Κυριακή, 21 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9: 4) CHRISTMAS ENCYCLICAL by Metropolitan Sotirios Heavenly Visitor


Η came 2014 years ago. He came in the most humble manner. People did not recognize Him. And yet He was God and man. Theanthropos. They did not have room for Him in the inn. They forced Him to be born in a cave. He did not despise them.  He did not hold this against them.  As our True God, He did not, nor does He desire the death of the sinner. He wants all to be saved.
     The angels recognized Him. They announced the glad tidings to the shepherds. The shepherds hurried to the cave. There they found Him, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.  They worshiped Him. The Wise Men came from the East.  They too worshiped Him.  They offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
     But Herod the King was enraged.  He feared that he would lose his kingdom to another King.  He set out to destroy Him. He slew two thousand (2,000) infants. But he did not succeed in killing Him. The infant Jesus was taken to Egypt with His parents when they fled to Egypt.
     The God-man grew and matured. He began His public ministry when He was thirty years old . His first words were: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”  He asks for change and transformation. To replace evil with good.  To change the former teaching of  “an eye for an eye”  to “love one another. Love your enemies.”  He troubled the peace of the Scribes and Pharisees. He confronted the hypocrisy of the High Priests and the Rabbis. He pointed out their false teachings  and they reacted against Him. They chased Him down.  They condemned Him. They crucified Him.
      But He forgave them while He was nailed to the Cross. He shed His blood for them and for the salvation of their souls – for the salvation of all. After His death on the Cross, He descended into Hades to save all those who were long dead. He was raised from the dead and ascended to Heaven in order to make possible the resurrection of each person, and the participation of everyone in the joyous life of Paradise.  So that everyone may enjoy eternal glory and personal sanctification and holiness in the Risen Christ who is God.
     The persecution against Him and His followers officially continued until 313 AD. The place of Saul who persecuted the followers of Christ was officially taken over by the Roman Empire. It is estimated that thirteen million (13,000,000) Christians (little Christs) were tortured and martyred at the hands of the soldiers of the mighty Roman Empire during the first three centuries.
     Christ and the “little Christs” did not surrender. They continued their saving work, even for those who persecuted them.  They changed the history of the world so that it is now reckoned from BC (before Chirst) to AD (Anno Domini), meaning the Year of the Lord. They created the best societies in the world, known as the Western Christian Democratic Countries. In these countries there is respect for human rights. There is freedom. There is democracy. Of course, things are not perfect. But they are much better than those that occur in other countries.
     The East criticizes the West. The East will offer great service and benefit  itself, if it considers and compares what is now going on in the East and that what is going on in the West. All one has to do is to take a moment to think of what Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIS – the new Caliphate -  is doing in Africa and the Middle East. To be fair, we must say that in the West things are not going so well.  The reason for this is that the Western leaders have forgotten their Christian principles and the guiding principles of morality. But whatever bad is happening in the West, it can not be compared with the terrible and evil acts that are now being comitted by Al Qaeda, the Boko Haram, and in the New Caliphate of Iraq and Syria. There, Christ and Christianity is openly and shamelessly persecuted. It is estimated that over one hundred thousand (100,000) “little Christs” have been killed, crucified, and are being slaughtered every year. The blood of these “little Christs” are pouring down the streets like raging  rivers. The enemies of Christ rejoice and boast of their evil deeds. The Western leaders, who have forgotten their Christian principles, are silent and and do nothing.
     Will this finish Christ? Will Christians, these “little Chirsts” -  disappear and be wiped off the face of the earth?  No!  Christ was not destroyed even on the Cross.  Satan rejoiced when he saw Christ expiring and giving up His spirit on the Cross. When Christ descended into Hades and overthrew the power and realm of death, then Satan realized that he was not the victor over Christ, but in fact the vanquished who was defeated by Christ.
     From the Cross, Christ forgave His enemies. Today’s Christians, the real “little Christs”, must also do the same. We do not swear to take revenge or curse these persecutors of Christ and these killers of the “little Christs”. We are called to love them, but not their acts and their transgressions. We must forgive them and pray for their salvation. We pray especially for their conversion, as Saul was converted to Paul. Let us pray that they repent and convert and come to know Christ and recognize Him as the true Messiah, the only Redeemer and Saviour of the world, so that they will follow Him to life in eternity.
     It is prudent to guard against this madness that has broken out in today’s society against Christ and His followers, the “little Christs” in the world. The true leaders of all countries must break their silence and do all in their power to protect these persecuted Christians. The Muslims of the world, both young and old, must learn about what is happening and to speak out against these evil acts and this madness that has over `taken some of their fanatic brethren, who are actively persecuting Christ and His followers around the world. Let them be taught. May they also find the truth. This search will lead them to Christ, who is the Way, the Life and the Truth.
   True Christians around the world:  pray so that the many “Sauls” in the world today – that is, those who are persecuting Christ and who are  murderering Christians – may be converted so that they become like Paul, the Apostle to the Nations.  May they turn to Christ, and be faithful disciples of the Teacher who taught all to love one another.  May they preach this good news and be fervent Preachers of this Truth to the ends of the earth.
    Let us celebrate the Birth of Christ our Saviour this year, my beloved Christians, with greater and more fervent faith in Him.  With more dedication. With more love for Christ and for His persecutors. It is my hope and prayer that Christ be born in the hearts and souls of everyone - especially in the hearts and souls of those who persecute Christ and who do not know Him and His message of peace and good will to all.


With fatherly love and blessings,


METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOP SOTIRIOS
Head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Canada
TS:pa


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