Nativity Epistle from Metropolitan Archbishop Peter

Good day, everyone,

From December 17 through today, the church sings the “Oh Antiphons,” a series of titles for Christ drawn from Isaiah. Today’s antiphon is “O Emmanuel,” which translates as “O with us is God.” These antiphons are sung in many of the households of faith, and are known to many, many Christians. They have a very long legacy in the great Church.

With all of the antiphons in mind — O, Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O King of the nations, and today of course, Oh with us is God — I send you my profound greetings for the feasts of Christmas and Epiphany.

For all of us, this year has been remarkable, memorable, tragic.

For me, to see the pathway to ecclesial unity among the churches advanced by the two meetings of Bartholomew and Francis is the highlight of my year. An odd one, perhaps you will say, but knowing the mistrust and judgment which exists (existed?) between east and west, these events seemed to be the work of the Holy Spirit. The recent decision of the administration to declare an end to the fifty-year isolation of Cuba seems also to be inspired–the suffering of the Cuban people is enormous, and if bridges of communication can be opened that weary country might recover. And whether homeless folk or immigrants, the least and most vulnerable are getting attention, though much to slow and much too little.

At the same time, Americans have suffered and witnessed the suffering born from continued racial divide. Recent revelations on torture shake one’s faith in the integrity of the American ideal. The extent of poverty in America and the divide of the poor (including the working poor) and the super rich is an international scandal. Homelessness and the impact of homelessness calls out for response and redress.

I could go on forever with both positive and negative examples. But I want to point your attention to events more important to us, as faithful women and men. Events which should guide us into the new year of faith and of being active, responsible citizens.

In two days we celebrate the incarnation–Emmanuel, God with us. The choice by an omnipotent, transcendent, mysterious God to choose to become a frail and fragile human being, and to be so not through an alien-like appearance from a space ship, but through birth to a young unmarried woman.

What I wish to draw from the scriptures of this season is that one of the gifts of the Annunciation and the Incarnation is that the shame of being human is abolished in what happened when God entered humanity as one with us.

In Exodus, the consequence of sin is shame for what we are. With the Dayspring, the new dawn, the second Adam and Eve, we are capable of ridding ourselves of shame. Why? Because God does not address us from a heavenly throne, but from a body like yours and mine. Because God’s mother so trusted in God’s love that she took upon herself the shame of being an unmarried mother.

My prayer and hope–hope has been one of the great themes of this past year and the two years before–is that we immerse ourselves in the great Mystery of God, and ask God to help us surrender our shame. Our shame takes many forms, of course, and it will be special to each of us. It isn’t unique of course for humanity shares so much person to person to person.

Do not give in. Do not give up hope. Do not stop believing that God loves each and every one of us and that includes YOU. Even when absolutely everything seems catastrophic, please speak to the God who not just Lord, but Wisdom, Dayspring, With Us. And just as importantly, do not give up on people–those near to you and those far away, your support system. Speak to God but speak also to those of your circle of friends.

For myself, I cherish the words and actions of those who have sought to create a better world, civil and ecclesial, and remember them in grateful prayer. But frankly, I’m going to consign 2014 to history with a sigh of relief: it has been a year I hope not to repeat ever again.

But I try to embrace hope–symbolized by the anchor. There is a reason, it is said, that hope is in the middle of the three cardinal virtues of faith, hope, and charity. It is because hope is the anchor for our faith and our loving.

I pray for you and for me, and for all those we encounter each day that the new year brought be one of hope. God bless you all.

Archbishop Peter

το φιλί/ενώνει πιο πολύ/απ’ το κορμί

γι’ αυτό το αποφεύγουν/οι πιο πολλοί

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