Christmas Pastoral 2016
PASTORAL MESSAGE OF THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY OF THE U.S.A.
TO OUR CLERGY, HIEROMONKS AND BROTHERS, RELIGIOUS SISTERS,
SEMINARIANS AND BELOVED FAITHFUL
CHRIST IS BORN!
Once again we focus our attention and recall with affection and devotion the marvelous miracle in which “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). The God-Man Jesus, sent by our merciful Father with love to all of humanity, came to save us from sin and from ourselves. Jesus came to empower us to live life to the full. It is little wonder, then, that the Story of Christmas is so appealing to young and old and to rich and poor alike.
Well before December 25th, we become preoccupied with Christmas preparations. Beyond all this, one searches for the true Spirit of Christmas in order to lift our individual and collective spirits to reflect again on the celestial chorus: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to all who enjoy His favor” (Lk. 2:14). We can catch a glimpse of the Spirit of Christmas as we savor the fellowship enjoyed by our families whose members gather from far and wide to be together for our Christmas Eve Holy Supper. And yet, such fellowship is but a shadow of that divine fellowship enjoyed by all mankind as a result of the Birth of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. “To all who did accept Him He gave power to become Children of God” (Jn. 1:12) indicates a radical change which this divine fellowship entails: God became human so that human beings might become like unto God.
Therefore, the celebration of Christmas ought to raise certain questions for each one of us. How is my personal life affected? How does the Christmas Event relate to our society with all its challenges? If we travel mentally around the world, what do we see? Violence of all sorts, physical and sexual abuse, violation of the rights of the unborn and defenseless, unconcern for the poor and migrant, abandonment of children and the elderly, the unjust aggressions suffered by Ukraine, the horrific massacres in the Middle East and Africa, are a fraction of our society’s illness which should cause us to wonder if the story of Christmas will ever succeed in getting across to all people its principal message. That message is simply that the salvation of each of us must be through love and in love. This fantastic message of Christmas is, for very many, the greatest secret still yet to be fathomed: God’s love for all has been revealed in the Word made flesh!
This greatest secret revealed in humanity of God’s only-begotten Son is like the sun radiating sunshine to one and all. Likewise, all of us who are receptive of God’s “greatest secret” personified in our Lord Jesus Christ, must show some sort of transformation. That is precisely what is signified in the Christmas Story told over and over again in every language and to all people.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was born in the shadows of an incredulous world. Of all peoples, the Christmas miracle was first announced to shepherds, so-called insignificant people of Bethlehem. Considered to be on the lowest rung of society’s rating, those shepherds chosen by God, must have had their self-esteem and self-worth lifted to high heaven when they heard the Good News proclaimed: “Behold I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11).
Convinced of the great love which Christmas reveals, we receive power to become children of God. Realizing that power from God-made-Man, we can then proclaim by word and example, at home and in society, that which underlines all the fellowship, carol-singing, gift-giving, and merry-making: “Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). That is why we joyfully and devoutly exclaim, “Christ is born. Glorify Him!”
A blessed and joyous Christmas to all of you. May the mystery of Jesus’ Birth bring you the grace to renew yourself and live a God-centered Christian life all through the New Year!
Christ is Born!
Archbishop of Philadelphia for Ukrainians
Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States
+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM
Eparch of Stamford
+ Bohdan Danylo
Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma
+John Bura (author)
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia
Very Rev. Richard Janowicz, Apostolic Administrator
St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy in Chicago.
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