OF HIS EMINENCE METROPOLITAN CLEOPAS
OF SWEDEN & ALL SCANDINAVIA
Dearly Beloved People of God,
In a few days, people all over the world will be celebrating Christmas. Unfortunately, many will celebrate this holiday without Christ, since rampant consumerism and the demands of marketers have long since imposed this holiday in areas of the world where the inhabitants do not believe in Christ or where religion is scoffed at.
However, this holiday is truly important to Christianity, since the pre-eternal God dynamically enters into human history and becomes man in order to deify human nature. God chooses to appear on earth in the form of a child.
The Church reminds of this in the Kontakion of the feast, when we chant “for us the pre-eternal God has been born as a young Child.” The figure of the divine Christ-child shines in the darkness of contemporary society. As a child, he advocates for unconditional love, which does not seek to impose itself or look for tradeoffs. He knocks on the door to each of our hearts. He is born in a manger in Bethlehem to the Virgin Mary and does not possess even those goods that are considered self-evident requirements for a newborn – a home and warmth, clothing, and food. He is born in a barn and has a cave as his shelter, the breath of the animals as his warmth, swaddling blankets as his clothes, and his mother’s milk as his food.
His presence does not threaten or instill fear, but on the contrary, awakens inside mankind all those pure and beautiful elements that characterize each one of us in our relation to a child: love, tenderness, protection, joy, hope! In a word, one could call this “humaneness!”
The decision of the Son and Logos of God to take on flesh “of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary” succeeded in uniting divinity with humanity. What Adam failed to do as he returned to his Creator was achieved by the Creator, who was possessed by His creation. This co-existence of human and divine nature manifests itself through the plan of Divine Dispensation on the feast of the Nativity.
This unity remains something to be perpetually sought after. Unity with the divine and unity amongst ourselves. Unity as the driving force behind all those parameters that will produce sanctification, harmony, all-around progress, and a unified front in support of a common cause and journey.
Today, this unity is being tested on many levels. The institution of family is facing major tribulations, the Nation is divided, as is Christ’s seamless robe – His Church. In contemporary reality, unity is the element that is facing the greatest challenges and under threat – the unity of minds and hearts, body and soul, reason and feelings, faith and science; unity in the family, the neighborhood, the city, and the nation.
Christ comes to serve this long sought-after unity and reverse the forces causing divergence, turning them into convergence. He takes on human nature, and together with it, the difficulties, disappointments, and pursuits of children, young people, seniors, the poor, the persecuted, the worn down, the sick, the imprisoned, the hungry, and the lonely.
It was for these groups of people that the Lord came to earth to grant us relief, courage, solace, and join us in our toils and struggles, extending His love and care to us. He brings us a love that finds its fulfillment in the existence of others.
This Christmas and New Year find our local missionary Church preparing the celebrations to commemorate the first semi-centennial of our establishment, but also expressing our common vision for the next fifty years in the face of many challenges.
We give thanks and glory to God, that, over the past five years, we have been deemed worthy to establish eight new ecclesiastical communities – four in Sweden, three in Norway, and one in Denmark, as well as to add nine new clergymen to the Holy Metropolis of Sweden’s clergy roster. Our clergy travel by land and air throughout Scandinavia, exhibiting exemplary zeal in order to spread the message of the Gospel to our brethren located near and far.
On April 7, 2019, we are planning to establish the first Greek Orthodox parish in Iceland, which will be named after the Holy and Glorious Apostle Bartholomew, patron saint of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Recently, for the first time ever, our Holy Metropolis published the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in Greek, English, and Swedish, a children’s book in Swedish, and republished the Greek text of Fr. Eusevios Vittis’ work “Anavaseis.”
Sunday Schools have been established, along with Ladies Philoptochos and youth chapters, as well as our Metropolis’ radio station. We are offering dance, iconography, Byzantine music, and cooking lessons. The daily pastoral care offered by our local Church includes ministries for our newly arrived brethren from Greece, whom we aid through an organized effort to help find housing and employment as quickly as possible to more seamlessly integrate them into local society.
My wish to all of you on the occasion of this year’s Nativity celebration is to experience daily the peace that the God-man Jesus Christ offered to us and to allow Him to become incarnated within us, chanting hymns of praise together with the holy hymnographer: “God of peace and Father of mercies, Your Son You have sent unto us as Your messenger, the Angel of great counsel, who is granting us Your peace.”
With my deepest paternal love and heartfelt holiday wishes,
† Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia