Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord – December 25, 2004

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

To our beloved hierarchs, clergy, monastics and laity:

“O Christ our Lord and our God, you did not think equality with God something to be grasped at, but you emptied yourself, you took the form of a slave and were born in human likeness. Enlighten us as we celebrate your holy birth. Make us worthy to see the mystery of your becoming man for us, while remaining God in eternity. Fill our minds with understanding that we might see you even in the least of our sisters and brothers” (Royal Hours).

The mystery of the feast of the birth of Jesus Christ that we are celebrating fills us with a sense of humility and unworthiness. We cannot comprehend the unending love of the Father to send the Son to take the form of a slave and be born in human likeness. To be the recipient of this unending love is humbling. The light of this love continually silhouettes the darkness of our unworthiness. An unworthiness that could only be wiped away by the coming of the Lord “who account of his great love, became what we are, so that he might bring us to what he himself is” ( Ireneaus: Against Heresies). St. Gregory Nazianzus says: “On the one hand being, and eternal being of eternal being, above cause and word, for there was no word before the Word; and on the other hand for our sakes also becoming, that he who gives us our being might also give us our well-being.”

“God saw that we worship things created; He put on a created body, that in our custom he might capture us” (Ephraim the Syrian: Hymns of the Nativity ). It is awe-inspiring to feel that in this feast God captures us. So much of our activity is geared to capturing the love and respect of others by all we do during this special season. But to be captured by God humbles yet empowers us to act in the presence of such a mystery. Indeed, we needed to be captured by God through his Son, Jesus Christ; without being captured we could not be free and liberated.

There are many ways in which we continually need to be captured by God. Our fears need to be captured to turn them into hope; our pettiness into generosity; our struggles with forgiveness into acceptance; our need to control into openness; our anger into gentleness; our speaking into listening. To be captured by God necessitates a change in our hearts and minds, which is difficult. May this special feast give us the courage and boldness to do just that.

We are in the midst of celebrating the “Year of the Eucharist.” The Divine Liturgy is the concrete expression of the mystery of the incarnation. The Word of God takes human nature through which God and humanity are united. The Divine Liturgy is the center of our lives and from it flows the ability not only to be captured by Christ but also to become united with him by partaking of his body and blood. A unity that is so intimate that “all of us who become partakers of this one bread and cup may be united with one another in the communion of the one Holy Spirit” (Anaphora of St. Basil). It is a perfect time to reflect on being captured by God in the Eucharist.

Christmas is the time of gifts. Today, we celebrate the greatest gift God gave us: the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ. We need to open the bow of the gift of the humanity of Jesus Christ and discover divinity while allowing the gift of his divinity to capture the humanity of our lives. May this blessed feast be the occasion for reflection on what a priceless gift Jesus Christ is for all creation.

In spirit of hope, I extend to you my blessing and wish you and your loved ones a most blessed Christmas and a holy New Year. I remain

In the name of the Lord!

Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh