Pat. Bartholomew: Christmas Enyclical Affirms Unborn Life and Traditional Marriage

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

I saw this over at AOI and agree with the ideas expressed in the editorial.

patriarch-bartholomew


His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

In what can only be termed as a remarkable shift in tone and emphasis, Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew soundly defends the value of unborn life in his recent Christmas Encyclical. His Holiness writes:

The Lord assumed and sanctified all of human nature. The pre-eternal God condescended to become for us an embryo and be borne inside the womb of the Theotokos. In so doing, He both honored human life from its earliest stage and taught us respect toward humankind from its earliest conception.

This is a far cry from earlier statements where Constantinople’s support of the unborn life reached no deeper than the shallow logic employed by abortion activists (see: A Patriarch who ‘Generally Speaking, Respects Human Life’), and where an ethic of human life according to the moral tradition was never properly formulated. Hopefully the shift portends even greater moral clarity in the future.

The Patriarch also affirmed traditional marriage (a misnomer because in Christian tradition and natural law any arrangement apart from one male and female in marriage is not a marriage). While not addressing homosexual couplings head on, the Ecumencial Patriarch’s meaning is clear:

We are certain that all spiritual and ecclesiastical, much like the vigilant shepherds of old, but also the leaders of our world, know and accept this divine truth and reality, which we once again proclaim from the Ecumenical Patriarchate during this Christmas period. We must all encourage the creation and function of natural families, which can produce citizens that are spiritually healthy and joyful, filled with sentiments of security, based on the feeling of safety provided by a strong and protective father as well as a nurturing and loving mother. We need families where God might find rest. We invite and urge the entire plenitude of our holy Orthodox Church to live in a manner that is worthy of their calling and do everything that is possible to support the institution of marriage.

We should welcome Pat. Bartholomew’s increasing outspokenness on these critical issues. Moral confusion prevails in the culture and in our Churches. When leaders affirm the moral tradition, everyone is strengthened.

Source: Ecumenical Patriachate

Prot. No. 1109

Patriarchal Encyclical for Christmas

+ BARTHOLOMEW
By God’s Mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church:
Grace, mercy, and peace from the Savior Christ, born in Bethlehem

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”
(Isaiah 9.5)

Many centuries ago, the Prophet foresaw and announced with enthusiasm and joy the birth of the child Jesus from the ever-Virgin Mary. Naturally, even then, there was no period of census by Augustus Caesar, no place to stay for the safety of the Holy Virgin who was carrying a child by the Holy Spirit. So the holy Joseph as her betrothed and protector was obliged to lead her to a cave, a manger with animals, “in order to give birth to a child.”

Heaven and earth received them, offering thanks to their Creator: “The angels offered the hymn; the heavens a star; the wise men gifts; the shepherds a miracle; the earth a cave; the desert a manger; and we the Mother Virgin.” The shepherds were keeping watch over their flock, protecting them throughout the night, while the angels were witnessing the Mystery in ecstasy, singing hymns to God. (From Vespers of the Nativity)

The sweetness of the Holy Night of Christmas once again embraces the world. And in the midst of human trial and pain, of unending crises, of passion and enmity, of concern and despair, it presents the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word as a genuine and timely solution. For He descended as dew in a field of cotton inside the womb of the ever-Virgin Mary in order to give rise to righteousness and much peace. (See Ps. 71.7)

In the silence and peace of that sacred night of Christmas, Jesus Christ – being without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, immaterial, ever existing and the same – enters the drama of history bearing flesh, being insignificant, simple, poor and unknown. At the same time, he comes as a “wonderful, counselor, almighty, prince of peace, everlasting father.” (Is. 9.6) Indeed, he comes as a human being, born of a Virgin Mother, to solve the complexity of sin and grant resolution to the impasse of life’s anxiety through His grace and mercy, while providing destiny, value, content, as well as an exemplary ethos and model for the human adventure.

The Lord assumed and sanctified all of human nature. The pre-eternal God condescended to become for us an embryo and be borne inside the womb of the Theotokos. In so doing, He both honored human life from its earliest stage and taught us respect toward humankind from its earliest conception. The Creator of all accepted to be born as an infant and be nurtured by a Virgin. In so doing, He honored both virginity and motherhood, spiritual and natural. This is why St. Gregory the Theologian exhorts: “O women, be as virgins, so that you may become mothers of Christ.” (Homily XXXVIII on Epiphany, PG36.313A)

So the Lord appointed the marriage of male and female in the blessed family. The institution of Christian family constitutes the cell of life and an incubator for the spiritual and physical health and development of children. Therefore, the manifold support of the institution of the family comprises the obligation of the Church and responsibility of leadership in every country.

In order for a child to be raised in a healthy and natural way, there needs to be a family where man and woman live in harmony as one body, one flesh, and one soul, submitting to one another.

We are certain that all spiritual and ecclesiastical, much like the vigilant shepherds of old, but also the leaders of our world, know and accept this divine truth and reality, which we once again proclaim from the Ecumenical Patriarchate during this Christmas period. We must all encourage the creation and function of natural families, which can produce citizens that are spiritually healthy and joyful, filled with sentiments of security, based on the feeling of safety provided by a strong and protective father as well as a nurturing and loving mother. We need families where God might find rest. We invite and urge the entire plenitude of our holy Orthodox Church to live in a manner that is worthy of their calling and do everything that is possible to support the institution of marriage.

Brothers and sisters, “the night is far gone; the day is at hand.” (Rom. 6.12) The shepherds are already headed toward Bethlehem in order to proclaim the miracle. They are inviting us to follow them “like other star-gazing wise men filled with joy” (From the Christmas Troparion of the 4th Ode), bringing “worthy gifts” “such as fine gold to the King of ages, incense to the God of all, and myrrh to the immortal that lay dead for three days.” (Anatolios, Vesperal Hymn at Christmas) That is to say, the gifts of love and our faith, which test us as Christians, especially as Orthodox Christians, in the ethos and tradition of the family, the Fathers, and the Church, which has always practiced the Orthodox way through the centuries and to this day holds together our blessed society, whose cell for sacred life and growth is the family.

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in Christ,
2013 years have passed since the birth of Christ in the flesh
2013 years have passed and, like then, Christ continues to be persecuted in the person of the weak by Herod and all kinds of contemporary Herods
2013 years have passed and Jesus is persecuted in the person of Christians in Syria and elsewhere
2013 years have passed and Christ still flees like a refuge not only in Egypt, but also in the Lebanon, Europe, America and elsewhere, seeking security in an insecure world
2013 years have passed and the child Jesus remains imprisoned with the two hierarchs in Syria, Paul (Yazigi) and Youhanna (Ibrahim), as well as the Orthodox nuns and many other known and unknown Christians
2013 years have passed and Christ is crucified with those who are tortured and killed in order not to betray their faith in Him
2013 years have passed and Jesus is daily put to death in the person of thousands of embryos, whose parents prevent from being born
2013 years have passed and Christ is mocked and ridiculed in the person of unfortunate children, who experience the crisis of the family, destitution and poverty.

It is this human pain, sorrow and affliction that our Lord came and once more comes to assume during this Christmas season. After all, He said: “As you have done to one of these, the least of my brothers and sisters,” you have done to me.” (Matt. 25.40-41) It is for these that He was born of a Virgin, for these that He became human, for these that He suffered, was crucified and arose from the dead. That is to say: for all of us. Thus, let each of us lift up our personal cross in order to find grace and mercy when we seek His assistance. Then, the born Emmanuel, our Savior and Lord, will “be with us.” Amen.

Christmas 2013
+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before God

Comments

  1. Peter A. Papoutsis says:

    Axios Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew!

    Peter A. Papoutsis

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  2. Tim R. Mortiss says:

    I was very glad to have heard this read at my local GO parish church last Sunday. Nothing ambiguous about it!

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    • George Michalopulos says:

      Imagine my disappointment then when I did not hear it last night. What Bartholomew wrote (in the opinion of my cousin from China who was standing next to me) was “sheer poetry.” I agree. To my mind they were a clarion call for a new evangelical fervor. I believe that he was infused by the Holy Spirit.

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  3. Michael Bauman says:

    From a larger cultural perspective it is too little, too late. Maybe it will help in the Church to strengthen our resolve to live a bit more like Christians and to die like Christians: rejecting Satan and his works while being joyful in our union with Jesus Christ.

    “Submit yourselves all ye nations, for God is with us!”. CHRIST IS BORN!

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    • Peter A. Papoutsis says:

      according to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and even Nineva, its never too late to hear the voice of God and repent.

      Peter

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      • Michael Bauman says:

        Peter, of course that is true, but, not likely to happen IMO.

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        • Tim R. Mortiss says:

          Or, as a parson of my acquaintance puts it– “I’m not optimistic, but I’m hopeful”.

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          • Michael Bauman says:

            I am neither optimistic nor hopeful for our political economy. I am hopeful that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will be sufficient to save even me. I can be joyful at such moments and when I am given something to do that is of at least some value to some one for which they are grateful.

            Help those whom I encounter as best I can; learn to rejoice in God my savior in each moment, accept help and correction as needed with grace and humility.

            I have modest expectations.

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  4. Axios to Patriarch Bartholomew! I’m very pleased he is standing up for true marriage and the unborn. It is ironic that while he is speaking more on these issues, Pope Francis seems to be de-emphasizing them.

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  5. I have been mulling, perhaps pondering, the response to Christ is born. How can I, we, best, daily,
    Glorify Him in our lives?

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  6. Gail Sheppard says:

    EVIDENCE that God is always working in our lives and growing us spiritually. . . Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

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  7. Ronda Wintheiser says:

    I’m glad the Patriarch is finally speaking out in defense of unborn children.

    And for anyone as an individual, it is never too late to hear the voice of God and repent. That’s for sure.

    However, it is too late for millions of expectant mothers — both Orthodox and non — who might have chosen to refuse to see killing as a solution to whatever problems they faced that resulted in their choice to abort had they heard a strong word from the Patriarch speaking on behalf of their unborn children.

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  8. Ronda Wintheiser says:

    And as for mulling over how we can best daily glorify Him who became an unborn child, perhaps we could resolve to go down to the killing centers on a regular basis and try to speak to those women who, at this very moment, have appointments to have their unborn children killed — this very day, this very week, and next week, and on and on and on…

    Many of them are there because they have been deceived into believing that they have no choice, ironically, but to abort their children.

    Perhaps we could do what Sojourner Truth and Corrie ten Boom did, and form our own Underground Railroads and prepare our own hidden apartments to hide and save those who are slated for death.

    “Rescue those who are led away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, O, hold them back.” Proverbs 24:11

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  9. Michael Kinsey says:

    It is a message from a patriarch worthy of a patriarch. It is measured, meant for adult Christians. which assumes the great courage, genuine compassion and kindness, natural and common to the Body of the Christ., and addresses us from this high spiritual standard. He speaks to those who know God loves them, and fervently return it in perfect praise. I am so glad to read something I, with my whole heart, am in one accord with.

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  10. M. Stankovich says:

    “Axios” has become the new, “Way to go, man,” and if I recall correctly, Vladyka Tikhon has been waiting years for the Ecumenical Patriarch to make a definitive statement on the unborn. Oorah. But if, as Michael Bauman suggests, in the “world,” where even in our own Church we struggle to maintain what we sing in the Exapostilarion of Matins for the Nativity, “we, who were in darkness and shadow, have found the Truth,” it is too little, too late. As had to be expected, the on-line NY Times proclaims “2013, the year the battle of Equality in Marriage was won.” California and other states are now enacting new laws to circumvent “attrition” of aging abortion providers by allowing trained nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform them. “Axios” strikes as somehow inappropriate for simply stating the truth – particularly when it has been a longtime coming – and provokes in me more questions than accolades: Does this mean you’re “on-board?” Are you finally engaged? Or are you back to protecting your “territory,” your jurisdiction, and your “matters?” Like Michael Bauman, I hope for the best, truly, but I fully expect the same as 2013, left to our own devices. And if I may, again, quote my beloved Prof. of Dogmatic Theology & Ethics, SS Verhovskoy, “God is our Father and the Holy Spirit goes where He wishes, but some things are more unlikely than others.”

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    • Kentigern Pavlos says:

      Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

      Dear M. Stankovich,

      You sound on public issues of social justice such as abortion and marriage like the Denethor of American Orthodoxy.

      Should we then as Orthodox Christians avoid involving ourselves in social justice?

      There is a comprehensive study by Dr. Constantelos, Byzantine Philanthropy and Social Justice, from a while back, that suggests otherwise (Rutgers 1968), along with the recent collection of some of St. Basil the Great’s sermons entitled On Social Justice in the St. Vlad’s Popular Patristics series, both drawing on traditional readings of the gospels.

      In any case, somewhere else around here I was glad to see that you were upholding the need to be respectful of hierarchs and to speak directly to them about any issues one is having with them. I don’t recall in all your public criticizing of one of our hierarchs you ever reporting such personal effort on your part, and they certainly didn’t seem respectful, here and on the Orthodox Forum. Am I missing something?

      And while attacking someone else’s alleged courage here, you also neglected actually to correct any of the reports to which you objected.

      Meanwhile I’ve noticed that your approach generally to bioethics here seems to be to look for a seamless web of science and theology, much in Scholastic mode, as your encouragement of “systematic theological study” would suggest. Ironically, this would put you in the same kind of Western natural law genealogy as the moralistic approach to sex that you seem to decry. On the different Orthodox sense of natural law in relation to bioethics (including sex), Herman Engelhardt’s book on the Foundation of Christian Bioethics is very helpful.

      But admittedly I may be misreading you. Your earlier-posted photograph0epitaph indicates that you engage in neither apologetics nor in original thought but with mouth shut and apparently keyboard open, in Zen-like fashion. So too your posts may be meant to be koan-like :-). Please forgive me if so.

      And please pray for me the sinner,

      Kentigern

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  11. Douglas Johnson says:

    You write:

    The Patriarch also affirmed traditional marriage (a misnomer because in Christian tradition and natural law any arrangement apart from one male and female in marriage is not a marriage).

    Why not just write such sentences this way: The Partriarch also spoke against the redefinition of marriage.

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