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Papal Letter for the Feast of the Nativity 1998

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My beloved children in the land of Immigration, both Clergy and Congregations, I send to you my sincere love to each one of you, wishing you a joyous life in the land of foreignership. May the Lord keep you without fault, in love to one another with the true love. May He keep all of you for the edification of one another, without offense.  I would like to congratulate you with the start of the New Year, and the Glorious Feast of Nativity. May it be a blessed and happy year, carrying to you all of what the birth of the Lord carries from inspirations to the soul and also deep spiritual memories.  The Lord Christ came as a Savior to the world, as the angel said to the shepherds: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:1 1).  And the Lord has said concerning Himself that He came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).  In addition to all of this, He had an important message in teaching, and in leading the people to the knowledge of God, saying to the Fr.: "And this is life eternal, that they might know You the Only true God" (John 17:3).  He also said to Him: "And I have declared to them Your Name, and will declare it; that the love with which You have loved me with may be in them, and I In them" (John 17:26).  Did all of these people not know God, till Christ came to tell them about Him?  Of course not, for without doubt they knew His Hebrew name: Elohim, Jehovah, Adonai, the One Who is and is to be God and Lord. But this mere information of knowledge is not enough…..

They knew that the Only God is the Creator of heaven and earth, the Only maker of wonders.  But they did not have a relationship of the heart, even in their prayers!  This is what God said about them: "..this people honor Me with their lips, but have removed their heart far from Me" (Isaiah 29:13).  They had a outward worship only, without spirit!  Prayer without a relationship!  For this reason God rejected them.  He said to them: "And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide My face from you; when you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood" (Isaiah 1:15).  The Lord desired the pure heart, that is full of love towards God and people.  This is why the Lord Christ said to the Fr.: "And I have declared to them Your Name, and that the love with which You have loved me…" (John 17:26).  The Lord Christ came teaching the people about love, through His life and words; so that they will know that God is Love (I John
4:16); and that every virtue without love, is not accepted before God…  Thus He said to His disciples: "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34).  He also said to them: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).  It was said about Him that He "loved His own which are in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).  He taught them love to everyone, even the enemies, saying, "Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).  He explained this to them by saying: "For if you love those who love you what reward do you have? Even the publicans do the same."

As long as God is Love, then anyone who is far from love, is far from God… With this we understand the meaning of prayer. It is not merely talking with God, or a duty that we perform, but prayer is a desire for God, as the psalmist says in the Psalm: "As the deer thirsts the water brooks, so my soul thirsts for You, O God…" (Psalm 42:1,2). The prayer that is distinguished by the love from the heart to God, becomes a spiritual enjoyment, and the heart enjoys the company of God.  The sign of this is that when a person starts prayer, they do not want to finish it, desiring to continue in the enjoyment of talking with God. The ending of the prayer to this person is like snatching the suckling infant front his mothers’ breast…..

The Lord Christ presented God to the people with a beloved name of "Heavenly Fr.".  He taught us to call Him saying: "Our Fr. Who art in heaven."  He is the Fr. Who is full of compassion and mercy, and He is the source of all goodness… We love God Who gives to us without us asking Him, and above what we ask… We love Him for He is the Good Shepherd, Who makes us lie in green pastures and leads us beside the still waters (Psalm 23).  He is the True Shepherd Who said about Himself: "I will feed My flock, and will cause them to lie down….I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick" (Ezekiel 34:15,16).  Thus came the Lord Christ as a Good Shepherd, sacrificing Himself for the sheep (John 10:11,15).  He gives His sheep eternal life, and they will not perish forever (John 10:28).

Blessed is the Lord in His incarnation, in His love to us, in His sacrificial and redemptional shepherd-hood. We thank Him for all of this, and glorify His Name from now and forever, Amen.

Shenouda III,
Pope of Alexandria and
Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark
January 1998

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