Sydney, 24 December 2019
Message of His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay to the People of the Maronite Church in Australia
Christ is Born… Alleluia!
Dearly Beloved, Sons and Daughters of our Maronite Eparchy,
Let us listen as the Word of God speaks!
The joy of our Christmas celebrations lies in the mystery of the meeting of God and humanity, in the person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God who comes to be with us and save us. Our eyes and hearts turn to the cave of Bethlehem to vigilantly meditate with Mary, Joseph, and the angels, before the face of the divine child radiant with the light of heaven, bringing the love and compassion of God the Father and the grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit. He is “Emmanuel,” God with us, who fulfils the prophecies and is the hope of the nations and generations. He rejoices the heart of his mother, the Virgin Mary, who willingly participates in God’s plan of salvation, and humbly proclaims that she is the handmaid of the Lord, fulfilling through her obedience and total submission to the Will of God, that which Adam and Eve had been unable to achieve.
At Christmas, we may enter into a dialogue with God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ, making us realize that he is speaking and also listening to us. His birth was not a coincidence, nor is it only an occasion to tell the story of the Nativity to our children. It is the compassionate response of God’s listening to the voice of suffering and sinful humanity, hoping and longing for the coming of the Saviour, to meet him and listen to his voice. The dream was fulfilled, and the Word of God assumed our humanity. He dwelt among us, and we witnessed His glory and great love.
How important it is for us today that we once again discover that God continues to speak with us. He is not remote from us, but is near; He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. The Holy Scriptures affirm how God has spoken to us in different ways, but in the fullness of time, He spoke to us through His Only Son (Heb 1:2), the Word Incarnate, through whom God has told us everything. Our Maronite liturgy expresses this reality when we pray:
“Once upon a time, Halleluia!
The Word of God sublime, Halleluia!
Became a man divine, Halleluia!”
The most noble offering we can make to God at Christmas is to listen as His Word speaks and to accept Him in our lives. It is by listening to His voice, that we can learn to speak to God. When we listen to Him anew, we should not allow His Word to just linger within our ears: it must pass into our hearts, and from there to our hands; that it may bear fruit in good deeds expressing our faith in the Word. This alone can bring about the desired change in human life, healing, reviving and saving whoever believes in Him.
In the spirit of listening to the Word of God, I would invite you, on this blessed feast to pray for the Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in Australia, which will hold its first session in October of next year 2020. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our hearts and minds, that we listen to him, and be a church that listens more to the voice of its children to know more about the challenges that they are facing in today’s world. In this way, the Synod will form a new path to a future filled with the light of Christmas, with hope, and the joy of the Gospel.
In the same spirit of listening, we cannot but hear the cry of pain that has gone up from the people of Lebanon, especially its youth, since the 17th of October 2019, in the peaceful revolution against corruption and waste of public funds. This revolution that has gathered diverse groups all across the nation, under the banner of the Lebanese flag, is still waiting and calling on Lebanon’s politicians to attend to the voice of the nation’s conscience. It is by listening that they can understand the time has come to commence purifying the past memories of hatred, division and wounds, in order to undertake immediate administrative reform, and implement real changes in response to the demands of the people, both resident in Lebanon and in the expansion.
In the spirit of Christmas joy, we look with hope to the New Year 2020, and our hearts pray for the desired peace in our lives, our families and our society, especially in Lebanon. I hope that this blessed feast will bring a renewal of faith, to every home and family and to everyone eager to meet the Saviour, Emmanuel, God with us, now and forever.
Christ is Born… Alleluia!
– Maronite Bishop of Australia