Message of His Beatitude Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
“Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy him” (Mt. 2: 13)
1- Jesus Christ, savior of the world, was, since his birth, the object of pursuit, revenge and bodily liquidation. Herod and his assistants were watching over to pounce upon him, for they were afraid for a worldly power though necessarily ephemeral, they possessed. But the Angel who had announced his birth was looking after his safety. He appeared to Joseph, Jesus’ foster father, in a dream and said :” rise , take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you, Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph did as he was told. This way Christ experienced displacement and expulsion since childhood resembling, thus, human in all the tribulations and calamities they suffer on their own land. He often was met by his own people, sometimes the closest ones to him, with caution and defamatory criticism, meanwhile his fierce enemies, secretly plotted his death on the cross. This took place over two thousand years ago.
2 – Fleeing away to Egypt was a mere incident which could be considered one of a chain of the stumbling blocks which Jesus Christ, redeemer of humanity, was exposed to as from his birth until his death on the cross. He was born in a crib like the poorest of humans.(Lk. 2:6-7) . The first people to learn about his birth were simple shepherds who were, that night, guarding their flocks in Bethlehem. The Angel of God appeared to them and calmed their fear by telling them :” don’t be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people for today in the city of David a savior was born for you who is Messiah and Lord.”
3 – In the midst of this poverty down on earth, appears the glory of Heaven in the highest. ” and suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God and saying :” glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” . (Lk 2: 13-14) . The Church sings the glory of God that night saying ” The Virgin gave birth in this world to the one who is eternal. The earth offered a crib to the one the angels fear to approach. God becoming a child is beyond understanding , but he did this to make us understand what he said ” whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt. 23:12) so that we act with his inspiration . He also did this so as to root deeply in our mind his words “what is born of flesh is flesh, what is born of spirit is a spirit” (Jn 3:6) . He added addressing Nicodemus :” do not be amazed that I told you, “you must be born from above ” . That is from water and spirit, that’s to say from God, as confirmed by John the Evangelist :” to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of god, to those who believe in his name. who were born not by natural generation, nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God” (Jn. 1:12-13).
4 – The mystery of the Nativity is accomplished in us when Christ is formed in us, as Saint Paul says to the Galatians : “My children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you” (Gal 4:9). The Nativity is the mystery of this wondrous reciprocity between us and the Lord Jesus. It is truly a wondrous reciprocity as we think that the Creator of the human kind took a human body, was born from the Virgin Mary and became human without human means. He, thus, honored us by raising us to the status of divinity. Saint Irenaeus says: “This is the reason why the Verb became flesh, and the Son of God , Son of Man: So as Man , by entering into communion with the Verb and hence by receiving the divine filiation, becomes son of God ” (Cat of Cath. Church 460). In the same meaning, Saint Athanasius says: “The Son of God became Man to make us God” .
5 – Since God created us and rose us to his status, making of us gods, as Jesus said to the Jews who accused him of blasphemy against God, he the human , by declaring himself to be God, He answered “is it not written in your law,” I said, ” you are gods ” (Jn 10:44) or (Ps. 10: 8).
We ask the question :”is our behavior always the behavior of people who realize the dignity bestowed upon them by God who rose them up to his status, making of them his adoptive children and sowing in them the seed of divinity? Have we adored him as he should have been adored and implemented his divine teachings as they should be? Have we kept his fear in our hearts?
The bad situation we have arrived to in our homeland makes us ask ourselves those questions and deep in our conscience answer them so as to know when we are heading to .
6 – We were relieved; thanks to heaven’s help, it helped put an end to the tragedies and calamities we experienced for one third of last century and said “thanks be to God” . But only the acts of the tragedy are over, the tragedy itself has not yet ended despite the tangible improvement of the situation. We recovered our free decision, took in hand our destiny and felt that we are responsible for ourselves, our country and its positions in this East and the World. But there are hidden powers which fear the sunlight. They work in the dark sowing sedition, spreading fear and tearing down the chief elements of the Lebanese independence, to prove that the Lebanese are unable to govern themselves, or they have lost the ability to do so, for they have relied upon others who took over their role and even their dignity. This is the underlying reason that explains the successive bomb explosions and repeated assassinations which, most times, mow down opinion leaders and thinkers. It is meant to deprive people from their leaders so that they become like sheep flocks without shepherds. This is what the Communist regime used to do. Although it has disappeared in its country of origin, it is still efficient in some of this region countries.
7- Is it insignificant to have had at home fifteen bomb explosions in less than one year ! We hardly have start recovering from our wounds when we are confronted by new ones tearing the body of a co-citizen . Many are the commercial, tourist and residential institutions which have been destroyed ! Many are the victims which fall, all of them still young and active.
Lamenting is neither useful nor helpful. The best possible way to put an end to this state of loss is to press ranks together , reject dissensions and unify the view so as to put up a wise plan. This will gather all the Lebanese around one goal which is to bring back tranquility to the souls, spread peace in the land, make all the capacities that have emigrated away return to unite efforts and extend hands for a brotherly handshake to work together with confidence and loyalty so as to restore what has been destroyed in the souls before restoring demolished buildings and institutions.
Whenever intentions are sincere and the way before people of sedition and sowers of dissensions, destructions and death is cut off, the Lebanese will regain confidence in themselves and their country. They will extend cooperative hands to their neighbors, on equal footing, for the benefit of both and the good of their coming up generations.
8 – While we ask the Lord Jesus, on the occasion of his nativity, to enable us to reach the haven of peace, we pray him to grant all Lebanese , residents and emigrants , many returns with tranquil hearts and the flags of peace flying over Lebanon, the region and the world.