, Ganneos and Promos. Saint John made the former hermitage a Monastic centre and a famous Monastery due to his holiness and guided thousands of Monks in ascesis. Saint George came from Cyprus and reconstructed the Monastery after the 614 AD Persian raid.

The two Saints are considered to be the founders of the Monastery due to their mission there.

Their commemoration was celebrated with an All-night Vigil, officiated by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos.

Welcoming His Beatitude, the Hegoumen and renovator of the Monastery, Archimandrite Constantine said the following:

“Your Beatitude, Father and Master,

with Your Reverend Entourage

The Holy Founders of this Holy Lavra, John and George the Hozevites, came in the desert of Judea, a desert, arid and harsh land, having first renounced the world. Through their ascesis and cleansing from the passions, they stroke the devil very hard, right here, at the centre of his kingdom, the desert!

It is with great emotion that I always remember the inspired words of our father, Hieromonk Anthony, the memorable predecessor of my mediocrity, who told to a pilgrim in 1991 about the monastic, ascetic life and of the Hozevite Saints.

Among other things, Fr Anthony had said: “…we are never alone. You feel the presence of the Saints here. And you feel much security…There is a different kind of grace in the Desert, and we are very peaceful! And we are always optimistic!

God is with us, when, of course, we are on God’s path, and when we strive…

We have to be ready at first, and then God comes. We invoke Him. And the Fathers here, of course, have much to tell us. The Saints set an example with their lives, they showed us ways and paths, so that we may easily gain the life ever after, the eternal one, the life that “endures forever” and exchange the temporary things with the eternal ones…

Christ is the Truth, the Way, the Life, Everything!

Surely for many people the monastic life is strange, a challenge, how can one live by himself, without comforts, without a homeland, without relatives, without all these things that seem to be the meaning of life in our days…Nevertheless, where Christ is, there is no need whatsoever for anything…

We have the Mother of God here, the Protector. And the prayers of the Saints, of the Holy Fathers!

Because they showed us the way, they unmasked the devil with their lives, with their manner of living, they renounced the world completely, not out of hatred for the world, but out of love for the world…And out of love for God…Here the Fathers exist. The Fathers’ books exist, we open, read them and choose…

It’s either Christ or chaos!!”

Such words, Your Beatitude, came from our Father Anthony then, and bringing his words to the present day, amidst the horrible pandemic, which is a plague for the world, we draw hope, patience, serenity and optimism from our faith in Jesus Christ, His Most Holy Mother, the Holy Founders of this Monastery, John and George the Hozevites, and from all the Saints.

As Your Sons, we welcome Your Beatitude, wishing: Happy Feast!”

Co-celebrants to His Beatitude were their Eminences; Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina and Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis, as the chanting was delivered by the Monastery Monks and Mr Vasilios Gotsopoulos.

Before the Holy Communion His Beatitude delivered the following Sermon:

“Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious”(Psalm 66:1-2), the psalmist proclaims.

Beloved Fathers and Brethren in Christ,

Noble Christians

The grace of our Holy Father George has gathered us all in this sacred place of the Jordan desert, of Hozeva, in order to rend glory to the Holy Trinitarian God, on the sacred commemoration of His Saint, the one that Lord sanctified; the Lord, who sanctifies those who love Him.

Today, Christ is born in Bethlehem of Judea and is baptized in the Jordan, the Church of the nations is mystically purified and puts on clothing of divine light. The truth has come, God hath appeared to those who sit in the shadow, He who was born from the Virgin has come to save our nation; Saint Andrew of Crete says.

Our Holy Father George longed to be dressed in this garment of the divine light, hearkening to Saint Paul’s words: “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked” (2 Cor. 5:2-3).

These clothes of the New Testament’s grace, namely of Christ’s light, did Saint George find in this deserted place of Hozeva, the Jordan district, where “our Lord God, having seen us naked, hath appeared to clothe us in the first robe again. Christ hath appeared, for He truly willeth to renew all creation” (Minaion January 2, apolytikion).

Saint John the Baptist’s preaching for repentance turned the Jordan desert into the New Adam’s Paradise, namely, a garden of repentance and spiritual progress and development, where numerous ascetics retreated “Seeing [that they] have purified their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit” (1 Peter 1:22). The Lavra of Monks that was founded by our Holy Father George became a dwelling place, in which those who longed and still long for “the salvation of the Lord and the studying of his law” (Psalm 119:174), come to know the dynasty and the glory of the majesty of His Kingdom (Psalm 145:12). And this is because, according to the psalmist, “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). And according to our Lord Jesus Christ, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).

Interpreting these words of the Lord, Zigavinos says: “the birth is not carnal, but spiritual…the carnal birth is felt by the senses; while the spiritual one is noetic, and there is no need to examine the noetic with the senses, nor in a human manner that which is divine”. And Saint Theophylaktos says: “the baptized does not become a divine spirit, but he is deemed worthy to receive the adoption and the grace and the honour in Spirit”.

This very adoption in the Spirit and the grace and the honour did Saint George and all those who followed him in his ascetic striving receive, such as Saint John, Bishop of Caesarea of Palestine, and our contemporary Saint John the New Hozevite from Romania, whose fragrant relics rest before our eyes. These Holy Hozevite Fathers, who illumined the whole world with their miracles, say along with Saint Paul: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:3-5).

The Holy Church of Jerusalem rejoices and is glad because God is miraculous in the protection of His Saints. “God is wondrous in his saints” (Ps. 67:36), King-Prophet David chants. Indeed, God makes his Saints victors over death and corruption, as the hymnographer of Saint George says: “Thou didst utterly despise every delight of this life, O marvellous Father, for the sake of heavenly delight and glory; for thou wast diligent to quench the furnace of the passions with a hard way of life and with thy many tears, O George, august adornment of monks” (Minaion January 8, Ode nine, Troparion 1).

Yes, my dear Brethren, Saint George scorned every delight, arrogance and luxury of this world for the heavenly glory. Therefore, along with Saint Paul and the other Holy Fathers, he says: “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20-21). This great truth is being witnessed by the incorrupt relics of all the Saints, Fathers and Ascetics who illumined this Holy Lavra of Hozeva.

This redeeming message of Saint Paul, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), is what our Holy Father George along with all his Hozevite co-ascetics saying to all of us. And with the hymnographer, let us say: “To the Lord God Who did descend to the Hebrew Children in the fiery furnace and did transform the flames and the burning heat into dew, chant praises and hymns, O all ye works of His, and exalt Him greatly to ages and all ages” (Minaion, January 8, Ode nine, Heirmos). Amen. Many happy returns!”

The Vigil was followed by a Monastic meal.

From Secretariat-General

 




THE CUTTING OF THE NEW YEAR CAKE AT THE PATRIARCHATE

On Wednesday evening, 31 December 2020 /13 January 2021, which is New Year’s Eve according to the Julian calendar, the Cutting of the New Year Cake took place at the Patriarchate.

This ceremony is held by the Church, for the beginning of each New Year on 1st January, as we also commemorate Saint Basil, to whom we owe the custom of the New Year Cake, as he put in it a coin as a token of charity, respecting the dignity of the poor.

This ceremony on New Year’s 2021 Eve was led by H.H.B. our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, who addressed those present with the following:

“For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2), Saint Paul preaches.

The New Year’s dawn has shone unto us today, like the light of those under the shadow of death, due to the coronavirus plague; for this reason, our Holy Church of Christ has gathered us all in this holy place of our Venerable Patriarchate, in order to give glory and thank the Holy Trinitarian God, who has given times and seasons in His own power (Acts 1:7). On the commemoration of the circumcision according to the flesh of the Son of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ on the one hand, and on the other, on the co-celebration of the commemoration of our Holy Father among the Saints, Basil the Great, in whose honour we have this ceremony of the cutting of the New Year Cake which bears his name “Vasilopita”.

The change of the year is a fact that marks the course of the worldly history of man, and much more of the sacred history, which finds its peak at the mystery of the Divine Providence, namely the Incarnation of God the Word, our Saviour Jesus Christ, during the reign of Caesar Augustus and Cyrenius, the Governor of Syria (Luke 2:1-2). For this reason, our Holy Church, according to the Biblical words: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, … To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19), does not only celebrate this event but also calls upon the blessing of God the Father “for the year of the Lord”, saying: “Thou who art One with the Holy Spirit, Word without beginning and Son, the co-creator of all things visible and invisible, bless the crown of this year, preserving the crowds of the Orthodox faithful in peace, by the intercessions of the Theotokos and of all Thy saints”. By the Lord’s blessing, the year within the Church is transformed into a time of salvation according to the saying: “For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

It is precisely this Biblical, or better say, this redeeming change of the year that we celebrate today. “But though the righteous be prevented with death, yet shall he be in rest. For honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by a number of years” (Wisdom of Solomon 4:7-8).

In other words, the distinguishment of time into the present, past and future, on the one hand, and its counting in years, on the other, is made understood only in Christ our God, according to the witness of Saint John the Theologian: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8). And the mental, or philosophical consideration of time, cannot be determined, that is why Saint Peter says: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

This means that time, which becomes a season in the Church of Christ, was given to us, so that we may become through faith “watchers of His majesty”, namely to become seers of God’s glory in His heavenly Kingdom. And Saint Basil the Great says: “In order that one may not try to find the beginning of the world and of time by the use of human thoughts, in order that one may not be led astray from the truth, God has put His seal (in the Book of Genesis), to protect the soul of man; God has given His precious Name to protect from such teaching (fallacy), saying that the beginning of the world and of the time was made by God. The blessed nature, the abundant goodness, the beginning of all beings, the source of life, the much-desired beauty, that is beloved by all the logical beings, the water, the light, the incomprehensible wisdom, He (God) made heaven and earth from the beginning”.

These God-inspired words of the established Church Father, Basil the Great, call all those who love “the much-desired beauty, the source of life, the noetic light, and also the unapproachable wisdom”, during this time of the change of the year and with the ongoing deadly plague of coronavirus, to consider, each one of us to himself, to what thing(s) we have gone astray, thus imitating the prodigal son, of the Gospel parable, who having come back to his senses, he thought: “I will arise and go to my father and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son…” (Luke 15:18-21).

Having before us the repentance of the prodigal son and the viewing of time in Christ, who became incarnate through the pure flesh of the Ever-Virgin Mary the Theotokos, let us entreat the great Hierarch of Cappadocia, Saint Basil, who has decorated the customs of the people, to pray to our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who was circumcised in the flesh, for the salvation of our souls, for the peace of the world, and especially for the peace of the tested Middle East, for the cessation of the schisms and the restoration of the unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church, and for the release of the humankind from the various mutations of the coronavirus plague.

And let us say along with the hymnographer: Saviour of all, and master, creator and sovereign of the whole creation, by the prayers of the one who gave birth to Thee, grant peace to Thy world, keeping the Church always united. Moreover, Lord, Thou, Who has under Your power the times and the seasons, bless the crown of this year of Your goodness, preserving in peace and health the Venerable Hagiotaphite Brotherhood, our reverend Christian flock, the Holy City of Jerusalem and the noble nation of the Rum Orthodox. Amen.

Have a happy, blessed and healthy New Year 2021.

Many Happy Returns!”

After His Beatitude’s address, the Apolytikia of the Feast were sung and then with the wish of “A blessed and Happy New Year”, His Beatitude cut the Cake and distributed the pieces to the Hagiotaphite Fathers and to the few guests present, due to the covid-19 measures.

Afterwards, the Patriarchal School’s Students sang the carols at the Patriarchate Hall and at the houses of the Hagiotaphite Fathers.

From Secretariat-General




THE ADDRESS OF THE PATRIARCH OF JERUSALEM TO THE PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL FOR THE NEW YEAR

The decades-long established meeting of the President of the State of Israel Mr Reuven Rivlin with the Heads of the Churches and Religious Institutions in the State of Israel, for the New Civil Year, 2021, took place on Wednesday, 17/30 December 2020.

This year, the meeting was held according to the covid-19 restrictive measures. His Beatitude our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos addressed the President Mr Rivlin on behalf of the Christians in the State of Israel as per below:

Jerusalem 30 December 2020

 

“Your Excellency, Mr President,

Respected Governmental Officials,

Your Beatitudes,

Your Eminences,

Your Graces,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We wish to extend to you, Mr President, our greetings and best wishes for this holiday season, in which the Abrahamic faith traditions keep festivals of light and life. In this difficult time of the pandemic, during which so many are suffering both in the Holy Land and around the world, it remains incumbent upon us all to remain focused on the hope that this holiday season promises.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to you, Mr President, for your steadfast support of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious character of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Your commitment to the well-being and integrity of the Christian presence is a real encouragement, especially as we face the ongoing challenges from those who do not understand the true nature of the Holy Land.

We have deeply appreciated the personal concern that you have shown us by speaking individually to each of the Heads of the Churches during this pandemic.

In this festive season of peace and goodwill, we remain convinced that the best possible roadmap for the future of the well-being of all our peoples here, is the way of dialogue and mutual respect. We share your concern, Mr President, about the increasing incidents of radical activity in the Holy Land, most recently at the Church of the Agony in Gethsemane. Yet, we are confident, that the challenges that we face can be resolved by proper dialogue, and we cannot relax our vigilance against those who wish to subvert the integrity of our common life, in which the three Abrahamic traditions may be allowed to co-exist and to flourish.

Our beloved Holy Land has suffered terribly during the pandemic. Many thousands of pilgrims cannot be with us, especially during this holiday season, and this is both a spiritual and economic hardship for us. And yet, we do not lose heart, and we trust in Almighty God to sustain us during this time. For it is written:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” (Psalm 45[46]: 1-3).

We are all looking forward in the New Year to a time of recovery and new life, in which our regular patterns of life will be restored, and our local communities, as well as those who come here on pilgrimage, may experience a more normal life once again. We welcome the encouraging news of new COVID vaccine.

We would like to make a special mention of the Office for Christian Communities and Mr Sezar Marjieh and his colleagues for their crucial efforts and co-ordination.

As we look to the future in the hope of this holy season, we take this opportunity, Mr President, to wish you and your family a Happy New Year. May God bless you in your work on behalf of all the peoples of our beloved Holy Land.

Thank you.”

His Beatitude Theophilos III

Patriarch of Jerusalem