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December 26, 2022

2022 Pastoral Encyclical for Christmas (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos) 

Pastoral Encyclical for Christmas


Which Christ Are We Celebrating?

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

We are passing through the days of Christmas and we feel the great joy of the feast of the Birth of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh. This phrase is accurate, according to the doctrinal teaching of our Church, because in Christ we confess two births, the first birth is according to His divine nature from the Father before all ages, and the second birth is according to human nature from the Most Holy Theotokos, when the fullness of time came.

Thus, these days we celebrate the birth of Christ in the flesh, and the name "Christ" is of the hypostasis, and it is not only said of one nature, but it means both natures. Because He Himself anointed Himself, as God, giving the anointing to the body with His divinity, and receiving the anointing as a man, and the anointing of humanity is divinity, according to Saint John of Damascus. It is indeed a great mystery, how the two natures were united in Christ, divine and human in one hypostasis, therefore the name "Christ" is the name of the hypostasis, and not of one of the two natures.

Thus, the name "Christ" mainly denotes the most congruent, that is, God and man, the God-man, only Divinity or humanity, always, however, by virtue of the way of giving.

The important thing is that Christ is a great mystery, "the only new thing under the sun", and, of course, it is a great gift to be called Christians, since through Baptism and Chrismation we are united with Christ, Who dwells "through faith in our hearts" (Eph. 3:17).

On this great feast of the Incarnate Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, before reading the apostolic text from the Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, the Psalm verse: "Let all the earth worship you and sing praises to you" (Psalm 65:4) is recited. In other words, we turn to Christ and say to him, let the whole earth worship You and sing hymns to You. And at the same time we say another Psalm: "Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!" (Ps. 97:4), that is, let the whole earth send forth to God shouts of joy.

In fact, in all parts of the world there are Christians who these days celebrate the Birth of Christ in various ways, with worship gatherings and other celebratory events, as well as in special ways in their homes. We are all called Christians, and we celebrate these days the birth in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ.

However, the question that arises is: Which Christ are we celebrating? Do we celebrate Christ as proclaimed by the Gospel and the Epistles of the Apostles, i.e. the New Testament, as the Fathers of the Ecumenical synods confess Him, or the Christ of our opinions and our passions? And finally, who are all these Christians and what do they believe about Christ?

The holiday of Christmas is solemnly celebrated throughout the length and breadth of the earth, in the west and the east, the north and the south, but if we examine things carefully, we will find that the theology of Christ is different for many Christians.

Some Christians celebrate only the human nature of Christ, that is, they only see His Birth in Bethlehem of Judea and feel Him only as a man, having only His human nature. Other Christians celebrate only His divine nature, since they believe that the human nature was absorbed by the divine nature. And other Western Christians have different views about Christ, His teaching and His work. Even many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas, and praise Christ, whom they imprison in nationalisms and involve in political and war expedients.

However, the troparia of the Church urge us these days to celebrate Christ as the Fathers of the Church decided in the Ecumenical Synods, condemning other fragmentary and isolated heretical views. We are exhorted to celebrate Christ, as perfect God and as perfect man, who has two natures, divine and human, united in His hypostasis "unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably", and has two wills, divine and human, which act in His one hypoastsis. This is defined by the word "Christ", which constitutes a great mystery.

Finally, the work of Christ is universal, everywhere there are Christians who bear the name of Christ, but do not really celebrate Him, since they see Christ fragmentarily, heretically and according to their individual views, secularized, according to their ethnic opinions and passions. Thus, Christ with His divine incarnation saved our race from sin, the devil and death, but not all Christians are saved, even if they celebrate Him, since they have their own individual views about Christ, which views are determined by their heresies, their ideologies and their passions.

All the people of the earth during His second coming will see Him in His glory, while now many are creating Him with their imagination. We Orthodox Christians are given the opportunity to celebrate the birth of Christ in the flesh, as our tradition requires, as our Fathers describe it in their synodal decisions and in their discourses, as the troparia we chant these days exhort us, that is, to celebrate Him as Christ, who has two natures and two wills, which are united in His hypostasis, and that is why He is called Christ.

In our time, all humanity is "a mixture of Christians, ex-Christians and non-Christians", that is, it is "a post-Christian world", (Fr. Symeon of Essex), but also pre-Christian, it is a world distinguished by "relativism" , that is to say, everything is relative, and they try to include Christ within this relativity. Thus, Christ is not truly celebrated, but falsely.

That is why it is necessary to be real Orthodox Christians, as we chant it in the hymns of the Church these days, because otherwise we will celebrate "Christmas without the true Christ" with eternal consequences.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.