Saturday, December 24, 2011

Two Christmas Letters by Met. Ephrem

The first letter was sent out to the email list for the Archdiocese of Tripoli. The Arabic text of the second letter, to the Lebanese people, can be found here.

A small Christmas greeting on occasion of the nativity of Jesus

Beloved children,

Nativity is the first appearance of God among humans.

Jesus, whose name means "God saves" is the one who saves us from death, sorrow, despair, and anxiety...

The words of the angels to the shepherds keeping watch: "I bear you good tidings of great joy..."

"Today is born to you a savior, Christ the Lord.. glory to God in the highest and on earth peace
among people of good will." (Luke 2:11-14)

The one who is born is the divine sacrifice for our sake. Electric lights remain on the outside, but divine light is hidden in reading the word of God.

About the Gospel and the divine sacrifice. At that time, the one who is born enters the cave ahead of us and illuminates it.

Jesus was born as a child in poverty. He is the friend of the poor and destitute. During the feast, let us strive to go to them and comfort them.

Beloved, on the occasion of Christmas and the New Year I wish for you bodily health, success in the affairs of your life, and peace and joy in your soul.

The Lord Jesus Christ our God remains our final point of reference and the Church is our solace. She is in your service as much as is possible for her. I hope that you will not be far from her.

You are in my prayers,
Merry Christmas.

Tripoli 20.12.2011

The Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Tripoli and el-Koura, Metropolitan Ephrem addressed this Christmas letter to the Lebanese people in general and to Christians specifically:

A new child is born in a cave in Bethlehem. His bed is a manger for beasts, because there is no place for him in the village inn.

In the wonder of this absolute humility, do you see who that child is? And what is this black cave in which shined the light of the world? Yes, it is the light that illumines the darkness of our life, the shadows of existence.

He came to this scattered humanity, hungry for bread, hungry for truth, hungry for tranquilty for a soul with worn-out faculties, wretched with propaganda for bodily pleasures and raising conflicts and wars. He came to give it true comfort, overflowing with peace and love. But does peace inhabit the world through your coming? Will poverty be lessened and will the wealthy be generous to the opressed? Will the powerful have pity on the weak and will icy hearts melt? Will modern technology and its means of relaxation and pleasure eliminate our hearts' dryness?

It adds: You came in poverty to put an end to the misery of the impoverished. You came in humility to erase the haughtiness of the proud. How, then, should we celebrate you? You gather together the divided into one, so shall we heed your call? You teach us that humankind is one, even if their beliefs differ. The poor want to eat. Children want to learn. The sick want to be healed... All want to live together in peace and security.
The earth is one. The nation is one and good things are shared. So why division between people? Is there anyone who makes light of lofty virtues? Who rejects peace? Who rejects love? Who rejects kindness and gentleness? There is no law against things like this.

Come, beloved brothers, let us acquire the virtues of this newborn one. Come, let us help each other in every good work. We believe in one God. He is the God of peace, mercy, and love. Let us enjoy the joy of the feast. It is an occasion for meeting together, an occasion for us to do one social, humanitarian work.
In the Nativity there is divine disclosure, hope, and joy. A hope that surpasses human logic and human experiences. A joy that joins together the angels' songs with the wise men's prostration, the shepherds' keeping watch, and humankinds' joy. Yes, the feasts of Nativity unite believers, unite mankind.

It concludes: Our joy in the feast is not complete unless we open our hearts to all without exception because the Nativity teaches us to be humble, to pray that peace covers territory of our country Lebanon and likewise in all our Arab surroundings and in the entire world. Joy is not complete unless all share in it, especially those in need-- that is, the poor, widows, orphans, the sick, the oppressed, the suffering, and the sorrowing, all who depend on God's mercy and brotherly consolation. All of us are one in this suffering humanity. We rejoice and we sorrow together. May God give us in this feast and in the new year that He makes us always one in our beloved nation.