No. EN 742/16
By the Grace of God
Ignatius Aphrem II
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church
Our Beloved Children in Christ,
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
«ܓܢܺܝܙ ܐܰܢ̱ܬ ܡܶܢ ܟܽܠ ܒܺܐܝܬܽܘܬܳܟ܆ ܘܰܓܠܶܐ ܝܰܠܕܳܟ ܠܐ̱ܢܳܫܽܘܬܰܢ. ܬܶܗܪܳܐ ܐܶܢܶܝܢ ܬܰܪ̈ܬܰܝܗܶܝܢ܆ ܠܟܽܠ ܕܰܡܗܰܝܡܶܢ ܒܰܫܪܳܪܐ.» (ܡܪܝ ܐܦܪܝܡ)
“Your existence is hidden from all, Your birth is revealed to our humanity; both are wonders to all who truly believe” (Mor Aphrem)
The birth of Christ is a loud voice in the wilderness of our deafened world; the angels proclaimed it chanting, the shepherds celebrated it around the fire in the wilderness, and the Magi traveled long distances carrying their presents to worship the Wonder of times, God incarnated. All who witnessed this event were left in awe. God became human, choosing to be born of a Virgin, in order to assume the human nature and to reveal Himself to His creation.
The nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecies and the divine promise of salvation to mankind. We read in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder” (Isaiah 9: 5). St. Luke the Evangelist records the Angels’ proclamation to the shepherds that: “there is born to you this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2: 11).
In our world today, people hope in worldly ‘deities’: they seek vain glory, are enslaved by technology, and are subjects of ideologies of their own creation. The more they try to attain happiness by themselves, the closer they get to despair and misery. The desperate youth is constantly complaining from the harshness of these times and the mysterious future which is full of uncertainties in this world in which the dignity of human beings is violated and egoism and materialism in every person is idolized.
Amidst global chaos surrounding us and the crises in many countries, East and West, the truth of the Lord’s incarnation has a unique echo. The values our Lord Jesus taught in His gospel surpass this chaos and transcend every materialistic thought. The teachings that our Savior spread reveal the true meaning of life and distinguish between important issues on the one hand and vain and trivial matters on the other. The Church never ceases to proclaim that the child born in Bethlehem brought “goodwill toward men” (Luke 2: 14) and that He is the Savior Who conquered death and abolished sin, and gave eternal life to the believers (cf. John 6: 47). Furthermore, the ever Persecuted Christian Church calls upon her children to strengthen their faith and deepen their hope in the Lord Jesus Christ – Emanuel, God with us (Matthew 1: 23) – Who experienced people’s injustice and harshness since His birth, having been denied a home during His birth in Bethlehem, persecuted by King Herod, and thus becoming a homeless refugee with His earthly family.
We still live in times of war and tribulations, especially in the East where our Lord Jesus Christ was born and lived. We witness horrible events: killings, massacres, destruction, persecution and sufferings of all kind. However, we celebrate Christ’s birth despite the pain of these events and crises. We draw hope from the Child of the manger, Who shines in the darkness of this world through the light of His love and glory. Inspired by this hope, we remember in our prayers our two brothers in Christ their Eminences Boulos Yaziji and Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim, the Archbishops of Aleppo who are abducted for more than three and a half years now. We pray that they, and all other kidnapped and abducted, may return to Aleppo so that our joy of its liberation is completed.
We congratulate our spiritual children, members of our Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch throughout the world, on the occasion of Christmas and the New Year. We pray that this new year brings peace to the world and may the Almighty God bless you all with good health and success. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.