Metropolitan William: Keep the Message of Christmas Alive

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Dear People,

After months of waiting for the birth of their first child, Mary and Joseph searched for a place to stay while traveling. Mary was about to give birth to Jesus. They had no reservations in a town where they were strangers. There were no places to stay. Finally, someone offered them a little stable in a cave outside of Bethlehem. Jesus Christ was born into this world in this most humble way. Angels, shepherds, farm animals, and a late arrival of three kings from the Orient were the only witnesses to his arrival into this world.

The Gospel of Saint Luke is our source of a story filled with images which have become a part of our spiritual lives. We hear the gospel story each Christmas and see the nativity icons and crèches in our churches. The images of Jesus being born in Bethlehem used to be visible everywhere during the Christmas Season. Schools, stores, and public places all had the images of the entire Lukan story of the birth of Christ. The story of the Nativity became visible everywhere to remind us and to help proclaim the message to the world that God is with us.

Through political decisions, the display of religious images has been restricted on civil buildings and properties in most cities in the United States. The restriction has influenced businesses to reduce or eliminate religious Christmas decorations which have the true meaning of Christmas. And the trend has influenced many not to display religious images in front of their homes.

We need to keep the true message of Christmas alive. We can continue to try to challenge the secular trend through political means. This may not be successful today. However, we can decorate the outside of our churches and homes with the images and icons of the complete story of Christmas. In history governments have tried to get rid of Christmas, but Christmas has survived and returned in a stronger way through the spiritual power of the message and the devotion of the people.

Saint Francis of Assisi lived in a time similar to ours. The faith of the people was worn down by war and a lack of faith. Near the end of his life, Saint Francis had an idea of how to bring Christ back into the celebration of Christmas. He proposed the reenactment of the story through a living crèche in the town of Greccio Italy. With the help of the people, Saint Francis gathered the people and animals. During that Christmas season, the people and animals were a living crèche. It is a tradition which has continued in Greccio until the present day. Many miracles of healing and spiritual renewal have been credited to the yearly celebration. The tradition spread around the world.

Each year, the Basilian Sisters of Uniontown Pennsylvania with the help of the people continue the tradition of the living crèche before the celebration of Christmas. The faithful and other people travel great distances to attend the event each year. The living crèche makes Saint Luke’s gospel story come alive. Especially for the children, whenever the see the nativity icon, hear the gospel reading or the Christmas hymns, the story is alive and real to them.

Not all Churches are suited for a living crèche. But when we are asked to decorate our churches for Christmas, please help to give honor to the Christ child by responding to the call to bring the spirit of Christmas inside and outside our churches. And when you decorate the inside of your home, you make Christmas come alive in the hearts of your faithful family. When you decorate the outside of your home you invite all to hear and receive the message that Jesus Christ is born and to glorify him.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh
Apostolic Administrator of Parma

Nativity 2016

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Your Nativity, O Christ our God, / Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom! / For by it, those who worshiped the stars, / Were taught by a Star to adore You, / The Sun of Righteousness, / And to know You, the Orient from on High. / O Lord, glory to You!

Merry Christmas to you and your family! Pray for me.

 

Christmas Pastoral Letter

Metropolitan William’s Christmas Pastoral Letter:

nd the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me. From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.’” (John 1:14-18)

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

We once again celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the City of Bethlehem! We gather together to remember the greatest gift by the Father of his only begotten Son. Following His example and the example of the three Kings we give one another gifts in honor of God’s grace and truth.

Little children wait for Christmas with the hope of receiving gifts. From their parents they learn to give gifts in return to family and friends. Each gift given reminds us of the great gift of the Father to us. And each time that we help someone we change, becoming a little closer to the image and likeness of God. The Christmas gifts we give and receive are small compared to the gifts of forgiveness and mercy.

The Father chose to announce the Good News of our Salvation through the birth of a little child in a cave. Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge before he would explain the new way to live. Jesus’s deeper explanation of divine grace and truth would build upon the Old Covenant between the Lord and the people of Israel. The Easter Gospel of Saint John describes the birth of Jesus and the fuller revelation as receiving grace upon grace.

In this Christmas during the Jubilee of Year of Mercy, we are called to share God’s grace with one another. If able, we are called to pass through the Doors of Mercy either in Rome or at our Cathedral during the year as a sign of our need to receive and to give mercy to one another.

Pope Francis encourages us “You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind. We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh