Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Met. Ephrem Kyriakos' Christmas Messages

Arabic and French originals here.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom should I be afraid?"

Beloved brothers in Christ! We must be in communication during these days of Christmas, the Nativity of Our Lord and God Jesus Christ in the flesh, the child in the manger of animals who is our God before the ages. How wondrous this absolute humility: How can the Master of All, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, of rational and irrational beings, who cares for each one totally and personally, how can He come in this humble form? And why?!

The angel of the Lord said to Joseph, ", do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife... she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20-21). Here is liberation, not from wars and enemies, but from something far more important-- liberation from sins.

Indeed, Christ is "the light that shines in darkness", in the darkness of the evils of this world, in the darkness of our sins and He alone is the one who can save us. We Christians have lost much of this enlightenment because luxurious living and chasing after material wealth has darkened our hearts and minds. Our Lord came to us in poor, simple garb, bearing His passion and His cross from His childhood. Thus in the Church we repeat every Sunday, "Through the cross joy has come into the world. And so, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice" as the Apostle Paul expressed it in his Epistle to the Philippians 4:4.

True joy does not come from amusement and the pleasures of the world, nor even from modern technology. It comes from a broken and humble heart that God will not despise: love above everything. Love requires humility. It requires feeling others' suffering. That is, the rejection of the blatant selfish individualism of our days. Crucified love never fails!

Christ came as savior for each person in the world. He came representing all  truth, all goodness and all beauty, whether it appeared among the ancient civilizations and philosophers, in or own day or in the future. One of the Western saints, Francis of Assisi, said, "He took the last place so well that no one can take it away from Him, not in the past, the present or the future."

Beloved, I pray for all of you in the Holy Spirit. I pray to the Lord Jesus in these bright days of Nativity, so that the veil may be lifted from our minds and hearts, so that we may not lose hope. Cling to Him in prayer, in reading the Gospel, in going to church, which is the Mother of all of us. Let anxiety, fear and despair recede from us, and give way to hope, renewed faith and love for all people without exception. I wish for you with all my heart a glorious Nativity and a blessed New Year.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, Koura and Their Dependencies

A second message, to the Lebanese people, Arabic original here.

Christ is born as a small child in a manger of beasts. This reminds us of when the Bible says, "If you do not go back and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." This divine commandment is directed at us on the occasion of the Feast of the Nativity. In our world today, rushing after modernity, after luxury, after technology, the One newly-born as a child reminds us of the necessity of returning to simplicity, indeed to the innocence of children... simplicity of life, despite all the seductive advertising. This helps us to return to God and brings us closer to each other.

And how much more so if we combine simplicity with innocence. At that point we turn away from evil and intrigue. How many evil plans are being prepared in secret?

Along with all this, what does the present feast inspire in us? There is no doubt that Christ was born in an environment of poverty and destitution, in a manger designed for animals. Is this a point of shame? The shame of the cross? Or is it a point of pride, mercy and surpassing love? It is a reminder that we must think of our brothers the poor. In helping the needy, mercy meets love, great meets small, rich meets poor. Are not destitution and extreme poverty cause for taking up arms and demanding the right to live and a revolution against society? In a more profound sense, the necessary charity for the poor includes the need for God, who graces humankind with His abundant good things freely and without discrimination. In reality, the person who looks out for his needy brother is receiving much more from him and is consoled much more than the latter rejoices at the free gift. All of this is not limited to money, but includes supporting the sick and the elderly and addressing every social and psychological problem-- and how many are the misfortunes of people today!

Our appeal today, on the occasion of the birth of this wondrous Child, is that each of us returns to simplicity, to the weak, to mercy and love. Similar to the popular saying, in the end, nothing is right except for that which is true, so God created us naked and who are we to be proud? He created us as brothers in humanity, so why do we disagree? The Devil alone is the one who sows disagreements among us, we who are children of a single nation. Let us expand our minds and our hearts, imitating God our Creator who embraces every person, has mercy on him and loves him without regard to his color, sect, religion or sex.

Let us not forget that true joy is in the Lord. We acquire it in prayer, not in eating and drinking not in amusement and dancing and not in wine and prosperity. May God give us enlightenment of mind and heart, so that we may realize this eternal truth and then we may have a glorious, peaceful feast.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A blessed Christmas and Our Lord's help be yours and the people who look for peace.