Beloved brothers and sisters,
Glory and thanksgiving to our Most-merciful God, the Creator of everything, who has deemed us worthy to celebrate the rise of the New Year once again. The wishes that we exchange, they usually reflect our deepest desire to have health, peace and joy. The source of true joy is Christ, the Son and Word of God who took the human nature in order to reconnect people with God the Father. Thus, all that we ask God the Father in the name of His Son, He gives them to us and our joy is incomparable to all other joys, it is perfect happiness and lasts forever (ref. John 16: 23-24).
The full joy we all seek is the result of our own love and trust in Christ, just as He has told us: "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and you have believed that I came forth from God "(John 16: 26-27).
Our love for Christ is ratified by our love for others, who are our brothers, since we are all children of the same heavenly Father. Others are not distinguished by the color of their skin, their gender, origin, or by social and economic status, because we are all one person in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:29). And even more so, our love surpasses every reasonable limit and it co-exists, fits and embraces even the enemies.
Those of us who love Christ follow His example: that is, we try to be merciful and compassionate. Not from a position of pity or supremacy, but out of love and gratitude to Christ Himself, our own Benefactor, Who is identified with all the afflicted, the deprived, the persecuted, the least of His brothers. And that's how we experience Paradise from here on earth. We live in the presence of our Christ and our brothers, whom He invited to His Dinner from the squares and streets (Luke 14:21).
We are not afraid of Christ because we love Him! And love chases away every fear, because fear bears punishment (1 John 4:18). We love Him and feel Him as our friend, since He first loved us (Acts 4:19) and calls us His friends: "You are my friends ..." (John 15:14). Therefore, we look upon Him and approach Him as a friend. Whenever we fall, when we commit a sin, we run up to Him with intimacy, love and trust, not with the fear of punishment, but with the courage of friendship, and we confess to Him: "Lord, I lacked faith, I made mistakes, forgive me." The greater our bond is with Christ, the greater is our assurance of His love and mercy. That is why we do not let our mistakes cut us off from being in communion with Him. We awake and repent, and with simplicity and sincerity, we ask Him to forgive us our misconduct, the intentional as well as the unintentional ones, so that we can find again the joy of being in communion with Him.
Those who love Christ and follow Him, they live in His joy, despite all the difficulties, the sorrows and the sufferings they may be facing in this world. The Apostle Paul emphasizes: "I am delighted in my sufferings" (Col. 1:24), for he suffered with Christ Who dwelt inside his being. The Crucified and Resurrected God-Man Jesus Christ lived in him!
My brethren, let us pray that our love for Christ may continually grow so that our souls may be filled with the joy of His presence, despite all the sorrows and sufferings modern age has brought to the world. Christ has led us from death to life, "by giving life to those in the tombs" and hope to all of us whose life is threatened by a variety of dangers. That is why we can be optimistic and happy!
HAVE A BLESSED AND A JOYOUS NEW YEAR 2018.
With warm paternal love,
+ Metropolitan Sotirios of Pisidia