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Christmas Message 2019 of His Beatitude Patriarch Mor Ignatius Youssef III YOUNAN (English)


    Would you please read the Christmas Message 2019 of His Beatitude Patriarch Mor Ignatius Youssef III YOUNAN, Patriarch of Antioch for Syriac Catholic Church:


    Nr. Prot.: 282/2019

    Date: 20.12.2019



To our brothers, Archbishops and Bishops, 

To the Priests, Deacons, religious consecrated men and women,

To all the faithful people in Lebanon,

In the Middle East and the Church of Extension

Peace and love in our Lord Jesus Christ

«ܢܶܪܕܶܐ ܥܕܰܡܳܐ ܠܒܶܝܬ ܠܚܶܡ»



    1. Introduction

    On the upcoming Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the New Year 2020, we are pleased to present our warm salutations and prayerful wishes to our beloved clergy and faithful of the Syriac Church of Antioch, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Holy Land, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Europe, America, and Australia, invocating the Holy Infant of Bethlehem to grant us His abundant blessings,so we may all live in lasting spiritual joy, love, and peace.


    2. Bethlehem’s wonder

    In one of his distinct texts (Lk2/ 8-20), Luke the Evangelist tells us how the Angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds who kept watch over their flock at night. “Do not be afraid, he told them, for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord”.After telling them that they would find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising and glorifying God. When they had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another: “Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (Lk2/ 15).

    It was not without significance that Bethlehem, “The House of Bread ܒܶܝܬܠܚܶܡ” in Syriac Aramaic, should be the birthplace of Him who had come down from heaven to be the Bread of Life for men, He, who did commence His earthly pilgrimage within the precincts of a stable. Let us ask what it was that the Bethlehem manger contained. We will find a Virgin’s Child, Israel’s Messiah, the World’s Savior, and God’s Son.

    Most admirable mystery! The thought is paralyzed when it attempts to grasp the profound mystery: how the Eternal could become a child! How the Infinite could limit himself in human conditions, how the Adorable Creator would become one with His creature! The Son of God became incarnate that He might reveal the Father, take away our sins, and make us the partakers of His Divine nature.

    St. Ephrem the Syriac praises the Holy Infant, the Verb Incarnate:

    «ܐܶܬܰܝܢ ܕܢܶܚܙܶܝܟ ܐܰܝܟ ܐܰܠܳܗܳܐ ܗܳܐ ܒܰܪܢܳܫܳܐ ܐܰܢ̱ܬ܆ ܐܶܬܰܝܢ ܕܢܶܚܙܶܝܟ ܐܰܝܟ ܕܰܠܐ̱ܢܳܫܳܐ ܨܡܰܚ ܠܶܗ ܢܺܝܫܳܐ ܕܰܐܠܳܗܽܘܬܳܟ» (ܡܳܪܝ̱ ܐܰܦܪܶܝܡ܆ ܡܰܕܪ̈ܳܫܶܐ ܕܒܶܝܬ ܝܰܠܕܳܐ܆ ܝܓ̄: ܛ̄).

    “We came to see you as God, you are a human being. We came to see you as a human, the sign of your divinity shined upon us” (St. Ephrem the Syriac, Hymns on the Nativity, 13: 9).


    3. The shepherds welcoming the good news

    The shepherds obeyed the angel and rushed to search for their Savior, they became the first to meet Christ the Savior, and be able to “glorify and praise God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Lk2/ 20). The shepherds believed the news they had heard. They did not doubt whether this thing was coming to happen; but they said, “Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened”. They believed before they had seen. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”(Jn20/ 29).

    Let us be like the shepherds, they did believe and went searching for the baby lying in a manger, met him in adoration and spread the good news wherever they went praising God thankfully. “Thanks to Jesus, this encounter between God and his children gives birth to our religion and accounts for its unique beauty, so wonderfully evident in the nativity scene” (Pope Francis, the apostolic letter “Admirabile Signum”, 5).

    How much Joseph and Mary must have been delighted at the coming of the shepherds! Though overlooked by the world, the holy child was honored by these poor men, who did not keep secret the events they had heard. The angel had said “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk2/ 10); therefore “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Lk2/ 17). Like them, if we believe in Christ ourselves, we shall speak of him to all the world.


    4. A pilgrimage to Bethlehem

    Let us go to Bethlehem, and see the indescribable revelation of God’s love. It was necessary for our redemption that the Savior become Emmanuel!The redemption of the fallen, guilty, helpless humanity was the grand design of the Christ nativity.

    Let us go to Bethlehemwhere everyone gathered “in joy around the crib, with no distance between the original event and those sharing in its mystery… The angels and the guiding star are a sign that we too are called to set out for the crib and to worship the Lord” (Pope Francis, the apostolic letter “Admirabile Signum”, 2 & 5).

    The shepherds realized that is the humble and the poor who greet the event of the Incarnation. So did the three Magi, those wise men from the East who set out for Bethlehem, to find the newborn king and to offer him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. “These costly gifts have an allegorical meaning: gold honors Jesus’ kingship, incense his divinity, myrrh his sacred humanity that was to experience death and burial” (Pope Francis, “Admirabile Signum”, 9).They are travel-stained and weary, for they have traveled long and far. They have seen a new star, blazing and flashing in the sky and, led by that star, they have come to the place where lay the young Child and His mother.


    5. In front of the manger

    As we stand by the manger, we see that Holy Family, which amazed the world by its meekness as it embraces the Wondrous Child, the Word of God the Father who became flesh for our salvation!We meet Mary, “the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk1/ 38), thismother who contemplates her child and shows him to every visitor, a light for all humans who walk in darkness and hope for all creation. At Mary’s side, stands Saint Joseph, the righteous, the first teacher of Jesus and the guardian who tirelessly protects his family.

    By approaching the Divine Child, we embrace the reality of Christ’s humanity, we recognize the self-sacrificing power of Divine Love, and we learn the perfection of Christ’s example, this God who was born in a manger and became flesh for our salvation.

    “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Gal4/ 4-5). Christ was born in a small manger, and took our human nature to give salvation to mankind. This is our faith in the good news of Jesus nativity, and this is the basis of our Christian life and calling.

    Our Syriac Fathers, in their prayers, contemplate the Nativity scene:

    «ܥܰܠ ܒܶܝܬ ܠܚܶܡ ܕܺܝܗܽܘܕܳܐ ܥܶܒܪܶܬ܆ ܘܩܳܠܳܐ ܕܢܽܘܨܪ̈ܳܬܳܐ ܫܶܡܥܶܬ ܚܰܒܺܝ̈ܒܳܬܳܐ܆ ܘܰܐܚܕܰܢܝ ܕܽܘܡܳܪܳܐ. ܩܳܠܳܐ ܕܡܰܪܝܰܡ ܕܰܡܢܰܨܪܳܐ ܠܰܒܪܳܗ̇܆ ܨܒܰܝܬ ܒܺܝ ܡܳܪܝ ܘܰܗܘܺܝܬ ܐܶܡܳܟ܆ ܘܰܐܒܽܘܟ ܡܰܢܽܘ ܐܶܡܳܟ ܠܳܐ ܪܓܺܝܫܳܐ. ܒܪܺܝܟܽ ܗ̱ܘ ܕܰܫܒܰܩ ܡܰܪܟܰܒܬܳܐ ܒܪܰܘܡܳܐ܆ ܘܒܰܡܥܰܪܬܳܐ ܐܽܘܪܝܳܐ ܓܒܳܐ ܠܶܗ ܗܰܠܶܠܽܘܝܰܗ ܫܽܘܒܚܳܐ ܠܡܽܘܟܳܟܶܗ».

    “I passed through Bethlehem of Judea, and I heard the songs of tenderness. I was amazed. Mary's chanting to her son: You accepted me my Lord and I became your mother, and I don’t know who your father is. Blessed is He who had come down from heaven to be born ina manger. Alleluia! Glory to his humility”.


    6. Christmas: The Hope to our World Today

    If we consider the alarming situation in our region, the wars, chaos, persecutions and oppressions that spread in many countries, we realize how much our world needs Christmas in this climate of hatred and violence!

    In Lebanon, more than two months have passed and a large number, particularly the youth keep manifesting for the first time! They have risen against the corruption, claiming a new way of life that will lay the foundations of a modern country, while looking to the future with hope and pride. They are demanding a democratic civil government that would respect the rights of all citizens, fight against tribalism and confessionalism as well as against any external interference that divides the population. The popular uprising calls for a system of state institutions that holds those responsible accountable to the law. A new government that neither discriminates nor marginalizes citizens.

    We ask the high-ranking officials, to listen to the demands of the people and to form a government of specialized ministers who are not hostage to political and sectarian parties and leaders. The priorities of this government are to restore the confidence of the local and international community in the capabilities of Lebanon and its institutions and to call for parliamentary elections that meet the aspirations of young people rising in the street. This government has become a necessity for Lebanon to regain international confidence become a messageto the region.

    In Syria, a new year has come, in which we repeat our call for all citizens to work hand in hand to end the existing conflicts and to continue the work of building their land, through reconciliation and mutual respect. We keep hoping that the efforts made by people of good will, be able to overcome the horrible violent conflict that continues to destroy such a beautiful country known in the past to be a cradle of civilization.

    We renew our call to the international community to honestly working on lifting the unjust economic sanctions that only harms the innocent people. We urge them to stop fomenting hatred and sectarianism in the name of exporting an illusion democracy in the region, where no true separation of religion and state is recognized. 

    In Iraq, we reiterate our call for the Iraqi people to unite in order to end the existing crises and conflicts that have ravaged their country for a long time. We ask the authorities to understand the legitimate demands of the people, sympathize with their concerns and sufferings, and to stop corruption. It is time that this country deserves after enduring much suffering to build a just and democratic state that insures justice and peace with equal rights to all its citizens. We also encourage our sons and daughters forced into exile, to return to their homeland and to contribute positively in the rebirth of their country.

    As of the Holy Land sanctified by the Lord Jesus birth, preaching, death and resurrection, we are most saddened to see hatred, oppression and violation of civil rights continuing to divide the citizens.

    We reiterate our calls for the international community to recognize the State of Palestine and prevent the continuation of conflicts in the Holy Land. A culture of acceptance of others and tolerance should prevail, allowing the holy city of Jerusalem to remain the capital of both states. We also call on the United Nations to assume its obligations to implement the international decisions for the return of the refugees to their lands, to quell the hatred and stop the killing and destruction.

    We renew our gratitude to the authorities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for their role of strengthening the bonds of mutual understanding between the various components of the country, and for the welcome and humanitarian assistance they reserved to our refugees who were forced to leave their countries of Syria and Iraq.

    As of Egypt, where we held recently the 27th Conference of the Council of the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle-East and where the Holy Family took refuge, it is with satisfaction that we notice the progress of that country in overcoming the terrorism. We also commend the endeavor of the government, to secure the safety and peace to the citizens and promote equality of civil rights.

    In Turkey, where our children are still preserving their faith and their ancient heritage, we urge them to bear witness to the Lord in the land of the fathers, asking God Almighty to strengthen their determination, as they demonstrate their pride in their land and heritage, and the best proof of this is their restoration and rehabilitation of our Monastery of St. Ephrem in Mardin, which we will inaugurate in May 2020.

    We also are very pleased to address the Church of the Diaspora in Europe, America and Australia: We urge you to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus and His Holy Church. Be proud and cherish your old Syriac heritage, reminding you to give thanks to God for your beloved children, that you raise them with love and accompany them with compassionate understanding, in the faithfulness to Jesus the Lord and the Church.

    We also want to express our affection to all our children who still suffer of the tragic uprooting from their homes and countries, from Syria and Iraq. We reiterate our call for the release of all the kidnapped, Bishops priests and lay people. May God grant the martyrs rest in peace, heal the wounded ones and comfort all those who are afflicted by the loss of a loved one.

    We remind our sons and daughters all over the world to participate in the celebrations that our Syriac Church will hold in the upcoming year 2020, on the occasion of the centenary of the Pontifical Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XV on October 5, 1920, in which His Holiness declared Saint Ephrem the Syriac “Doctor of the Church”. On this occasion, we will raise a statue in his honor in Castel Gondolvo Papal Gardens.

    As we ask the Lord to grant us His peace, we are inspired by the message of His Holiness Pope Francis on the occasion of the 53rd World day of Peace – 1 January 2020, entitled "Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation, and Ecological Conversion", as:

    “The peace process thus requires enduring commitment. It is a patient effort to seek truth and justice (Pope’s message, 2). Peace will not be obtained unless it is hoped for. Day by day, the Holy Spirit prompts in us ways of thinking and speaking that can make us artisans of justice and peace” (Pope’s message, 5).


    7. Conclusion

    Let us go to Bethlehem to worship the Divine Child, our Lord and Creator, the Emmanuel, God with us. He does not want us to live a life of misery, but a life of joy and peace, “that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn10/ 10).

    Lord Jesus, come and dwell in us. Prepare our hearts to become a welcoming cave for you. Your visit did fulfill our expectations, while we long for justice and peace. Today more than ever, our world desperately needs you. Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

    With great joy, we impart on you and your beloved ones our apostolic blessing: May the Almighty and One God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

ܡܫܺܝܚܳܐ ܐܶܬܺܝܠܶܕ... ܗܰܠܶܠܽܘܝܰܗ

Merry and Peaceful Christmas, Happy and Blessed 2020!



    Ignatius Youssef III YOUNAN

    Patriarch of Antioch for Syriac Catholic Church


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