Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church: Crete 2016

Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church: Crete 2016

Article excerpt

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

With a hymn of thanksgiving, we praise and worship God in Trinity, who has enabled us to gather together during the days of the feast of Pentecost here on the island of Crete, which has been sanctified by St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and his disciple Titus, his "true son in the common faith" (Tit 1.4), and, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to conclude the sessions of this Holy and Great Council of our Orthodox Church--convened by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew by the common will of Their Beatitudes the Primates of the most holy Orthodox Churches--for the glory of His most holy Name and for the great blessing of His people and of the whole world, confessing with the divine Paul: "Let people then regard us thus: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor 4.1).

The Holy and Great Council of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church constitutes an authentic witness to faith in Christ, the God-man, the Only-begotten Son and Word of God who, through His Incarnation, through all His work on earth, through His Sacrifice on the Cross and through His Resurrection, revealed the Triune God as infinite love. Therefore, with one voice and one heart we address this message of "the hope that is in us" (cf. 1 Pet 3.15) not only to the sons and daughters of our most holy Church, but also to every human being, "whether near or far off' (Eph 2.17). "Our hope" (cf. 1 Tim 1.1), the Savior of the world, was revealed as "God with us" (cf. Matt 1.23) and as God "for our sake" (Rom 8.32), who "desires that all people may be saved and come to the knowledge of truth" (1 Tim 2.4). Proclaiming His mercy and not concealing His great blessings, in remembrance of the Lord's words that "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matt 24.35) and "filled with joy" (1 John 1.4), we announce the Gospel of faith, hope and love, looking forward to that "day without evening, without succession and without end" (Basil the Great, On the Hexaemeron II, PG 29.54). The fact that we have "our citizenship in heaven" (Phil 3.20) in no way negates, but rather strengthens our witness in the world.

In this we follow the tradition of the Apostles and of the Fathers of our Church who proclaimed Christ and the saving experience through Him of the Church's faith, and who spoke of God in the "manner of fishermen casting a net," that is to say in an apostolic manner, to the people of every age in order to transmit to them the Gospel of freedom "for which Christ has set us free" (cf. Gal 5.1). The Church lives not for herself. She offers herself for the whole of humanity in order to raise up and renew the world into new heavens and a new earth (cf. Rev 21.1). Hence, she gives Gospel witness and distributes the gifts of God in the world: His love, peace, justice, reconciliation, the power of the Resurrection and the expectation of eternal life.

I. The Church: Body of Christ, Image of the Holy Trinity

1. The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is a divine--human communion in the image of the Holy Trinity, a foretaste and experience of the eschaton in the holy Eucharist and a revelation of the glory of the things to come, and, as a continuing Pentecost, she is a prophetic voice in this world that cannot be silenced, the presence and witness of God's Kingdom "that has come with power" (cf. Mark 9.1). The Church, as the body of Christ, "gathers" the world (Matt 23.37) to Him, transfigures it and irrigates it with "the water welling up to eternal life" (John 4.14).

2. The tradition of the Apostles and Fathers - following the words of the Lord, the founder of the Church, who at the Last Supper with his disciples, instituted the sacrament of the holy Eucharist--highlighted the Church's characteristic as the "body of Christ" (Matt 25, 26; Mark 14.22; Luke 22.19; 1 Cor 10.16-17; 11. …

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