My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord:
Advent has begun, the liturgical season preparing us for the Christmas celebration of the birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even in the most difficult times, Christmas brings a joy that sustains us amid life’s challenges and heartaches. The last several months have been very difficult for the church locally, nationally and throughout the world. How much we all need to rediscover the joy that emanates from the birth of Christ.
Christmas calls us back to the cave at Bethlehem to look upon Jesus who is the heart of our faith. Humanity’s sins do not destroy the innocence and purity of the Child born in Bethlehem. Rather, the Child beckons us to imitate that purity and for the church’s leadership to kneel at the crib to beg forgiveness for the innocence of God’s children so scared by some in the church. With the Child of Bethlehem, these children call us to renewal, repentance and restoration. The Christ Child calls us to communion with Him, a union that will bring us hope and joy as we gaze upon Him in the Most Holy Eucharist.
And isn’t it truly extraordinary that the redemption of humanity was begun by a child in the humble, poor surroundings of a cave? Maybe society and the church have become so immersed in the things of this world that we have forgotten the world that is to come. We need to be reminded of the beauty and dignity of every person, from conception until natural death, that every life is a precious gift given by God that rises above all else. In a world grown angry, divided, sometimes overwhelmed by technology, and all too often threatened by senseless acts of violence — a world with so many searching for a moral compass — in all these very real concerns of the world, the Child dares to call us to the simplicity of Bethlehem where one sees the real virtues of life: purity, holiness, truth, faith, hope and charity.
This Christmas as we look upon the image of the Christ Child in the mangers and nativity scenes in our churches, let us then look to the altar where we no longer see an image, but the real Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity — the hope and the joy of humanity that no one can destroy — the eternal Christmas.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year, I remain
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester