Christmas Message 2010 of His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Comana

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble...” (2 Corinthians1 : 3-4)

Icône de la Nativité du Christ, JPEG - 197.9 ko Now we have reached the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. As every year, this is a moment of great grace that we are all experiencing together in joy, a special moment that I wish to share with you on this day.

Why are we all joyful ? because the announcement of the angels to the shepherds is addressed to us, as it is to all people on earth : “For unto you is born this day...a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord ! “ The whole Old Testament speaks to us of this expectation of Salvation and Simeon the Elder expresses, in the name of the whole human race, the consequence of this mighty event that is the fulfilment of the promise of Salvation : “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,...for mine eyes have seen thy salvation...a light to lighten the Gentiles... “

But how, today, ought we to live this “great joy” of which the angel speaks to the shepherds ? To what does this announcement correspond and what echo does it find in our hearts ?

The whole world, the universe, seems really to be sunk in deep darkness. Certainly we see in our towns and villages a great many sparkling decorations. For many the feast will be marked by festive meals and exchanges of presents, but, unfortunately, it seems that the reason for this feast, this event we are celebrating, is devoid of real meaning and most of our brethren no longer know why we are joyful.

Are we aware of the distress of people on this earth where all means are acceptable for forgetting suffering, means that are always unsatisfactory, ephemeral and artificial ?

This whole description can leave us very pessimistic and lead us to say, “What’s the good ? Where is this salvation proposed by God ?”

Humanity appears to our eyes as deeply degenerate ; man is disfigured. It rather seems as if we don’t know how to love !

Let’s not delude ourselves ! The situation wasn’t much better, over two thousand years ago... And yet, there was a great change, an upheaval even : in Bethlehem the foolish love of God was made manifest ! The only Son and Word of God, second Person of the Holy Trinity, fell in love with all the people of the earth, accepting the fruits of creation in its fragility, weakness and wounded state, just as it was then and as it still is today. Christ in the crib stretches out his arms to the humble shepherds and the great magi alike.

This infinite love, this limitless compassion, are given to us quite unconditionally and the arms stretched out to us will be all the more so when nailed to the wood of the Cross, proving to us just how much we are loved by our Lord Jesus Christ !

By accepting to come to this earth in the most fragile possible form - a little child - the Lord Jesus knows and experiences in the flesh, from his first cry, all man’s distress. So, we are all offered the benefit of Divine Love.

We are responsible for what we have received : we cannot be proud that we are Christian, because everything has been given to us ! But we should know how to give glory to God : “Glory to God in the highest !” We ought to incorporate into our whole life that phrase that we say at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, and associate in it all people on earth, in their joy and sorrow !

We ought not to taste God’s joy, while forgetting people’s distress.

The shepherds probably offered some lambs to Mary for her Son ; the magi brought sumptuous presents. And what shall we give ? Our thanks ? Certainly ! Joy at welcoming our Saviour ? Of course ! But don’t let’s forget to place at Christ’s feet all our brothers in distress, for, as Saint Silwan the Athonite said : “Our brother is our life.”

Let us receive God’s joy which is given to us and “let us now lay aside all the cares of this life.” That is the Hope that springs forth on this Christmas night, so saving the world !

In the joy of the Nativity, I bless you all with much affection in the Lord.

Paris, Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral,
Christmas 2010

+ Archbishop Gabriel of Comana,
Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch

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