CHRISTMAS PASTORAL LETTER
Christmas pastoral 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!
“Today Christ is Born of the Virgin in Bethlehem. Today, the eternal One has a beginning, today the Word becomes incarnated. All the heavenly powers rejoice, and all who dwell on earth are happy. The Magi offer the gift to the Master, the shepherds proclaim the marvel; and we cry aloud unceasingly: Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and good will to all.”
– Stichera at the Praises, Matins of the Nativity of Our Lord.
The liturgical texts of the Nativity of Our Lord often repeat a word, “Today,” and call everyone to respond to God’s invitation. Emmanuel – God with us – came to the world over 2,000 years ago and was greeted with marvel by shepherds and Magi offering Him homage and gifts. If we want that joy of Christmas to invade our lives, we must do what the shepherds did so long ago. We must come to our parish churches and bow before the newborn King. Hope is available but only to those who will humble themselves and bow in faith before the Lord Jesus Christ.
We often think about Jesus Christ each year in the Christmas season. We are deeply touched by the beauty of the nativity scene and resolve to know Christ personally, follow Jesus in our daily lives and be with Him. But, then the Christmas season passes and the pressures of a new year lead us away from the manger. There is great danger in coming near to Christ but never making a commitment. Sooner or later, we must make a personal commitment that Jesus Christ will be our Lord and Savior. Every time we put it off, it becomes harder the next time.
May God give us the grace to make room in our hearts for Jesus Christ! The angel said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” “Unto you.” “For you.” He came for us! This is where Christmas becomes intensely personal. It’s not enough to say abstractly that we believe Christ came. Many people say that and are still lost in their search for the living God. It’s not enough to say that Christ came for someone else. We can never be saved until we say, “Christ came for me. He died for me. He rose from the dead for me.”
Two thousand years ago God sent a gift wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Jesus is God’s Christmas gift to us. But we will never experience Christmas joy until we personally receive God’s gift – the Lord Jesus Christ. There is left to each of us a choice. What will we do with the Christ-Child this Christmas? Will we run to meet Him and make Him welcome in our hearts? Will we sing with the angels or will we be too busy to go to see the babe in the manger? Will we open our hearts and our homes to Jesus?
Today, let us come and welcome Emmanuel – God with Us. Let us with joy welcome Christ among us! The beauty of this personal encounter with the living God will call us to share this “Good News” with others. This is the same message the shepherds received from the angels. If we want to experience the real joy that Jesus wants for us, then we must learn to share! By sharing what God has so generously given to us, we will receive an even greater gift – the gift of joy. This is the true joy. It is found in a Person – in Jesus Christ our Savior. This joy flows out of a relationship with the One who never changes, the One who never lets us down, the One who never leaves us or forsakes us – the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.
On this Christmas day, let us come to our churches and personally encounter this great joy. Let us experience the life-giving Christ. Then, with the deep personal conviction we will be able to share this “Good News” with those whom we encounter in our daily lives, and say to one another “God is among us”!
Christ is Born!
+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM
Eparch of Stamford
Apostolic Administrator of Archeparchy of Philadelphia
Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago
+ Bohdan J. Danylo (author)
Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia