Christmas Pastoral Letter of the Apostolic Visitor to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Spain, Italy, and Ireland 

Today all things are filled with joy:
Christ is born of the Virgin.
(Orthros of the Nativity)

Christ is Born! Give ye glory!

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

Joy is the distinguishing characteristic of the Nativity of Christ. The Angel of the Lord announced to the shepherds: Behold, I tell you a great joy! (Luke 2:10). The Church’s hymns and liturgical chants summon everyone to joy with the Good News: Let heaven and earth make glad today prophetically, angels and men, let us keep spiritual feast! (The Litany, Grand Compline, first sticheron). Those whom God has sent reveal the reason for joy: Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior (Luke 2:11). In very truth Our Savior, the Dayspring from the East, has visited us from on high. (Exaposteilarion, Orthros of the Nativity). The consequences of this joy reach far beyond Bethlehem: Every error of idolatry has ceased, and Christ reigns unto all ages (The Litany, Grand Compline, Theotokion). Salvation has come to the peoples.

Today the Nativity brings us no lesser joy. The divine services of the days of the Nativity summon us to be joined to the Theotokos, to Saint Joseph the Betrothed, to the Shepherds, to the Wise Men, to the Forefathers, to the Prophets, and to all Creation, so as to welcome the Divine Child. We prepare ourselves zealously for the feast, we exchange our gifts with one another, we sing our Christmas Carols, we gather with our relatives and our friends, we sit together at the Holy Supper.

But sometimes our relatives and our friends are far away from us, and our joy seems to lack something. We are a long way from home, and from all those who are dear to us – sometimes we are surrounded by strangers, whose ways we must learn.

However, Beloved in Christ, that does not mean that we should stumble spiritually in this festive time. No matter where we are, we must find joy! Christian joy does not come from outside of ourselves, and does not depend upon external events. Conditions are what they are, and they often change – sometimes, even, the external conditions are beyond our control. But there is something in life that does not change: God’s love for us. This love is incarnate in the new-born Child in Bethlehem! God’s love is present in our life, and no one can take God’s love away from us! Therefore our liturgical chants never tire of repeating the presence today of the event of long ago: Today Bethlehem receives Him that at all times ever sits with the Father. (Sticheron after the Gospel, Orthros of the Nativity), even though this was accomplished long, long ago. Today angels glorify as God the new-born Babe (ibid.). Announcing the Good News, the angels sing to us: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” “God Eternal now is born: He came down from the Heavens to save all His People; let all rejoice!” (Ukrainian Christmas Carol).

My beloved, let us allow Christ to be born today in our hearts! Let us pay attention to His presence; let us remember Him in the midst of all the everyday fuss and bustle. Let us love Him, as He has loved us. Let us obey Him! Then we shall feel the joy which accompanies the Birth of Christ, the joy which nothing can suppress, because even in the midst of trials this joy is our internal certitude that truly “God is With Us”, God loves us and God gladly abides with us.

I sincerely wish to greet all of you, beloved Brothers and Sisters, with this great feast, and I want you to recognize and sense the quiet presence of Christ the Lord in your life. May the Lord fill your hearts with His joy. May the newborn Saviour bless you, your families, your community where you live and the community you originally came from, and all those who are in your thoughts in this time of the Nativity. “Glory to God, let us sing; let us give honour to the Son of God and adoration to our Lord.”

The Blessing of the Lord be upon you!

The humble HLIB,
Bishop of Bareta
Apostolic Visitor

Given in L’viv in the Year of Our Lord 2006
6/19 December, the feast of
our holy Father Nicholas the Wonderworker