Christmas Pastoral of the Ukrainian Catholic Hierarchy of the USA
“Rejoice, O heavens, and be glad, O earth, and shout for joy, ye mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and hath had mercy on them that are oppressed”
This prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled at Christmas – on the day the Messiah, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, was born. More than 2,000 years have passed since God came to be among us, and although the chronological distance increases with each passing year, the significance, triumph, and experience of this most joyous moment in the history of salvation remains the same as it was on Christmas Eve. It is today that “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In the incarnation of the Son of God, people received the image of the invisible God the Father and His Word, who was always God before the creation of the world and became man (John 1: 1-2) to make us good, pure, and beloved children of Heavenly Father once again.
The coming of Christ into the world is such a great testimony and proof of God’s love for us because no creature has received such an honor and care for its salvation as did the human race. God extended his mercy not because of our merits, but out of God’s great mercy. Jesus did not come to give us a new or improved law of morality, because it had already been given to us through Moses and our conscience serves as a guardian to monitor how well we fulfill it. Jesus did not come to work miracles, heal the sick, or raise the dead, because the Old Testament prophets did. Jesus became man not to bring us any temporary prosperity and satisfaction of all our earthly desires and needs, because he himself did not have it – he was born in a poor nativity scene, lacked many of our daily comforts, experienced cold, hunger, abuse, and humiliation.
The reason for the coming of the Son of God is the complete renewal of the human race through the grace of God. He wanted to uncover the original beauty and value of man, which we had at the creation of the world, and, unfortunately, lost through sin. As He Himself said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:31). He is the wonderful Doctor of the human nature Who heals and helps us to leave behind our attachment to sin and dependency on everything that is material, and make us think about Gospel message, values and principles that truly matter. He came to establish here the Kingdom of Heaven, where peace, not strife, reigns; love is present, not hatred; truth prevails, not lies; mercy and compassion are common, not selfishness and indifference. The practical implementation of these values and virtues radically changes the state and quality of human existence for better – spiritually enriched. God’s presence, His peace and grace are really felt. A person becomes the Human Being that the Lord has called and wants him or her to be.
God is with us and He is among us! Among the many difficult circumstances of today – the coronavirus epidemic, political and economic crises, instability, declining material quality of life, tension and the constant threat of large-scale war in our beloved Ukraine by Russia, force us to rethink the guiding principles and values of our lives. At this point we begin to understand infinite wisdom of God’s law and love for us. His love is already manifested in Jesus’ invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
So, let’s come to Christ – let’s go with our hearts, thoughts, and prayers to the poor stable of Bethlehem. Let us imagine the Baby Jesus lying in the hay, laughing, and holding out his arms, ready to hug us, calm us down, comfort us, encourage us and give us joy. And we will find true happiness there. As St. Augustine said, “our hearts are restless until they rest in You, Lord”. We will experience the fullness of feelings and the high point of human experience while in the presence of the Lord God Himself.
The beauty of Christ’s Nativity stems from the simplicity of Christmas Eve, – deprived of all human splendor, but rich in special awareness and conviction that God is truly with us.
In these bright and joyful days of Christmas, we wish you all to feel the peace and tranquility of the night of Bethlehem and the joy of the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of the world, praised by many angelic choirs, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2: 14). Being filled with this joy and grace in our hearts, let us share it with our neighbors, especially with the sick, those who are neglected, in need of attention and support. Let us be kind and generous, wishing everyone to have enough of earthly good things and God’s grace. Let us sing carols loudly and everywhere, thus, announcing the coming of Christ the Savior to us!
May the newborn Baby Jesus bless you, your families, and communities this Christmas and every day!
Christ was born! Praise Him!
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States
+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM
Eparch of Stamford
Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago
+ Bohdan J. Danylo
Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia (author)