Prot. No.529

+ B A R T H O L O M E W
BY GOD’S MERCY ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE-NEW ROME
AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
TO ALL THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH GRACE, PEACE AND MERCY
FROM THE MAKER OF ALL CREATION
OUR LORD, GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST

 ***

Dearest brother Hierarchs and beloved children in the Lord,

It is a shared conviction that, in our time, the natural environment is threatened like never before in the history of humankind. The magnitude of this threat becomes manifest in the fact that what is at stake is not anymore the quality, but the preservation of life on our planet. For the first time in history, man is capable of destroying the conditions of life on earth. Nuclear weapons are the symbol of man’s Promethean titanism, the tangible expression of the “complex of omnipotence” of the contemporary “man-god.”

In using the power that stems from science and technology, what is revealed today is the ambivalence of man’s freedom. Science serves life; it contributes to progress, to confronting illnesses and many conditions that were hitherto considered “fateful”; it creates new positive perspectives for the future. However, at the same time, it provides man with all-powerful means, whose misuse can be turned destructive. We are experiencing the unfolding destruction of the natural environment, of biodiversity, of flora and fauna, of the pollution of aquatic resources and the atmosphere, the progressing collapse of climate balance, as well as other excesses of boundaries and measures in many dimensions of life. The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Crete, 2016) rightly and splendidly decreed that “scientific knowledge does not mobilize the moral will of man, who knows the dangers but continues to act as if he did not know.” (Encyclical, § 11)

Among the Holy Fathers of our Church, the great figure of St. Alexander is prominent. Born in the year 239 AD to Christian parents, he had the distinction of serving as the first Archbishop of Constantinople. He lived during the great persecutions against Christians ordered by the Roman emperors Decius, Diocletian, Galerius, and Licinius. During those difficult years, St. Alexander tried to protect Christians who were being terrorized, and provide proper burial to the holy relics of the martyrs, with honor and respect. Despite the danger to himself, he continued in this work and the Lord protected him.

It is with the most beautiful praises that the Church today honors "the ever blessed and all-blameless Mother of God" and the loving Mother of us all, as she ascends to the heavenly realm.

On Mount Tabor, to the amazement of His three Disciples, Jesus "was transfigured before them; His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light" (Matthew 17:2). His disciples were accustomed to seeing their Master as a simple man, and for the first time they see Him radiating a bright, supernatural light like the sun. To add to the surprise, the prophets Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus, talking to Him. In this way, they confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah, whose coming into the world as Savior had been foretold centuries earlier. The awe of the Disciples was complete when, through a bright cloud that covered them, they heard the voice of God the Father say to them, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am pleased; hear Him" (Matthew 17:5).

It is quite amazing to read about the martyrdom of the Seven Maccabee brothers, their mother Solomone, and their teacher Eleazar. The Church celebrates their memory on August 1st, and the account of their martyrdom is written in the Old Testament, in 2 Maccabees 6:18-7:40 and 4 Maccabees 15-18. Even though they lived in the 2nd century before Christ, their faith in the true God was admired by the great Fathers and Teachers of the Church. St. Ambrose, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom all wrote in praise of these great martyrs. They are called Maccabees, because they belonged to the segment of the Jewish people in Jerusalem who remained faithful to the true God. They struggled to protect the Temple from being defiled by conquerors who worshipped idols, and they fought for the freedom of their people.

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