Christmas 2001 (English)
PATRIARCHAL MESSAGE FOR CHRISTMAS 2001
BY THE GRACE OF GOD POPE AND PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA AND ALL AFRICA TO ALL THE FAITHFUL OF THE CHURCH, GRACE, PEACE AND MERCY FROM OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST WHO BECAME INCARNATE
In the darkness that surrounds the world, behold He rises ‘the Bright and Morning Star’ (Rev. 22:16), Jesus Christ, who is ‘the light of the world’ and gives to all ‘the light of life’ (John 8:12).
Today, in the chaos and wars all over the world, ‘He Himself’, who ‘is our peace’ (Eph 2:14) comes. Today peace is proclaimed to the world, a peace, which is the hymn of the angels and the work of the Saints.
Though we praise peace in our daily lives as people and as nations we do not practice it. Denial and abuse of human rights are ruling, be it through war, violence, terrorism or abuse of power. Why?
It is because we do not ask this good from its source, which is God. We seek
peace in the world, but peace only comes from God. We seek external peace in forms such as the temporary absence of war instead of everlasting peace which is the peace that is found in our authentic inward turning towards to God.
Many times, as imperfect human beings we enter into a meaningless cycle of peace, justice and freedom by not knowing their sacred virtue. Instead, we rely on material worldly principles and seek to govern with them. This is the precursor and creator of unfair competition, revenge, injustice, slavery and suffering in the world. In addition to this we have the emergence of terrorism, apathy and inflation that is of concern to governments and the people.
However my beloved children in Christ, today is Christmas, God is standing next to us as a child. He is a child. He calls us to come closer to Him, to welcome Him into our hearts with simplicity, joy, faith, goodness and childlike wisdom. This is His spirit. This is the spirit of His Kingdom. This is the Kingdom that He inaugurates today. This is the Kingdom that someone can enter as long as he embodies the unquestioning faith of a child: ‘unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Mat 18:3).
Today the human conscience thirsts to be free from the stress of sin. It seeks to be delivered from the depression of this century in all its glamorous illusion and hypocrisy. It also desires freedom from spiritual and moral oppression and fear. It yearns for the peace of God ‘which surpasses all understanding’ (Phil 4:7).
Today, the divine infant brings to everyone all the divine gifts. He brings them to those who have never tasted this divine gift and still suffer from materialistic cares and to those who live in darkness, isolation, slavery, confusion and sadness.
Just as He did in the time of Caesar Augustus, God will come back to earth for any human being even those who enshrine themselves in their self-reliance, their deceit, their self-destruction and their fraudulent belief of defining and enforcing morality as it relates to happiness. God will come back to earth with the same childlike softness and once again give the person the chance to enter His Kingdom: ‘In an acceptable time’ (2 Cor 6:2), ‘for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed’ (Rom 13:11).
The name of the child that is born today in Bethlehem is Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’. He is not merely the God of Sinai, whose face nobody could see and then still live. He is the recent and more exulted manifestation among us. He is the ‘God between us’, He who reveals Himself to all people.
My beloved children in Christ, our journey for the last twenty centuries has been long and painful. We have gone through fire, darkness, doubts, temptations, suffering, affliction, violent storms and disasters. These alone are enough to push humanity and any person to discover in their life and in the depths of their existence, through meditation and with hope, the presence of God, Who is the center of the history of the world.
There is only one solution to solve all personal and common problems. It is through the abandonment of selfishness, self-interest and self-reliance. This is how we can experience the divine will. A life far from Jesus Christ, no matter the mirage of triumphs and accomplishments, is a tragic life. Without Christ any effort towards self-improvement and the achievement of joy, is unfruitful, a dream and an illusion.
We never cease to celebrate and bring the feast of the Nativity of our Lord into our lives, because it reminds us of our path to God. It is with these thoughts, this spirit and with the counsel of St. Paul to ‘pursue the things which make for peace’ (Rom 14:19), and ‘live peaceably with all men’ (Rom 12:18), that we address to you, the beloved Christian faithful of the missionary continent of Africa, this message of Christ’s peace and love and we plead with our incarnate Saviour Jesus Christ to grant to all of us His light, grace and mercy.
May the New Year be one full of virtue, health and happiness. May the grace of our Lord be with all the world and all people no matter their race, or
age, whether rich or poor. May His grace be with those who have goodwill and faith and especially with our youth to whom we, as elders, should exemplify the sun of righteousness, and not that which is misty and impure.
‘The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.’
With the love of our Incarnate Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Petros VII
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa
In the Great City of Alexandria