Sunday, December 30, 2018

Met Silouan (Muci): Christmas in Our Parish

Arabic original here.

Christmas in Our Parish

How lovely it is to ask parishioners how they understand the Nativity of the Savior and bear witness to it in their life. It is an opportunity to see how Christ is truly born in them. This is what happened for me on my visit to one of our parishes, through what was revealed to me over many discussions with groups of different ages.

When I asked parishioners how they explain Christmas to those who don't know the feast, one of them answered, "In order to know what Christmas is, you have to always come to church!" Some spoke about the pardon, forgiveness, and love that God pours out upon every human being. Some talked about peace and by extension the topic expanded to how to acquire peace and live it, especially when we're experiencing a situation with more and more injustice, evil, corruption, the absence of justice and the the destruction of the dignity of the neighbor. All of this is appropriate for approaching a serious spiritual life based on coming back to oneself and building up the temple in which the Holy Spirit lives, even if this is the current state of affairs that we see.

With children, you start off with them towards knowledge of Christ through the Gospel, icons and chants that you teach them and especially through the togetherness that brings them together as brothers in the Church and in the group that they belong to. I see them as shepherds or magi, bringing you the joy of the Savior's birth with unambiguous cheer. So you accompany their gradual progress in faith, life and knowledge, like the growth of buds on a fruit tree, whose flowers you hope will blossom before your eyes, so that you may see the substance of the fruit that they will harvest from effort in education, guidance, prayer and constant accompaniment in the family, the Church, and daily life in general.

As for teenagers and youth, talking about Christmas comes to you from a cave different than the cave of Bethlehem, from the fleshly cave that grows within them-- that is, the temple particular to each one of them-- through their personal effort to approach questions of life in light of the faith the hold. Incidents from their daily life, like encountering death, cancer, old age, or people with special needs make them return to themselves in searching, in thanksgiving and prayer, beget in them the child in the cave to their surprise and what they are learning comes, incarnate in their personal reality and their responsible commitment to themselves and to their peers, while those who have reached greater maturity in their self-knowledge will talk to you about their struggle with mastering their tongue, so that perhaps they'll defeat their flaw. Between the faces of the youths and adults gathered together, you see a beautiful family, standing shoulder to shoulder in service. They have served each other with testimonies of what they have seen or experienced and they have been brought into harmony by the bonds of belonging to the One born in the cave, the One constantly born in their hearts, so long as they strive in faith and sincerity.

When you turn to talk about mothers, you discover the cream of education that they have poured into the souls of their children. What does each one of them tell her children? There are many things they tell them, but the most prominent of them were: for love to prevail among brothers; to preserve harmony in their families no matter what the cost; to be forgiving in all circumstances; to walk in truth; to cooperate with each other; to not miss church; to pray constantly; to keep their conscience alive; for their behavior to be in accordance with God's word. One of them cited the words of the Prophet David, "Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 50:11 LXX) and then went on to say, "I don't stop pondering this verse, hoping that the Lord will spare me such a fate, after every work or activity." These mothers have offered their gold, frankincense and myrrh to their children and they are hopeful that they will experience the joy of the magi as they bowed down to the Savior when they see in their children the fruits of a childhood based on the lived Christian faith.

These are some of the messages I received at Christmas. Perhaps there are many like them. I was happy about these and I share them out of my certainty that they will help us to bear our daily cross as we walk in the footsteps of the One who was born in a cave and who has not abandoned any of us, because He loves us.

Metropolitan of Jbeil, Batroun and their Dependencies (Mount Lebanon)

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