Christmas Message of the Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus H.E. Youssef Soueif
“And He will be called…Prince of Peace!” (Isaiah 9:6)
With faith and Joy we celebrate today the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Word of God, whom in the fulfilment of time, God the father sent Him to us, to be born from the Holy Spirit in the womb of Virgin Mary, becoming human yet without sin, making His dwelling among us, living with us, amidst us.
Yes, today we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace as it was written in Isaiah “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6)
What a beautiful prophecy, as through Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan, he was proclaimed by God the Father, a beloved son, taking upon His shoulders the sins of the world, our sins, becoming Lord and Saviour and reconciling us with God to start His dwelling in us, in our hearts, minds and souls. And when at the cross He was lifted high, He proclaimed: “It is finished” meaning “paid in full”, declaring the debt owed by mankind to God the father, was wiped away completely and forever. On the cross, He made us a New Creation, giving us a Covenant of Sonship by sending forth the Holy Spirit into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”, making us as St Peter said “A Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a people belonging to God”. (1/2 -9)
We are His instruments on earth, Peace makers and Keepers as St Mathew said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”(5/9)
We are the salt and the light, instruments of Love and Reconciliation, reflecting Him in our Lives, contributing to the World we are dwelling in, this world He has created and redeemed through His Incarnation, Baptism, His death and Resurrection, celebrating God’s marvellous plan that He has put forth before the creation of the World, every time we participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Love and Peace, presented to us by the Prince of Peace, thousands of years ago in the city of Jerusalem.
Today indeed we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, as the angels proclaimed when announcing His birth to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth Peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Lk 2:14)
This peace is the peace that was intended to be upon our World, and is destroyed every time we look around or watch the news. We are surrounded on a daily basis with a combination of conflicts, diseases, natural disasters environmental crises, wars, hatred and hardships. We live in a world where our eyes can hardly see His Peace and love, a world where humans became numbers more than people created on God’s image.
And one might wonder if this peace proclaimed in the Bible, was meant to be an inner one not affected by the circumstances around? A Peace that is not shaken by circumstances and hardships, a Peace that is rooted in the hearts of those who worship Him, living for Him, working through Him, forgiving, building, loving and proclaiming His love.
A peace built on the prophecy in Isaiah that says “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.’ (7:14)
Dear Brothers and Sisters, God is with us, is the heart of our Christmas, is the whole history, the history of a living Peace that dwells in us despite all circumstances that surround us, as we know, God is with us and we are not alone. In wars? Not alone. In persecutions? Not alone. In sickness? Not alone. In struggles? Not alone. In death? Not alone. Immanuel Himself is with us as St Paul said: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7)
This is our real Peace; this is our real celebration. And as a token of Peace taken from the Prince of Peace, we pray today for our wounded Middle East, the bleeding countries of Iraq, Syria and every country suffering hatred and division. We pray specifically for the reunification of our beloved Cyprus who was the first destination of St Paul’s long journeys, proclaiming God’s Peace to the world, God’s Love and Reconciliation.
Happy Christmas. May His peace always dwell in us and shine through us. Amen
Nicosia, Christmas 2016
† Youssef Soueif Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus