Beloved Brethren in Christ,
“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). With these words, the angel dispelled the shepherds’ fear on the night when God, who is “uncontainable in all things,” fit into the finite boundaries of humanity and its recorded history in a cave in Bethlehem. And so, God became man, so that we might become “Gods by grace,” as St. Athanasius the Great characteristically writes.
Christ’s Nativity ushers in optimism and hope, and has become our channel of communication with the Divine Christ-child – the incarnate God of love and reconciliation, peace and solidarity, humility and charity. It is difficult for the human mind to even fathom the mystery of the Incarnation. How is it possible for God to become man and to identify with His creation? Christ took on flesh in a world that continues to be unjust, to produce and cause pain; in a world of fierce conflicts and conflicting interests between nations, peoples, religions, and cultures.
This Christmas, let us turn our attention to these things and denounce the disdain for mankind and the disparaging of humanity’s essence and dignity, the warped and adulterated logic and behavior of today’s world, and let us uniquely experience the Nativity of the God-man.
Here in this missionary eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – the Holy Metropolis of Sweden and All Scandinavia – by the grace of Christ Incarnate, we remain committed to our ceaseless prayer and coordinated efforts to make our presence and testimony felt in all five of the nations which it comprises.
Through your unwavering support, over the past four years, six new ecclesiastical communities have been established: four in Sweden – St. Cleopas the Apostle in Kalmar, the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple in Borås, Sts. Constantine and Helen in Jönköping, and the St. Nicholas Hermitage in Rättvik; and two in Norway – St. Nectarios in Stavanger and St. Chrysostomos of Smyrna in Bergen.
In the year 2018, with God’s help, we will proceed with the establishment of the parish of St. Bartholomew the Apostle in Reykjavik, Iceland. This is most appropriate, considering that we were afforded the great honor of welcoming His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew there this past October.
In 2018, we will also experience a unique joy and blessing – attaining the milestone of doubling our number of parishes in Scandinavia. Let us all work both collectively and individually to help realize this common vision. I kindly ask you to pray that our parishes may receive more worthy clergymen and lay assistants, as well as enrich their ministries directed to people of all ages, while also continuing our renovation projects; and all this, of course, always for the glory of God!
In 2018, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom will also be published in Greek, English, and Swedish for the first time. The necessity of this project arose from native Swedish speakers’ need to understand the Divine Liturgy – especially our youth, a good number of whom come from mixed marriages and who possess a limited nderstanding of liturgical texts, resulting in them being unable to fully comprehend the wealth of our liturgical tradition.
My dear brethren, let us make certain that Christ will be at the center of this year’s Christmas celebrations; together with us, by our side, and within us! Through our participation in the sacramental life of the Church and gushing with joy over the Incarnation of the Divine Logos, let us look to our hearts and follow the shining, comforting, and hopeful star of Bethlehem.
The feast of Christmas reminds us that Christ “visited us from above.” We must now act accordingly towards our brethren who are in need, refugees, migrants, and our own newcomers arriving from our own homeland, along with all other lands. Let us strengthen our efforts to ease their burden all throughout the realm of our Metropolitan eparchy. God saw the tragedy and fall of the human race, which is why He came down to earth as a refugee and a migrant!
With the hope and confidence that our Lord will be born into your hearts and make them His permanent dwelling place, I extend my most heartfelt wishes to you and your families for a blessed Christmas and New Year, filled with physical and spiritual health, and happiness.
With my deepest love in Christ,
† Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia
A message to remind us that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ