December 16, 2017

To the Very Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Religious Sisters, Seminarians and Laity of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

For Canadians it has been an extraordinary year of celebrations as we commemorated the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Throughout this great nation communities large and small found their own special way to celebrate. On Canada Day throughout the land there were parades, picnics, family and neighbourhood barbecues, and, of course, fireworks, bringing the day to a glorious close. In each of our families, no doubt, we also celebrated other events: a birthday, an anniversary, a wedding, or a graduation. Celebrations have great meaning as long as we understand what is being celebrated and why we celebrate it. And even if we don't completely understand a particular celebration, as is frequently the case in a multicultural and diverse country such as ours, we can at least tell a joyful celebration from a sorrowful one.

What does Christmas mean to us? Why do we celebrate it? How do we mark the feast? Our consumer society certainly gives us enough notice of the "holiday season" through endless commercials and advertising! We are urged to go to Christmas parties, to make our holiday plans well in advance, to purchase gifts, and to decorate our homes. On various radio and television talk shows we are told to not wait till the last moment to purchase Christmas presents, to make holiday plans early in order to avoid stress. We may even know people who begin their Christmas gift shopping for the next year almost as soon as Christmas is over, already thinking of the people to whom they will want to give a gift, and thus purchasing presents throughout the entire year. We probably also know people who wait till the very last minute to make plans and purchase gifts, only to find that their lives have become topsy-turvy. Then the Christmas celebrations come and go so quickly that all that seemingly remains is an inner emptiness, the so called post-Christmas doldrums, or the after-Christmas party blues. Is that the meaning of Christmas, a season of frenetic commercial activity? Shouldn't we at least question the motives of those who kick off each "holiday season" with a "Black Friday?"

In the Gospel of Luke, the Angel of the Lord announces:

"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." (2: 10-12)

Then the narrative continues:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (2:13-14)

So, we are celebrating an event infinitely more important than Canadian Confederation, a family member's birthday or wedding anniversary. We are celebrating the kind of Good News that comes only once in human history: the birth of a Saviour, a Messiah. Christmas commemorates an event that continues to impact the lives of all men and women of faith: the co-Eternal Son of God became one of us, so that we might share in his Divinity.

Are we ready to celebrate the event, not materially, but spiritually? Did we take advantage of the Philip's Fast (Pylypivka-Advent) to spend extra time in prayer? Did we limit our food intake and make personal sacrifices? Did we especially think of the needy, both near and far, and engage in works of charity? Did we take advantage of the Holy Mystery (Sacrament) of Reconciliation so that we might be able to sing "God is with us-Emmanuel!" with a pure and open heart? If we have, we truly understand and can appreciate the real reason for the season. If we have not, it is never too late to receive the new-born Saviour in the stillness of a joyful heart, for his message of good news is offered to all men and women of good will. Let us ask for the grace needed to understand the incredible significance of the event. Let us pray, that we might have the courage to proclaim the truth about Christmas, boldly and with faith.

Our rich liturgical poetry for the Feast proclaims:

Today heaven and earth unite, for Christ is born. Today God came to earth in the flesh, and the human race was lifted up to the heavens. Today, for the sake of all, He is seen in the flesh, the One Who by nature is invisible. Let us glorify Him, singing: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace which Your coming has bestowed on us. O Saviour, glory to You!

May each and every one of you be blessed with a Christmas full of joyful and profound celebration.

+ Lawrence Huculak OSBM, Metropolitan Archbishop of Winnipeg

+ Michael Wiwchar CSSR, Bishop Emeritus of Saskatoon

+ Severian Yakymyshyn OSBM, Bishop Emeritus of New Westminster

+ David Motiuk, Eparchial Bishop of Edmonton

+ Stephen Chmilar, Eparchial Bishop of Toronto

+ Ken Nowakowski, Eparchial Bishop of New Westminster

+ Bryan Bayda CSSR, Eparchial Bishop of Saskatoon

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