The Lord is born! Let us glorify Him! Let us glorify the incarnate and eternal Word of God!
As we refer to St Mary as the burning bush, know that you, too, are a candle enflamed with the same Holy Fire. You have a mission. You have a purpose. Understand the path from where you came and consider the motivation behind the choices you make each day. Commit your future to the One who holds it.
We would be amiss if we only thought that the pandemic of this era is merely a fleeting virus with cumbersome impositions. There are no coincidences with God. From the beginning of creation until His Second Coming, each of you has a special place and a significant purpose. Do not think that you are outside the realm of His apostles, evangelists, disciples, or servants. You are His precious child. If you are near to Him, you know that He holds your hand and carries you when you tire, and fills your heart with joy and gratitude regardless of circumstances. If you are far, know that He is searching for you, whether at the height of vain glory or at the lowest valley of despair. He knocks and knocks knowing that the void in your soul can never be filled without Him. He knows the time is near when you will no longer be able to taste His goodness and your journey will not lead you to His everlasting kingdom.
You have many choices, but selfish ambitions will never avail to anything. Time moves in one direction only and that time is the time when you will leave this world. Any a wise traveller prepares a sack with some belongings for the journey. What is in yours? The martyrs will enter heaven bearing their hardships and sufferings for the sake of Christ, and the righteous will enter bearing their virtues in the name of Christ. No one else will enter. What does your visa say? Permit? Deny?
The parable of the wise and foolish virgins illustrates this awesome and fearful night that resulted in two drastically different outcomes. All ten began at the same threshold. They had faith, but shelved faith is unacceptable, because faith requires action. One of the most comforting words people say when someone departs is, “He was ready,” or “She was prepared.” This is often followed by examples of their readiness and preparedness. Then, with confidence, they proclaim, “They are celebrating the Nativity Feast this year in the Paradise of Joy with Saint Mary and the angels and saints before the throne of God,” followed by, “We will meet again in heaven.” These are not words of sympathy but a celebration of a life well lived.
What will they say about you? Perhaps the overwhelming presence of this aggressive and relentless virus is to remind us that life is fragile and moves in only one direction alongside time. Only you can decide how to prepare your soul and to where your journey will ultimately lead.
The glorious Nativity Feast is a constant reminder that it is time to move forward from the misery of sin and the shadow of death to the joy of repentance, forgiveness, restoration, peace, and eternal life. I wish you all the happiness and blessings of the Nativity Feast and a healthy and prosperous New Year. We pray, beseeching the intercessions of the Ever-Virgin St. Mary, Archangel Gabriel and all the angels, St John the Baptist and the prayers of all the saints, and the prayers of our blessed and beloved patriarch, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II. May the Lord protect and keep him for us for many years and peaceful times.
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14)
God bless you.
His Grace Bishop Youssef is Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States.
6 January 2021