Christmas letter from our Ecclesiastical Grand Prior

 

Your Excellency, confréres and consoeurs of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem:

TheBirthof Jesus is the feast of joy, the feast of smiles, the feastof Godas an infant, a sign of the love of God that gives us the certainty of unconditionaleverlasting love.

 

The prophet Isaiah writes: "You increased the joy, you made joy great!" (9:2) The reason for this joy is that "a child is born tous" (cf. 9:5).


In the Gospel of Luke, the angel who appeared to the shepherds says: "I bring to yougoodnewsthatwillgivegreatjoytoallpeople. Todayinthe town ofDavidaSavior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)

When they sawthe star, theywereoverjoyed(Mt 2:10). ‘They’ were the threewise men.

The joy that arises from Christmas unites us all, as witnessed by Saint Leo the Great in a homily on the Feast of the Nativity:

Today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life. (Sermon 1 on the Nativity of the Lord, 1-3, PL 54, 190)
Joy and
happinessassure us that the message contained in the mystery of the Holy Night comes truly from God. There is no room for the systematic doubt of a Nietzschean. Letusleave it to the skeptics to question why they do not find the truth. There is no placefor indifference, which dominates the hearts of those who dare not love faithfully because they are afraid of losing something. All sorrow is discarded, because the child Jesus is the true consolation of the heart.

Pope Francis writes: "The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of those who encounter Jesus. Those who let themselves be saved by Him are freed from sin, from sadness, from inner emptiness, from isolation. With Jesus Christ, joy is always born and reborn. (Evangelii Gaudium 1)
 

One could object: "How can we be satisfied nowadays, with all the existential, economic and political insecurities that disturb us, with the brutal news that weare exposedtoevery day? How, with all the crimes, with all the poverty, the lack of work, the violence that surrounds us? How can we ignore so many situations thatcausepain and oppression?"

If we have only a superficial view ofourlives,we will continue havinga thousand reasons to be worried, sad, pessimisticanddiscouraged. Butif we lookwitheyes of faith, we will not be filled withanything but joy, notwithstanding the difficulties of life. We are always called to be joyful – not to remain unperturbed or unconscious, but to bestrongly conscious that the Lord comes to save us. It is He who frees us from sadness and destroys the many roots of bitterness. The Child Jesus is able to draw a smile on the faces of those who lost it long ago because of the pain and sufferingof life.
         

The Christian joy is an original and paradoxical joy with respect to the world, because it is a joy that does not censure anything but is present in every circumstance.


We too can experience this profound and authentic
joybywelcoming Jesus as the light of our life during this Holy Christmas, as the shepherds and thethree wise men did. Let us approach the grotto of Bethlehem with our hearts full of questions and hope.


 "You must feel very happy to love someone very much,"
saysCesare Pavese. Christmas gives us the joy of loving ourselves, and others: Men and women, our brothers and sisters.

If we allow ourselves to embrace this message, we too will be filled with great joy, which will overcome our fears, and give us the certainty that even the most heinous pain can become a nest of love, and the abyss ofour misery can host mercy, and the blackest despair can be transformed into the most ardent hope.
         

My wish is that this Christmas we prepare ourselves to live, not only on Holy Night, but everysingleday of our lives. Fill upyourheart with joy,members of the Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus, and let the star of the threewisemenilluminate the night of the poor and the refugees, the suffering and the sick, and all the discouraged and disillusioned people who await the day of the birth ofJesus as a new dawn in which theirhope shall be reborn.

 

Monreale 11 December 2016.