“Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven. Let us go to meet Him”
My dear and blessed brothers and sisters,
With these beautiful words, the hymnographer presents the great Mystery of the Lord’s Birth. God the great and incomprehensible becomes a visible and palpable man. Christ descends from heaven and is born on earth.
From ancient times until today, heaven has been a place of spiritual quests, as well as a field of scientific investigations. People of all ages, from the time of the mythical Icarus to the modern era of telecommunications where human messages are reflected in the celestial firmament and returned to earth, have looked up to find answers to their agonizing existential questions.
Within the realm of the church, the hymnographer’s reference to heaven is always a fixed theological certainty. Heaven, of which Holy Scripture presents so many references, is the place where the will of God is a given fact, to which the angels, the heavenly powers and the saints are attuned. The biblical phrases “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all men” or “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (the Lord’s Prayer) reveal the final purpose of the salvific work of the Incarnate God, the “heavenization” of the world, “so that mankind may be freed from error and evil and come to know truth and virtue, so that there is no difference between earth and harmonious heaven”, as mentioned by Saint John Chrysostom (Sermon 19, 5). The Kingdom of God is always our destiny, and the Nativity of the Lord is the dawning of the “last day”, the participation of human nature in the divine glory, about which the heavenly Angels sang on that peaceful night in the humble cave of Bethlehem.
Our Holy Church, and especially the ancient Church of Alexandria which is active pastorally and missionarilly in the vastness of Africa, the continent of the future, experiences the above theological truths in a doxological manner, similar to that of the Angels on the night of the Nativity. Because the preaching of the Gospel is a glorification, which aims, as we said, at the “heavenization” of the world. The establishment of a Diocese or the establishment of a Parish is nothing more than the perceptible presence of Christ in a specific place and time, until the final glorious coming of Christ the King.
The seemingly insignificant and humble in origin Divine Infant, the One born in the manger of the animals and warmed by their breath, is the Glorious Lord, who did not identify Himself with the mighty rulers of the world, but with the “least”, the common people. It was from them that He became incarnate, it was them with whom He associated, it was them He called His brothers and it was mainly in their souls that He found a place and His salvific word grew. And Ηe made them the criterion of our consciences during the final Judgment of humanity, as Ηe states in the Gospel of Matthew: “Inasmuch as you have benefited one of the least and afflicted of my brothers, you have also benefited me” (Matthew 25, 31-41). In this way, Christ became the authentic and selfless fighter for human dignity, honour and the elevation of man throughout the length and breadth of the world.
What modern civilization considers to be acquired, the unfortunately many times so-called “human rights” in name only, since the birth of Jesus is a fundamental principle and tradition of our Church. Its God-man Founder and the Saints that imitated Him did not speak theoretically in favour of their fellow human beings who were suffering, but shared their anxieties and experienced their hardships voluntarily out of love for them.
My dear children
God is “estranged” from the heavens to be born in the embrace of the humble cave “taking on the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7), without the cover of worldly prestige and arrogant power. He voluntarily becomes poor, an immigrant, a refugee and a victim of human intolerance. He is born in a town far from Nazareth, he flees to Egypt, the land watered by the Nile, he returns in poverty to his native land, he moves incessantly preaching and healing.
With His Birth, Love invades the world in flesh and blood. It becomes the only authentic way of life without avoiding responsibility, without turning into guilty silence and neutrality towards the wronged and the suffering. It does not offer false words of comfort or false crumbs of civilization to the exhausted victims of our wickedness, but becomes the only Way, Truth and Life for the thousands of suffering souls in Africa, Asia or the outskirts of the big western cities that thirst for the overcoming of daily, but also eternal death. Let us hasten to these places as modern Magi – if we want to talk about a conscious Christian life – to offer the precious gifts of our love, in any way possible. Rest assured that in the sad smile of these persons we will meet Christ from heaven.
From the bottom of my heart I pray that the newborn Savior will protect you and bestow His mercy on you abundantly.
† T H E O D O R O S II΄
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
In the Great City of Alexandria
Feast of the Nativity 2022