Nativity Epistle 2019 ※ John, Bishop of Caracas and South America
Christ is born!
Awaited from the time of Adam, the Redeemer, Whom fallen humanity hoped for throughout its tragic
history has come to save the world.
The angels above sing of His birth, giving glory to God in the heights, and proclaiming His peace upon the earth. The shepherds worship the New-Born in a manger, marvelling at all they have seen and heard this holy night. Coming from the distant east, the magi bring gifts to the One Whom all creation has awaited from the beginning of time, Whom they have sought with such diligence. At the end of his earthly life, the righteous Symeon, with love receives into his arms the One Whom with faith and hope he had longed for all his life.
The shepherds, who were nearby, learnt of His coming from angels. The other inhabitants of Bethlehem were also nearby, but either out of indifference did not heed the angels, or, closing their hearts, just as they had earlier closed their doors, they made themselves incapable of seeing angels, of hearing angels.
The magi lived far off, and had no access to Holy Scripture, but wholeheartedly sought the Lord as much as they were able, and when He sent them a star, they diligently followed it. The star was visible to all, but they did not follow it, they did not seek the Saviour of the world. There were others, like Herod, who did seek Him, but not for the sake of worship.
Symeon knew the Scriptures and lived in prayerful expectation of the Saviour, and the Lord revealed His coming to him in the Spirit. At the temple everyone studied the Scriptures and prayed to God, but no one other than the righteous Symeon and Anna expected the Lord or received Him.
The Incarnation of the Son of God, the Nativity of Christ is not solely an historic event two millennia in the past. Within the timeless mystical space of the life of the Church, as also in every believing Christian heart, it is a constant, abiding present, a continuing and unpassing reality.
Just as two thousand years ago the shepherds came and worshipped Him, so also today there are those who worship Him in His Church, but next to them there are also those who regard Him with indifference, and who close the doors of their heart to Him. Just as two thousand years ago the magi sought the Saviour from afar and came to Him by a long and difficult road, there will always be those who, though born far from Christ’s Church, zealously seek her, and having found her, come to her bringing gifts to their Saviour. There will also be those who cover themselves with supposedly pious intent, but in fact work for the destruction of Christ’s Church, making schisms, factions, dissension and scandals.
Dear brothers and sisters, I wish all of you that your hearts be a place where angels glorify God and sow His peace, where, with the shepherds you receive glad tidings, and that, having come and worshipped with the magi, you may, with the righteous Symeon, receive in the Holy Mysteries the Saviour of the world Who for us is born this day.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
John, Bishop of Caracas and South America