My Beloved, the Blessed Children of the Church,
It is my pleasure to wish all of you a blessed Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Our celebration comes this year as the threat of terrorism is world-wide. With the continuous war and terrorist attacks in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Africa, the scope of terrorism has widened to include France and the European countries, and has even reached us in the Diocese of Los Angeles, through the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino. The threat messages and letters of terrorism have reached thousands in many countries, and the world is now living in fear, since the terrorist attacks can occur anywhere in the world. Amidst this widespread fear, the message of our Good Lord comes bearing peace and tranquillity to the entire world. With the birth of Christ, the angels praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Lk 2:14)
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, Who came to proclaim peace to the whole world. The peace of Christ transcends all understanding; it is a heavenly peace, which is quite different than the world’s peace. Our Lord Jesus Christ’s true promise to every fearful and frightened soul is that He will grant a special peace, as He said: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled neither let it be afraid.” (Jn 14:27)
Isaiah the Prophet prophesied about the coming of Christ the Prince of Peace, and said, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called wonderful, counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:16) St. Paul the Apostle explains to us that Christ is our peace, since He came to reconcile us with the Father and to gather both those near and far, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” (Eph 2: 14-17)
Our Lord Jesus Christ came to our world to proclaim to us peace: peace with God, peace with one another, and peace for man with himself. Likewise, we also have to be messengers of peace, who preach and spread the peace of Christ to a troubled world, which is fearful of evil, terrorism, and the actions of the malicious people. The Holy Virgin Mary presents to us this model in her visitation to St. Elizabeth. The Holy Virgin Mary went bearing the message of peace, since she bore in her womb the Prince of Peace. The Scriptures narrate,
“And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfilment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” (Lk 1: 41-44)
Likewise, when we bear Christ within us and are filled with the Holy Spirit, we can give Christ’s peace to the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ sent His disciples on a peace mission and told them, “But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ (Lk 10:5) St. Paul exhorts us saying, “Live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”(2 Cor 13:11) He also wrote, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14) Also, every morning the Church reminds us in the Prime Hour of the Agpeya, of what St. Paul wrote, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:3)
The peace of Christ is God’s gift to the world; it is a divine gift and the fruit of the Holy Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.” (Gal 5: 22)
Let us pray that God may give us and the whole world His peace, which surpasses all understanding, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)
Let us pray for the peace of the Holy Church and for our beloved father, H.H. Pope Tawadros II.
Let us pray for the souls of the victims of terrorism and for their families, as well as for the repentance of every soul that is enslaved to sin.
Let us pray for every frightened and disturbed soul. May our Lord Jesus Christ’s peace fill all our hearts.
Wishing you many happy and joyous returns.
His Grace Bishop Serapion is Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles (www.lacopts.org)
7 January 2016