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Archbishop Anastas' message for Christmas: Patience full of hope remains the indispensable guide

Archbishop Anastas' message for Christmas: Patience full of hope remains

Archbishop Anastas has sent his Christmas message. In a time of wars, like the one in Ukraine and Palestine, the Archbishop emphasizes patience full of hope.

This is his message:

CHRISTMAS 2023

Patience full of hope

".. let us go forward with patience in the battle that awaits us..." (Heb. 12:1)

Here, Christ is born, praise him!

Christmas, the culminating Christian celebration, is not just an occasion for exchanging greetings and gifts, for family warmth, for having fun, and for bringing spiritual excitement to social life. It is, above all, an inexhaustible source of manifold hope – for the value of every human being, for the journey of humanity, for the meaning of life. The birth of Christ solemnly proclaims that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Jn. 3:16). So, we are not alone in the vicissitudes of this life. The Son and Word of God, through his Incarnation, took the whole human nature as it is, spiritual and material, and gave it a new form. It is an Event that constitutes the essence of the Christian revelation: "God appeared in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). This manifestation of God's love "in the flesh" constitutes the unique feature of the Christian faith. Let us stress it “again and again”: God, the Creator and Lord of the universe is not an energy, a wisdom, or an undefined impersonal power. He is a personal God, and as a Person he reveals himself to man, while the latter is in a constant relationship with him. A relationship that becomes tangible for the whole human being: "God is love. He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 Jn. 4:16). This God did not abandon the world, which is killed by selfishness, hatred, injustice, despair. The celebration of Christmas invites us to remember that the hope of His presence in our lives is the source of patience.

**

The innumerable difficulties and dead ends that appear during the Savior's earthly journey are always faced with hopeful patience. From His Nativity, as presented in Orthodox iconography, in the gaze of the All-Holy Mother, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi, a peaceful and strongly enlightened patience is noticed. Even, a silent patience can be seen in the look of the animals that were in the simple cave and participated in the adventure of little Jesus in a foreign land.

The hopeful patience that springs from Christmas is not a weakness, rather it is a mystical power. He transforms even the greatest sorrows and weaknesses of this life, strengthening resistance, fighting spirit, qualitative endurance, support of truth and justice. Apostle Paul, from personal experience, assures us: "... we know that suffering brings patience, patience brings trial and trial brings hope. Hope does not put us to shame" (Rom. 5:3-5). Through patience, the spiritual man makes better use of his mental and sensory powers. Patience, together with silent perseverance, opens paths of passage for various human relationships with no way out, for health difficulties, poverty and social unrest. It leads human life to maturity, that "you must endure to the end, that you may be perfect, complete and without any blemish" (James 1:4).

Hope sustains patience and patience strengthens hope, and both are strengthened by faith. The mention of patience in Holy Scripture is numerous and illuminating. It helps us to move forward "rejoicing in hope, enduring in suffering, and persevering in prayer" (Rom. 12:12). As we remember the example of our Lord and the saints who followed him, "let us go forward with patience in the battle that awaits us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, who is the head of our faith and the one who makes us perfect" (Heb. 12:1-2). With our gaze fixed on it, we face with clarity and strength all the trials that arise before us.

**

Every era has its own upheavals, military conflicts, catastrophes, tragedies, scarcity, spiritual hurt, despair. Our era is being rocked by protracted cruel, unimaginable wars in many corners of the earth, but also close to us, in Ukraine and Palestine. Contradictions and divisions are also plaguing church environments. Every nation has its own diverse problems. Every community, every person experiences moments of deep sadness and pain. In all cases, the necessary guide remains hopeful patience.

Let us add our plea for the cessation of murderous clashes and various social crises, so that peace reigns everywhere on earth. Let's try to, "through patience and consolation, which come from the Scriptures", to strengthen among ourselves the same mind and harmonious cooperation, having more hope within us. "May the God of hope fill [us] full of joy and peace in [our] faith, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit [we] may be full of hope" (Rom. 15:13).

Here, Christ is born, praise him! May patience full of hope, through the grace of the Triadic God, fill our hearts with joy and enlightened peace, especially during these December celebrations and throughout the approaching New Year 2024.