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PROPER OF THE SEASON


ENCYCLICAL OF HIS EMINENCE GREGORIOS

 ARCHBISHOP OF THYATEIRA AND GREAT BRITAIN

 ON THE. OCCASION OF THE OF THE BEGINNING OF THE CHRISTMAS FAST


"You are a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedek" (Heb. 5:6)



Beloved Brothers and Sisters and Cherished Children in the Lord,

On Wednesday, 15th November, the feast day of the holy Confessors and Martyrs, Gurias, Samonas and Abibus, and of our Father among the Saints, Thomas, Patriarch of Constantinople, and St. Paisius, we entered the sacred and honourable and joyful period of the Christmas Fast. It is well known that, according to Orthodox Tradition, the great events which have marked the history of Christianity and the life of the Church are asociated with fasting and fervent prayer and spiritual compunction and preparation. The Christmas Fast is not as strict as the Fast of Holy and Great Lent; it is simpler and allowance is made for fish until the 12th December, the feast day of our Father among the Saints, Spyridon Bishop of Trimythous, the Wonderworker. Without doubt this period reminds us of the Divine Love and Condescension, whereby God becomes man and enters human history, and thus begins a new and unique era in the world.

During this period in which we prepare to receive the Divine Child, the Incarnate Christ, I would like all the Faithful of this Archdiocese, which is under the jurisdiction of the Oecumenical Patriarchate, to consider a very important issue regarding the future of the Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom. This issue is that of securing, educating and recruiting new clergy for our churches. Up until now, our churches have been served chiefly by clergy who come from abroad, mostly from Greece and Cyprus. Nowadays, however, clergy move to serve abroad only with great difficulty -and this is particularly true of this country- because the living conditions in Greece and Cyprus have improved greatly. Furthermore, the ministry of our clergy who serve in this country is difficult, demanding and tiring; and therefore the clergy are in need of continuous help, encouragement and the practical love of us all.

It is for this reason that many of our young people, while they love the Church, and while they are pious and desire to become clergymen, do not feel brave enough to do so; they are afraid of the responsibility and the enormous obligations they will have to undertake for their parish, Community and flock. There is yet another reason, no less significant, as to why many find it difficult as to why to become clergymen: the young women, with whom they are considering marriage and creating a family. Unfortunately, and I say this with much regret, our young women do not allow their partners to serve the Church as clergymen. As a result, the pious and willing young men who wish to be ordained, can not find the right girl who will be prepared and willing for their husband to become a deacon or priest. It is true that all churches in our days are facing the same problem: the unwillingness of the young to become clergymen, and so we are obliged to increase our efforts and prayers so that Christ may enlighten our children and young people.

It is precisely for this reason that I have deemed it fitting it in the context of thIs encychcal to address all of you, men and women, to appeal to you for help, prayer and co-operation. For it is only the family that is able to help, in this significant and sacred aspect of Church life -that is, to encourage our children to study and prepare to serve in the exalted ministry and office of holy orders, be it as deacons or priests or bishops. The Archdiocese is ready and able to help in a practical way the young who are willing, who have a calling and inclination to become pastors and teachers of our Orthodox Church. I am therefore appealing to you, the parents, fathers and mothers, to encourage and advise your daughters to become presbyteres and to share, together with their husbands, the honour and joy of serving the people of God, as have countless married clergy throughout the long history of the Church.

It goes without saying that Holy Orders are a great ministry having its roots , in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest and Overseer of our souls. He is the eternal and everlasting High Priest: "You are a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedek", as the divine Paul characteristically writes in his epistle to the Hebrews (5:6). Christ Himself proclaims: "I am the good Shepherd, and I know my sheep and they know me" (John 10:14). Holy Orders continue to be a unique ministry, one that is God-given and adorned with divine grace which the clergy receive at the time'of their ordination in the midst of the congregation during the Divine Liturgy, with the officiating bishop presiding.

At this time, therefore, when Christians throughout the world are starting to prepare for Christmas and to receive the Divine Child, I have written these few words to fervently appeal and urge you, clergy and laity, and especially those who are parents and young men, to draw nearer to the holy sanctuary and cultivate the desire to serve in the exalted and venerable priestly office. I advise you, as your father-in-God, and urge you to pray with us so that Christ our Great High Priest may open the hearts of our young people to receive and love the sacred yoke of the Holy Orders of the Orthodox Church, which Christ has adorned and sanctified, with righteousness and fear of God and fervent love throughout two thousand years of Christianity.

I pray that with health and renewed faith and speritual reawakening you may reach the end of this period of preparation for the Feast of ChrIstmas, and I remain with much love in the Lord and fervent prayers.

November 2006

                  +Gregorios, Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain.

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