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ARTICLE OF HIS BEATITUDE PATRIARCH THEOPHILOS III OF JERUSALEM FOR WASHINGTON POST

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  • Christos
    http://www.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/en/news.php Merry Orthodox Christmas While Christians in the West celebrate Christmas on December 25, Orthodox
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 10, 2010
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      http://www.jerusalem-patriarchate.info/en/news.php



      "Merry Orthodox Christmas"
      While Christians
      in the West celebrate Christmas on December 25, Orthodox Christians keep the
      Feast of Christ's Nativity on January 7. Here the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the
      spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land, the 141st bishop of
      Jerusalem in a succession that stretches back unbroken, by tradition, to James,
      the Brother of Jesus, reflects on the meaning of Christmas in the land where
      Jesus was born.
      Every year
      Christians from the Holy Land as well as pilgrims from the world over gather in
      Bethlehem for
      the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. Here, in one of the oldest church
      buildings in the world in continuous use, the faithful come to celebrate their
      belief that God entered human history in the person of Jesus. For Christians,
      hope has a face: the face of the infant Jesus. Because, Christians say, in the
      face of this person we see the very face of God.
      For Orthodox Christians, the life of faith is not built simply on principles for living a good
      life, though such principles are certainly important. For us, the life of faith
      is grounded first and foremost in this historical event, in which God took on
      our human life in all its fullness so that we, in our turn, might be drawn into
      the fullness of God's own divine life.
      The first church
      to be built on the traditional site of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem was begun by the Empress Helena,
      the mother of the Emperor Constantine the Great, in the year 327. Beneath the
      church is the grotto of the Nativity. Here for 1700 years the faithful have
      venerated the place of Jesus' birth. In the year 565, the Emperor Justinian I,
      who also built the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, rebuilt the
      Church of the Nativity, and over the centuries there have been many alterations
      and repairs to the building. When the Persians invaded the Holy
      Land in the early 7th century, the Church of the Nativity was one
      of the few Christian holy sites not to be destroyed. It remains a unique
      architectural masterpiece of the early Christian era.
      Here, in this
      ancient and holy place, Orthodox Christians will gather to welcome the birth of
      their Savior today. One of the most famous features of the church is the low
      door at its entrance, through which everyone, from princes and presidents to
      shopkeepers and students, must enter bent over in adoration and humility.
      The Orthodox
      Patriarchate of Jerusalem has been a constant witness to this truth of faith
      and of history for 2000 years. We endeavor to ensure that the holy sites of
      this Holy Land remain places of pilgrimage and
      religious observance for all people of good will, for we understand the power
      of place and of history to make God real for us. We understand that God
      transcends all material things and all human constructs; but we also understand
      that the presence and knowledge of God are mediated to us by holy places. We
      all know of those "thin" places where heaven and earth seem to touch,
      and time and eternity meet. The grotto of the Nativity is just such a place.
      There has been a
      Christian presence in the Holy Land since the
      time of Jesus and the apostles, and in this region we have come to know
      something of the power of place and history both for good and for ill. But for
      us Orthodox in the Holy Land, whatever the
      political or economic circumstances in which we find ourselves, Christmas is a
      yearly reminder that hope has a face, the face of a newborn child who is
      greeted by shepherds and worshipped by Wise Men.
      At Christmas we
      Orthodox sing, "Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One...for
      our sake the eternal God was born as a little Child!" These words describe
      a wonderful paradox. For not only does a Virgin give birth - itself a sign to
      us of an inexpressible example of divine-human co-operation - but "the
      eternal God is born as a little Child." While a Western mind may stop to
      ask how such a thing might be possible, the Orthodox mind allows itself to be
      embraced by mystery. For what better hope could there be than God himself
      breaking into human history.
      Our sacred history
      lies at the heart of our identity as Christians in the Holy
      Land. We live in the places where that sacred history unfolded,
      and here Jews and Muslims, as well as Christians, are living witnesses to it in
      all its complexity. But at the heart of that complexity remains the person of
      Jesus, who is the face of hope.
      Hope is not
      optimism. Hope does not turn its eyes away from the truth of life in all its
      beauty and in all its danger. In the face of the life of the world as it is,
      hope insists that there is a different way for the human family to live
      altogether, a way that was originally intended for us, and a way in which we
      could walk again if we were but willing to do so. The birth of this Child has
      made that hope a genuine possibility for the human family, and it is the
      responsibility of faithful people to be co-creators with God of a new future
      for creation that ensures the well-being of all the unique creatures of God.
      For Christians in the Holy Land, the life of faith is not a decoration to an
      existence of other accomplishments. The life of faith is a journey into union
      with the One who is our Life and our Hope, our Light and our true Wisdom. January
      7 in Bethlehem we shall gather once again to
      proclaim this Hope to all the world: "Make ready, O Bethlehem, for paradise is opened!".

      By His
      Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III, 141st Patriarch of Jerusalem, January 6, 2010.


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