Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord – December 25, 2003

Christ is born! Glorify him!

To the clergy, monastics, and the laity of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh:

“Today the Virgin gives birth to the Creator of all, Paradise offers a cave, and a star presents Christ as the Sun in darkness; the Magi with their gifts, enlightened by faith, adore; the shepherds behold a miracle, while the angels exclaim: Glory to God in the highest” (Aposticha-Great Compline).

Today, our vision is directed away from the caves of Iraq to a cave in Bethlehem. The Magi came, with their gifts, from the east to the west. Today, we go from the west to the east. The focus of the world has been on caves, searching for those who have sided with evil. Our focus is directed on the cave, finding the one who is good: Jesus Christ.

Caves are usually dark, dank, mysterious and teeming with all sorts of real or imaginary inhabitants. They can be dark and without much light. They can be mysterious with the unique possibility for good or evil. Our lives are very much like caves. They seem to be like a shaving of wood curled around our central emptiness. We try to fill that emptiness with noise, hurry and crowds especially during this special season. The Cave of Bethlehem reminds us that only the silence, presence and person of Jesus Christ will fill that emptiness. “He is being born in Bethlehem so that through his compassion he might bring back all of those who were exiled from life in Paradise” (Stichera – Sunday before Christmas).

Today as we enter the cave of the nativity of Jesus, let us sing: “Christ is born; let us glorify him. Christ comes down from heaven; let us go out to meet him. Christ lives on earth; let us exalt in joy. All you faithful sing to the Lord, for he has been glorified” (Canon – Ode 1 – Christmas).

Let us glorify him! How do we glorify him? Each of us in our own particular manner must give glory to Christ. It is because of him that we received the glorious giftof life, families, talents and blessings and salvation. “Let us do all things in the conviction that he dwells in us” (St. Ignatius of Antioch). Let us – clergy, religious and laity – glorify him.

Let us go out to meet him! Where do we meet him? We meet Christ in the Mysteries of the Church: Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage and Holy Orders. We meet Christ in the gospel – the proclamation of the good news. We meet Christ in each other, our families, husband, wife, children, brothers and sisters. We meet Christ in our parish, our pastors, brothers and sisters in community. We meet Christ, in a special manner, in the poor and the forgotten. Let us – the members of our archeparchy – go out to meet him.

Let us exalt in joy. How do we exalt in joy? St. Clement of Alexandria reminds us: “the perfect Christian is always a bearer of peace and joy.” We exalt in joy when the dark caves of our lives are filled with light, peace and joy. We exalt when the emptiness we all experience is filled with the fullness of faith, hope and love. We exalt in the gifts we receive from our sisters and brothers in the consecrated life, who have committed their lives to the Gospel.

In the midst of all the suffering which at times surrounds us, today is the time to be filled with joy and exalt. “Let us consider, brothers and sisters, of what material we were formed, who we are and with what nature we came into the world and how he who formed and created us brought us into his world from the darkness of a cave, and prepared his benefits for us before we were born. Therefore, since we have everything from him, we ought in everything to exalt in joy” (Pope St. Clement I of Rome). Let us – the Church of Pittsburgh – exalt in joy.

In the spirit of joy, I extend to you my episcopal blessing and wish you and your loved ones a blessed Christmas and a holy New Year.

In the name of the Lord!

Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh