Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord – December 25, 2009

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Bishops, clergy, monastics and the people of God,

We began the Philip Fast with the spirit of vigilance, which is strengthened by increasing our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The Church has always encouraged us to prepare for the great feasts of the Liturgical Year and the Nativity of Jesus Christ is no exception. “For today, the virgin is on her way to the cave where she will give birth in a manner beyond understanding to the Word who is in all eternity.”

We learn about this feast from the Church, who is the teacher throughout the ages, and not from modem advertising, mall displays, the internet and the raucous music that do not speak to the mystery of the birth of Jesus Christ. We learn about this feast from the liturgical prayers for the season with their wise choice of readings and stichera and from the prophets and the gospels. “The sayings of the prophets are now being fulfilled because Christ is born of the pure Virgin in a cave.” “The earth offers a cave to the inaccessible.” “Heaven has become a cave.” “The cave receives him whom nothing can contain.”

Taking our clue from Philip who told his friend Nathaniel “come and see,” let us, too, go and see. What might help us on our journey is to enter into the cave in which this awesome event took place. “Behold, the time of salvation is drawing near, O Cave prepare yourself for the virgin is coming to give birth.” (Prefestive Stichera Christmas)

Caves are usually dark and lonely and have all kinds of mysterious creatures crawling and flying about. Darkness seems to be enveloping our lives more than ever in this new millennium. The darkness of fear and anxiety about the future, the darkness of broken family relationships, illness, and aging, the darkness of the lack of civility in public and private discourse, the darkness of a lack of morality and clarity concerning basic rights of individuals and unfortunately for some, the darkness of feeling that God has forgotten us.

But as we enter the cave on this great feast, we are overcome with light – the unfading Light of Jesus Christ. It dispels our fear and anxiety about the future. It gives us the courage to always be civil in our discourse and to know that God has not forgotten us, but in fact, has come to live among us and redeem us. “God appeared in the flesh to those groping in the darkness and resting in the shadows.” The light of the cave is a prelude to the light of the resurrection.

No one likes to be lonely. Many things, persons and events make this feeling a daily occurrence for us. As we enter into the cave we can feel lonely. Loneliness has at its core the feeling that we have no value, no one cares about us and sometimes that we are unlovable. In the cave, we find the newborn child who came because each one of us has immense value. God cares about us and loves us more that we can imagine. The presence of Jesus, the Only-begotten Son of the Father makes all things complete and acceptable. Our lives are our history of salvation and everything lonely or not – Christ makes acceptable. The benevolence of the Father is shown in his Only-begotten Son, who became a man like us and accepted everything and redeemed it by his death and resurrection on the third day. The new born child, Jesus the Christ, makes all things complete.

Most people don’t like all the crawling and flying creatures that we find in the cave. But they proclaim that Christ came for all of creation, which needed to be enlightened and renewed. All creatures proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Thus the cave in Bethlehem is different, for in it darkness becomes light, loneliness becomes acceptance and community and mysterious creatures become heralds of life.

As the light of the star of Bethlehem directed the Magi to the cave where they found the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, may that same light continue to shine forth in your lives to turn the darkness into light, loneliness into acceptance and all living creatures into heralds of life.

Asking the Lord to bless each one of you with peace, joy and happiness, I remain:

In the name of the Lord!

Archbishop of Pittsburgh
Metropolitan of the United States