Christmas Message 2014
Sydney, 24 December 2014.
Message of His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay to the People of the Maronite Church in Australia
Our Youth are the Hope of our Church
Beloved Brothers and Sisters of our Eparchy,
Our annual celebration of the feast of Christmas is not merely a date to be remembered, a story to be retold, a myth to be interpreted, or a play to be re-enacted. Rather, Christmas is a fact. Indeed, Christmas is the greatest fact not only of human but even of universal history. It unfolds to reveal two basic levels: the historical level which tells us of the birth of the Son of God into our human family, and the divine level which tells us of the birth of man into the family of God. At Christmas, we celebrate the supreme miracle and the greatest good news: that God assumed a human face in the person of Jesus Christ Our Lord, who was born in Bethlehem of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In like manner, man was granted a godlike face in the person of Jesus Christ, born of the Father before all ages.
Herein lies the joyous tidings of the great Nativity which the angelic host brought from heaven to earth, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good hope to all”.
In this season of Christmas, I wish to particularly turn to our young people, the hope of our Church, and say: “You are the fountain of optimism, the heart of zeal, and the flag-bearers of goodwill. What could be more beautiful than for you to turn yourselves to the Lord Jesus upon this Feast of his Nativity and ask him: “Lord, transform our natural optimism into a firm Christian hope; our zeal into both humane and Christian values and virtues which we can live out each day; our goodwill into self-sacrificing love which gives of itself without reservation.” This is the most pleasing gift you could present to the Lord at Christmas, when you start on a journey of victory over everyone and everything which threatens your living in hope, love, and virtue in the midst of our Church and society.
You, the young men and women of our beloved Maronite Eparchy must be:
a.Firstly, a youth of hope; whether at work or in service, whether studying in school or pursuing higher education or, simply, in your everyday openness to others.
b.Secondly, a youth of virtues and values; for you should discern your vocation in life, whether to say to the Lord, “I am here to answer your call to a consecrated life, to serve as a priest, monk or nun”, or to pursue your life following Jesus in the world, especially in the call to married life.
c.A youth of charity and merciful hearts; always searching for the best way to live in love, practising it in works of charity and mercy. You are called to hearken to the poor, the marginalised and the homeless amongst our brethren who cry out: “Have mercy upon us, O Son of David!” Go to them, therefore, as apostles of mercy, performing charitable and humanitarian acts, especially with the Maronite Mission teams in our Eparchy.
Christmas is an occasion for us to put into action the programme of the seven pastoral priorities in our Eparchy, which I announced last year. Since our youth, the second priority in our plan, form not only an essential component in the future of our Church and society, but are also a vital spiritual power in our present pastoral, ecclesial and social reality, we have decided to call the first nationwide conference for our Maronite youth, from the 24th to the 26th of July 2015. It will be held under the title: “Arise, shine, for your light has come!” Our young people can thus meet each other in the spirit of Christmas, exchange their experiences, share their different aspirations and ambitions, and stand before today’s challenges, seeking to define and manifest their identity as Maronites in Australia, and so map out the next step of the road.
On this special occasion, we still rejoice to recall the recent visitation of His Beatitude and Eminence Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai to our Eparchy between 24 October and 7 November. I pray that the Divine Providence, which accompanied and directed that visit, may continue to strengthen us in hope and renew us in faith, spiritually animating the children of our Maronite Church in Australia. May His Beatitude’s visit also inspire us to become a ray of hope, consolation and solidarity for and with our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria.
On the basis of Communion and Love, may more bridges be built between the Maronites in Lebanon and their brethren in the Expansion, especially in Australia, so that we may be One Flock under One Shepherd. Again, we thank the Lord for the success of this historical visitation, and the fulfilment of its pastoral and apostolic aims. Speaking on your behalf, too, I once more express to His Beatitude and Eminence our gratitude for his visit to our Eparchy, wishing him a Blessed Christmas. On this occasion, our gratitude also goes to our governments: Federal, State and Local, for their kind and warm reception of His Beatitude throughout the visit.
Finally, I express my thanks to you the people of this Eparchy, your friends, and to every person, association, institution or parish which contributed to this great success, whether directly or indirectly, whether during the preparatory stages or in the execution of our celebrations, whether participating in prayer or in events, as volunteers in all sorts of work and on the various committees, and through your generous donations of money and materials. The spirit of unity, generosity and collaboration that we have witnessed during the visit showed our pride in belonging to the Maronite Church.
As our bells ring out on this Christmas, I wish you all an abundance of blessings in this Holy Season and a prosperous and peaceful New Year. I offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God, with you and for you, in the words of Saint Paul: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
“Christ is Born! Alleluia!”
– Maronite Bishop of Australia