Christmas 1998 (English)
Ref. no. 1170
PATRIARCHAL LETTER FOR CHRISTMAS 1998
+ PETROS VII
By the Grace of God Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa.
Beloved and devoted children of the Church,
The Birth of Christ, which we celebrate today, is one of the most important events in the world, not only because it divided history into Before Christ (B.C) and After Death (A.D), or because it brought a new teaching, but because it offered man a new life. Christ, through His incarnation, regenerated man, reformed him, giving him new potential and a new perspective through which to see God, his fellow man, the world, the creation, life.
This was achieved because Christ's Birth brought new knowledge. In the Recessional hymn (Apolytikion) of the Christmas feast we sing : Your Birth, Oh Christ our God, brought the light of (the true) knowledge. With His Birth, the Lord gave us new knowledge which is connected with the Light of His Deity. The new knowledge of God is very significant and at this point distinguishes the old century from the new. With His Birth Christ revealed Himself, the Trinity of God, and the true face of man. For this reason, we believe that with His Birth, the light of true knowledge came forth. This is not a discovery of man's mind, but a revelation of God Himself.
There are three new elements of T h e o g n o s i a (the Knowledge of God) which can be seen clearly with Christ's incarnation: First - that God is Triune - in other words, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No-one can pray in the Name or with the Name of Christ if he does not have the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Second - that Christ is God-man. He is neither simply God, nor simply man, but He unites the divine and human nature in one Person, that of Jesus Christ. This is of the utmost importance because it offers to man, to each and everyone of us, the opportunity to achieve theosis. Third - that Christ is not separate from the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ is the Head of the Church. If we examine the life and witness of the Saints of the Church, we discover that they are in full communion with all three elements. The knowledge of God, which Christ's Birth revealed to us, is Triadological, Theanthropical, Ecclesiological; which means that whoever wishes to meet God cannot do so outside of the Church. This must be said very clearly, because outside of the Church, away from the teachings and the life of the Church, we cannot meet with the true God, but only with the idol of God. And the modern world is full of such idols.
Throughout the twenty centuries since Christ's incarnation, we have been able to distinguish two forms of knowledge: the first is "psychic knowledge", which is connected with the created light of man's mind, and the second is "spiritual knowledge", which is related with the Uncreated Light of God. It follows that the two forms of wisdom and knowledge still exist today. On the one hand, there are people who are enclosed within their biological life and exhausted by it; they live all the consequences of that "psychic knowledge": stress, insecurity, passions, conflict, anxiety. On the other hand, there are people who are infused with the spiritual knowledge which Christ Birth brought. They experience all its rewards: faith, love, peace of heart, fulfillment. It follows that human wisdom and human knowledge find their fulfillment within the wisdom of Christ.
With Christ's Birth, life itself takes on new perspective. Through the true spiritual knowledge, we see the world, man, all creation, our work and family, in truthfulness. We are not discouraged by the pettiness and difficulties of daily life. We are no longer prisoners to the human senses or cold logic. Without ignoring material things, we overcome them. We discover their true existence and their meaning. We know the fullness of life and in this way, we overcome biological life; we put Death to death.
I paternally pray, with all my heart, that this true Light of knowledge, which is not intellectual but existential, which is not cerebral but of the heart, which is not a discovery of man's logic but the revelation of God, may fill your hearts and enlighten us all along our historical path.
May the Grace of our Saviour Jesus Christ be with you.
With warmth prayers to God for all of you.
+ PETROS VII
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
In the Great City of Alexandria.