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CHRISMAS EPISTLE OF HIS BEATITUDE SVIATOSLAV TO THE FAITHFUL OF THE UKRAINAIN GREEK-CATHOLIC CHURCH

"…for  by it, those who worshipped the stars,
were taught by a Star to adore You – the Sun of Righteousness,
and to know You, the Orient from on High...”

Nativity Troparion

Eminent and Most Reverend Archbishops and Metropolitans,
God-loving bishops, revered clergy, reverend monks and nuns
Beloved brothers and sisters in Ukraine and throughout the world

Beloved in Christ!

On this holy and joyful day of the Nativity of Christ, I send you most sincere greetings on the occasion of this major feast of Christian faith.  Christmas is the day when the eternal and invisible God willed to become human as a newborn Child. Christmas is a time when the mighty and incomprehensible Almighty Lord who holds in his hands the life and fate of all living beings, willed Himself to a human being, to place himself in the embrace of His Virgin Mother and to seek refuge in her betrothed Joseph.  Christmas is a celebratory moment, when the lonely contemporary person feels the trembling of an unspoken closeness of God and His attention, when the heavens and the earth, angels and people, heavenly stars and earthly animals unite as one family around the Bethlehem manger in which today lies the newborn King of All Ages and  joyful sing "Glory to Him!”

  … and among them are those who served the stars..

Many various roads today lead to the poor manger in Judea’s Bethlehem and gather before the mysterious manger in which rests the newborn Christ the Lord.  Today evangelist Matthew describes one such journey, its beginnings, its complicated road and its fulfillment. This concerns the three Wise Men of the Orient, who were led by a star.  A short mention of these people hides in it a deep reality. These odd travelers, whom we also call the Kings of the Orient or who according to Church tradition were know as Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, were probably astrologists, highly educated people of their times. By following the movements of heavenly lights and studying the surrounding world, they arrived at the conclusion that the Universe is not a configuration of chances, but much than that: everything that exists has some reason, has some goal at which it is aiming, is awaiting Someone.  Moved by their scholarly inquisitiveness, in the end the Kings of the Orient followed the star, in order to find out where it leads, and where is the One, awaited by the universe. The Wise Men are the incarnation of humankind, which relying on the ability of the  human mind to recognize Truth, sincerely seeks it – that humankind which possesses knowledge but does not have an understanding of all that it knows.

Strange was the road of the magi to the Truth – to knowing the real God: the Creator and the Savior of the world. On their road, they undoubtedly dropped in on many land rulers, particularly even to King Herod while passing through his territory.  It is only when they, guided by the star to Bethlehem and having found that Only One, to whom both the heavenly lights gravitate and Who is worshipped by both heavenly and earthly bodies, they in Christ Jesus understood the essence of everything which exists, understood the sense of their journey:  from serving the stars they came to serving the Lord:  "Our Lord Jesus Christ,” states St. Ireneus, "He is God’s Word who in the fullness of time became a person among people in order to unite the  end with its beginning, in other words, a person with God.” (Against heresies 4,20,4-5). Being brought to the faith in one God through a star itself, they bowed to the Child amidst poverty. It is exactly in this Baby through their eyes of faith that they  recognized the  Almighty King of All Ages and presented Him with the gift of gold;  it is exactly in Him that they recognized the incomprehensible and eternal God the Creator and presented him with incense; it is exactly in Him that they found the incarnated Savior  Messiah, the Son of God, anointed from ages by the Holy Spirit and presented Him with valuable perfumed myrrh.

  …from the star they learned to worship You – the Sun of Righteousness…

On Christmas Day every believing person hurries to the Bethlehem manger in order to see the small Jesus on the hay and to bow to Him and honor Him as one’s God and Savior.   In order to experience this holy day in a dignified manner, each one of us is called to find one’s own path to God, who came to humankind in a human body. To this personal path of faith we are called today by the heavenly angel choirs which proclaim this  holy  news by joyfully singing "Glory to God in the Highest, peace on earth among people of goodwill!”  The Bethlehem Star invites us to stand next to the Three Wise Men who come with gifts and with faith that they will personally meet Christ the Lord, who is visibly present among us.

This Christmas we celebrate in the year which Christ’s Church has proclaimed as a Year of Faith, which also coincides with the 1025th jubilee of the Baptism of Rus-Ukraine, which we wil mark together by an all-Church pilgrimage to the banks of ancient Dnipro at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Kyiv on August 18, 20113.  The goal of this joint pilgrimage is to renew among the Ukrainian people the gift of Christ’s faith that for centuries was our strength and wisdom which helped us not only to  rise to the heights in cultural and human accomplishments, which were imbedded in the foundation of Christian civilization in Eastern Europe, but also did not permit us to lose the sight of the only Sun of Righteousness – Christ the Lord, in front of whom there fade both heavenly lights and earthly rulers, who did not learn how to worship to Him.  Christ’s faith is that priceless treasure through whose assistance we, similarly to the evangelical wise men can today recognize in the newborn Child our King, Creator and Savior, not only not to lose the authentic message of Christmas, but rather to  comprehend the goal of everything which exists: the truth about our  past, the meaning of our present and the path into the future.

Christmas is a special family holiday.  Our God and Savior willed Himself as a small child to be placed in the hands of a family: a man and a woman, Joseph and Immaculate Virgin Mary.  Holy Father Benedict XVI, in appealing today to the faithful of Christ’s Church to devote special care to transmitting faith to new generations, to share one’s faith with one’s neighbor, places the biggest trust in the Christian family.  Family, as a home Church, was always that center, in which from the beginnings of Christianity, faith in God was passed from parents to children.  Today its mission has not changed.  God puts faith of the Church into the hands of the family, urges parents to pass on their personal belief in God to their children and to bring them up as good Christians.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, there is no lack of enemies, who with all their might, attempt to destroy the traditional family, but mainly, to destroy the pivotal place in which the transfer of faith  takes place among our people, akin to the murder of the Bethlehem children.  Let us today ask the Newborn Savior that every father follows the example of St. Betrothed Joseph in protecting his family, in preserving in the family the gift of Christ’s faith, and that the mother in particular take care of a Christian upbringing of the children.

  … recognize you—Orient from the heights…

Historical circumstances of the birth of Jesus Christ probably belonged to the most difficult in the history of old testament God’s people.  Although Israel did belong to a unified Roam Empire, it nevertheless lost its independence and thousands of people were to submit to the population census           ordered by emperor Augustine.  The local rule known for its despotism, talked with its people through the language of the sword.  Therefore, evangelist Matthew wrote:  "Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.’ (Mt. 2,17-18). In order to save the life of the family, Joseph with the Child and Mary were forced to choose the fate of emigrants and escape to Egypt.

However, these circumstances of societal despair almost only accentuate the fact that the source of Christmas joy has an unearthly origin.  Not an earthly ruler, but the Divine Savior, the Orient from the heights, is the One who was born and transformed this moment of darkness, confusion and weeping into the center and culmination of the history of the redemption of the Universe. Because in this Child, according to Apostle Paul, "rests the whole fullness of Divinity” (Col.1, 19).

In comparing the circumstances of our everyday life, in which the heavenly Christmas light, seeps through the darkness of our night and urges us to celebrate the birth of the Savior, we rediscover many similarities with the time of the birth of Christ in Judea Land.  The nativity of Christ demonstrates to us that our Savior is not a person, but our God, who today comes to us:  this Salvation  tenderly lies in our embrace in the form of a small Baby. It is about Him that prophet Isaiah writes when he mentions Emmanuel which means "God is with us,” and says:   "For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:5). The Savior was not the then emperor Augustine or now some  current  powerful ruler, but Christ the Lord.  Only He is our Lord, the Source of  our life, strength,  eternal peace and happiness – the unearthly Christmas joy which removes all fear, provides  hope  for the light of life: becomes the joy of all people (por. Lk. 2, 10).  Only Jesus Christ who eternally united with the usual moment of human life, is that Orient from the heights -- today the whole Universe invites you to get to know Him through the strength of Christian faith and to worship Him.

Beloved in Christ!  May in His Nativity, the newborn Savior get  closer to each one of  you and come with his heavenly light to each abode wherein people await Him.

May the unearthly tenderness of God Himself touch and warm the hearts of all of us : those who are  at home, and those who are travelling, those who are far from their native country and those who  within it are seeking well-being, peace and tranquility for their family.  May the heavenly joy from the Incarnation of Christ there where human rule and power has no force, grant us the faith and hope for a better fate for Ukraine.

May the Christmas carol become for us today, as it once was in the past, a mighty force through which we will share our faith, renew our society and unite with the whole universe  which today glorifies its Creator and Lord.

 

Christ is Born!   Glorify Him!

SVIATOSLAV

 

At the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv,

December 19/6 on the Feast of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Mira, Wonderworker

Category: Bishop's appeals | Added by: abat (2013-01-05)
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