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!
The birth of Christ – the time when the Christian world becomes immersed, as if in a fairy-tale of its childhood: fancy sparkling garlands, glistening Christmas tree ornaments and the comfort of family festivities, with its familiar aroma of Holy Eve supper reminiscent of childhood and the excitement of waiting for gifts as children. At this time, it even seems to adults that the mystical joy of Christmas, almost here and now, is leading them to the Promised Land of comfort and fulfillment of all dreams. We would venture to say that Christmas, somehow in a mysterious, incomprehensible way, hands down to us the distant, gentle taste of Heaven.
On a purely human level, Christmas, possibly as no other of our Christian feast days, manifests to us the essence of all our most profound aspirations, that is, to be part of a community, the community of a large family, sitting at the festive table of Our Heavenly Father.
Nevertheless, somehow we forget or we don’t want to possibly remember, that in order to achieve the aim to which our entire inner being aspires, it is necessary we go all the way through. For we, as human beings, still find ourselves in the valley of tears and as our divine services say, the earthly “life – is but a shadow and a dream”. To walk along this road, along the road of achieving our destiny – is to follow Jesus Christ. It means to follow Him Who put aside His glory and entered the darkness of this world, where the human being suffers, removed from the intimacy of God.
Christ could have been born in a royal palace. He could have become a worldwide ruler who imposes his will on the passive masses of subjects, whom He forcibly pulls, each and every one, into the embrace of the Loving Father. However, how could God, who is Love, desire compulsory “love”? Could a Loving Father try to compel his children to love Him by force?
This is the reason why Christ did not choose the path of power. He chose the path of Love, which is the only one that can overcome evil which reigns in this world. Love is the one and only thing that can prompt the human heart to respond with love. He chose the path of accomplishing the will of the Father in order to gather together into one all the scattered children of God (John 11, 52) through Sacrifice. His mission – redemption of humanity, restoring the relationship of the human person with God, this – the Sacrifice, is a sacrifice from the very beginning to the very end.
The Sacrifice which began at that moment when the Son of God, the Second Person of God, set aside his Glory, Power, Grandeur and lowered Himself, assuming human nature, becoming one of those who suffer in the valley of banishment. His Sacrifice passed both through the cold cave, which served as a stable for flocks of sheep in the vicinity of Bethlehem – the town of his human ancestor – King David. It went through the simplest manger, where feed was left for the livestock, through the prickly hay, through the rejection of the neighbors. It continued through the flight into Egypt and simple years of childhood and youth in the forgotten Galilean town, which, it seems, had a bad reputation among the people. His Sacrifice undergoes the rejection of those to whom He was sent, who dishonored Him by their ridicule and cruelty all the way to the Cross. Nonetheless, Christ fulfilled His mission and accomplished the will of the Heavenly Father.
Each one of us is called to walk down His path, to continue His mission. However, this requires our understanding of the fact that we are members of His Body, that is, the Church. This demands of us an ever closer union with Him here on earth, a unity with Him in Love, in order to be able to unite ourselves with His Sacrifice, as participants in His mission.
In Christmas, in a mysterious and incomprehensible manner, the beginning of His mission is joined together with our foretaste of Heaven. The beginning and end unite. Simultaneously, we have a call to come walk with Him on the way, and in doing so, we already have the power to experience in advance the foretaste of the joy of a completed journey. Thus Christmas is not only the joy of a family celebration, not just the shimmering heavenly lights, but a call directed to each one of us, a call to set out on a journey.
At the time of beginnings of the Chosen People, God said to our Forefather Abraham in Ur of Chaldea: come out of yourself. And this call is directed to each one of us: come out of yourself. Come out of your preoccupation with daily monotony; come out of your fears and limitations and come stand before the manger in which the mission of Christ begins. It is a mission which is not easy, but a necessary prerequisite for reaching the goal of our existence, – to be with God for all eternity.
Christ is Born!
Archbishop of Philadelphia for Ukrainians
Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States
+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM
Eparch of Stamford
+Benedict Aleksiychuk (author)
Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago
+ Bohdan J. Danylo
Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia