By the mercy of God, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria,
all Egypt and All Africa,
to the faithful of the Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria,
Grace and Mercy and Peace from our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem.
“Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ descends from the heavens, receive Him”
My beloved and blessed brethren,
With these beautiful words, the hymnographer presents us with the Great Mystery of our Lord’s Birth. The Great and Incomprehensible God becomes a visible and tangible man. Christ comes down from the heavens and is born.
Since antiquity, the heavens have been the object of man’s spiritual yearnings and the place of scientific research and exploration. From the time of the mythical Icarus, to the present age of telecommunication, in which message are reflected on the heavenly firmament and return to earth, people of every age have gazed upward in order to find answers to their existential questions.
Within the Ecclesiastical context, reference to the heavens constitutes an unshaken theological certainty. The heavens, referred to so often in the Holy Scriptures, are the sphere in which God’s Will is implemented. The angels, the heavenly powers and the saints are in harmony with this. The body of the Church mentally gazes in this direction asking for solutions to life’s dead-ends. It does not cease to gaze upwards in ceaseless prayer and anticipation, beseeching for the implementation of God’s Will on earth.
The biblical phrases “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and goodwill to all people” and “let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” reveal the ultimate aim of the salvific work of the Incarnate God. It is making the world a heaven, so as to rid humans of error and evil. It is to acquaint them with truth and virtue so that, as St. John Chrysostom mentions, there is no difference between earth and the harmonious heavens. The Kingdom of God always constitutes our destination and goal. The Lord’s Birth is the dawn of the “Last days”, the partaking of human nature in divine glory, that glory hymned by the angels on that tranquil night at the humble cave of Bethlehem.
Our Holy Church, particularly the Venerable Church of Alexandria that labours pastorally and with a missionary impetus in this vast continent of the future, of Africa, expresses theological truths in praise, like the Angels did on the night of Christmas. The preaching of the Gospel is a doxology that seeks, as we have mentioned, to make the world a heaven. The foundation of a Diocese is a herald of the Kingdom of God. The creation of a parish is nothing else but the tangible presence of Christ in that specific place and time, until the final, glorious coming of Christ the King.
The Divine Infant, for all apparent purposes insignificant and humble in birth, born in the manger and warmed by the breath of the animals, this same Infant is the Glorious Lord. He did not identify Himself with the powerful leaders of the world but with the “least”, the simple people of the world. It was from them that He took on flesh. It was with them that He kept company. It was them that He called his brothers and it was chiefly in their souls that his saving Word sprouted forth. It was them that he placed as criterion of our own judgement at the final Judgement, as mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, “If you assisted any one of the least of my brothers, you assisted me” (Matt 25:31-41). In this way Christ became the authentic and selfless fighter for human dignity, honour and the elevation of mankind in all places of the world.
Our contemporary civilization considers human rights an entitlement. So often these “rights” are rights only in name. Yet from the time of Christ’s Birth, these became a foundation and tradition of the Church. Her divine-human founder and the Saints that emulated Him did not speak theoretically on behalf of their suffering fellow humans. They shared in their hardships and lived their tribulations willingly out of love for their fellow man.
My blessed brethren,
God becomes a sojourner. He leaves the heavens and is born in the embrace of the humble cave. He takes on the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7) without the cover of worldly prestige and foolish power. He voluntarily becomes poor, an immigrant, a refugee and a victim of human hatred. He is born in a village far from Nazareth, finds refuge in Egypt, returns to his homeland and later travels around preaching and healing.
With his birth, love enters the world in the flesh. It becomes the only authentic way of life without becoming the shirking of responsibilities, without changing into guilty silence and neutrality towards those suffering and treated unjustly. It doesn’t offer tons of comforting words or false crumbs of civilization to the exhausted victims of our own doings. It is transformed into the only Way, Truth and Life for the thousands of suffering souls of Africa, Asia and of the marginalized of the great western cities that thirst for the transcendence of their daily condition and of eternal death. Let us, like other magi, make haste to these places if we truly wish to speak a conscious Christian life. Let us offer our valuable gifts of love in whatever way possible. Be sure that in the sad smile of these faces we will encounter Christ from the heavens.
My heartfelt wish is that the new born Saviour protects you and grants you all his rich mercy.
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
In the Great City of Alexandria,