His Grace Bishop Youssef
Every year, when we celebrate the Nativity Feast, we are reminded of the angels’ proclamation, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). The birth of Christ is not the conclusion but the beginning of achieving any kind of peace. Peace is defined by goodwill. From the birth of Christ until this day, Christians are confronted with vile assaults on their persons and on their churches. However, Christians are a new creation in Christ. St Iranaeus explains, “Christians have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not now how to fight.” There is too much strife and hostility in the world. St Justin Martyr pinpoints the real culprit: “The devil is the author of all war.” Thus, Christians are called to imitate Christ and reflect His peace on earth.
Achieving peace is living a life of goodwill. The incarnation of Christ initiates a life of inner peace and outer goodwill toward others. The Lord was not contradicting what the angels proclaimed on the night of His birth when He later said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The Lord Christ did not say that the world would be peaceful, but rather defined that conditions of peace for each one of us can only be found in Him, not in the world. Christ is the King of Peace, and no one, no weapon, and no threat can purge His peace from our hearts. The blood of the martyrs has salted the earth and lit the world and there is no place for hate to hide.
Peace on earth can be translated into acts of kindness and mercies that extend to all. The peace of Christ the Lord in you is a reflection of His love for the world. “The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). Peace is strength not weakness. The peace of Christ Jesus is not a temporary treaty between countries, but an everlasting promise between God and man. His peace is the New Covenant that is full of grace for those who accept His call. Christians are invited to live as ambassadors of peace in Christ Jesus the Lord. Through the example of the martyrs, confessors, and all the faithful, their love for Christ and endurance of pain without ever striking back, will bring many to Christianity—the true faith.
Peace begins with each one on a personal and intimate level with Christ the Lord. Make peace with members of your own family, your siblings, in-laws, cousins, members of your church community, your neighbours, and colleagues. Be a source of peace for your country. As soldiers of Christ the Lord, both our weapon and shield are peace. St Augustine attests, “You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” Inner joy is acquired by the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Strive to know Him and emulate Him. As Christians, we are mirrors reflecting His love and voices echoing His peace on earth. Therefore, sow the seed of peace when you hear of discord in any environment or situation. Because you believe that God is truly your Father, know that you are called to be a peacemaker. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
The martyrs and confessors of 2017 are witnesses of the peace of Christ the Lord. Their lives and martyrdoms will never be a source of sadness or anger, but rather the contrary, peace and joy. On the glorious Nativity Feast, we joyfully celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ with the martyrs in heaven and the confessors on earth. We pray for their families and all the Christians facing relentless persecution in Egypt and throughout the world. We also pray for those who continue to refuse the path of peace and perpetuate terrorism that they may know that a diabolic spirit spurs violence and hatred. Through the intercessions of the blessed Theotokos St Mary, and all the angels and saints, we ask the Lord to preserve the life of our beloved father, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark, for many years and peaceful times.
To God be all the glory, forever. Amen.
His Grace Bishop Youssef is Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States ()
7 January 2018