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Festal Letter for the Glorious Feast of the Nativity 2009

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My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Holy Church,

It is my pleasure to wish all of you a blessed and joyous Feast of the Nativity. We rejoice on this blessed feast day, because of Immanuel our God.

Let us reflect together on this joyous prophecy said by Isaiah the Prophet, “See, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and you will call his name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey. Before knowing how to opt for evil, he will choose the good. Hence before the child knows good or evil, he will desert evil to choose the good.” (Is. 7:14-15) This joyful prophecy about the birth of our Good Savior from the Holy Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, clarifies for us that the One born from the Virgin is Immanuel – God is with us. He is the Incarnate God: perfect in His divinity and perfect in His humanity. In explaining the Book of Isaiah, St. Cyril of Alexandria confirms that this prophecy reveals to us that God indeed appeared in human form and God the Word took a complete human nature. St. Cyril said, “For the purpose of presenting Him as truly God and man, he cites in reference to Him both what is divine and what is human: the fact that in reality He came in the flesh he endeavors to confirm by saying that He had food suited to infants, curds and honey, while the fact that although coming in the flesh, as God He will no less prevail over sin he conveys by proceeding immediately. ‘Hence before the child knows good or evil, He will desert evil to choose the good.’” As for the purpose of this prophecy, St. Cyril said, “The purpose was to confirm that he was really like us, and to hallow our very creation.”

Today, we rejoice because God the Word has become like us and has sanctified our nature. We are joyful, because our Lord is Immanuel, God is with us.

We rejoice, because God the invisible has become visible and had a human face. Today, we rejoice and are glad, because of this great mystery and we glorify Him with the words of the Wednesday Theotokia saying,

Come and behold and be amazed,
Joyfully sing on account of this mystery, which was revealed unto us.
For the One without flesh was incarnate,
And the Word took body;
The One with no beginning began,
And the Eternal One became temporal.
The Incomprehensible has been touched,
And the Unseen has been seen,
And the Son of the Living God truly became Son of Man.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever, in one hypostasis, we worship and glorify Him.

My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s joyous message is that God, Who was far from us, has become near to us; He became Immanuel, God is with us. In our sufferings and tribulations, we see Immanuel, God is with us. We see Him sharing the affliction of every person suffering for His holy Name. We see Him in prison with the imprisoned priest. We see Him with Mario and Andrew in their struggle against injustice. We see Him with our brothers and sisters in Ein-Shams, as they try to have fellowship with the Lord in the Divine Liturgy, despite the angry protests of the mob outside their church. We see Him with all those suffering for His holy Name everywhere. He is close to them, strengthening, comforting, and allowing them to hear the words of His Holy Spirit, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Pet. 4:12-13)

+ In our spiritual struggle against sin, temptations, and Satan with the powers of darkness, we see His face bright with victory for He defeated Satan on the cross and was victorious over his temptations in the wilderness. He encourages us saying, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph. 6:10-11)

+ In the midst of the fears and instability, which is prevalent in the world today, with a sweeping recession, unemployment, home foreclosures, as well as terrorism extending its evil arm everywhere, and as “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth.” (Lk. 21:26), we look up to Immanuel our God, with His cheerful face, walking on the waves of this disturbed world, coming to us with His compassionate voice ringing in our ears, “It is I, do not be afraid.” (Mk. 6:50) As soon as He enters the boat of our lives, the wind calms.

We pray that Immanuel our Lord may always shine on us with His joyous face, always granting us power, courage, peace, tranquility, and joy.

Let us pray for the peace of the Holy Church and for our beloved father, H.H. Pope Shenouda III.

Wishing you many happy returns.
Bishop Serapion

 

 

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