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Closing exhortation

I am praying for us to arrive, as we follow the highways and byways of our journeys, at Straight Street, the Damascus road.

We all need to walk along the road to Damascus: not the earthly city of Damascus, a political entity, delineated by history and geography, but Damascus, city of encounter with the living Christ, risen from the dead, who calls us to salvation, redemption, love, hope and peace.

We need the Damascus road. May everyone in the world tread the road to Damascus, so that the world may change and people move from shadows to light, from night to day, sin to righteousness, persecution to love, violence to kindness, selfishness to altruism, terrorism to solidarity, fundamentalism to openness, the spirit of vengeance to such feelings as Saint Paul expresses when he exhorts the faithful to have among themselves the thoughts and manners that are in Christ Jesus, and reminds them that the fruits of the Spirit are “love.. gentleness, temperance.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

And with Saint Paul, we say to all those who will read this Pauline Christmas Letter, “…now it is high time to awake out of sleep: … The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly... But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:11-14)

What a beautiful world is Paul’s! May the world of Saint Paul’s Epistles invade our suffering world today that lies in darkness, in revolt, hateful, vindictive, combative, exploitative, materialistic, carnal, obsessed with sex, superficial, egotistic, vacillating, erring, disorientated, without reference points, aimless: our world has such need of Paul! Beyond Paul, it needs Christ, the Gospel, the Good News. It needs God. It is really athirst and ahungered for God, but the tragedy is that the world is unaware of the fact that it is athirst and ahungered, for its cares, passions, depravation, futility and lifestyle stifle the Word of God planted in the human heart and hence it cannot bear fruit. This world does not hear the voice of the living and risen Jesus, who is waiting for each one of us on the road to our Damascus, on the Via Recta, and calling us by name, begging, challenging, chiding, awakening us from sleep, stupor, insensibility, hardness of heart, to tell us this, “Thou art mine; I have loved thee; I love thee; I know thee by name; thou art a chosen vessel for me; I have chosen thee; I have sought thee; I have called thee. Why dost thou persecute me? Why dost thou stray from me? Why dost thou not acknowledge me in thy life? Why hast thou struck off my name and dwelling-place from thy list of thy friends and companions in times of joy and gladness? Restore my name to the addresses on thy mobile and email. Set me as a seal upon thine heart. Open to me the door of thine heart: I stand at the door and knock.

Happy is he who opens to me! Happy art thou, if thou dost open, for I am coming to thee, I want to stay with thee and fill thine heart, soul, mind and entire life with joy, happiness and hope and open wide thine eyes with love and faith.”

Brothers and sisters, I would like you to feel, as you read this letter, the same strong emotion that I felt while reading the Letters of Saint Paul and gradually writing this letter over recent months in Lebanon, Syria, the Vatican, Germany, England, the United States of America and Mexico.

In all those countries I wrote pages of this letter, which was for me a matter of great joy, gladness, incredible rapture and incomparable sweetness.

Try it. Taste and see how good and gracious the Lord is and how sweet his words. Don’t be afraid of experiencing in your own life what Saint Paul went through: the real experience of the Christian apostles, saints, martyrs, ascetics and monastics down the ages and of every Christian baptized in Christ Jesus.

That is what I wish for you and pray for this to be realised in you, at the intercession of our Most Holy Mother, the Theotokos and at the intercession of Saint Paul. May this letter bring you greetings for the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ and our very cordial good wishes for the New Year 2009!

With my friendship and blessing,

+ Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Translated from the French by V. Chamberlain

Teachings of Christ

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’" (John 7:37-38 ESV)


At Your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion - Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge sing praise to You: * “You have come, and You have appeared , O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Christ is Born!

Your Nativity, O Christ our God, * has dawned upon the world the light of knowledge. * for through it, those who served the stars * were taught by a star to worship You, the Sun of Righteousness * and to know You, the Dawn from on high. * Glory to You, O Lord! (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, * and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. * Angels and shepherds sing His glory; * Wise Men journey with a star * for there is born for us an infant Child, the God Who is before all ages. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility. Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort. Repentance is self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent is an undisgraced convict. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions. A penitent is the inflicter of his own punishments. Repentance is a mighty persecution of the stomach, and a striking of the soul into vigorous awareness.

St. John of the Ladder