Greetings of Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm Custos of the Holy Land

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Is. 9,1).

We are living at a difficult time when the recurring events of tragedies and violence fill us with fear. The description of the end of times, which the Liturgy has proposed before the beginning of Advent (Mk 13,24-32) seemed to be an echo of what is now happening, and which is rendering it difficult to await Christmas with sentiments of joy, in a festive atmosphere and in a celebration of life. Fear seems to be dictating our way of life, even in our small daily actions. Above all, we have fear of the other, as if we have lost the courage to believe in the other. We do not trust one another any longer and we are tempted to close ourselves in our small circle of interests. We are afraid of the Muslim, of the Jew, of people coming from the east or from the west, according to where we are presently living. Our enemy has become “the others”; we think that “the others” are against us, that they threaten us and that they rob us of our hope in a secure world, in a better future.

In Syria, in Iraq, in the Holy Land, in the East as well as in the West, it seems that the force of violence has become the only possible voice that can fight against the violence which overshadows us.

To wait for Christmas in these circumstances is a way to interrogate our faith and to make us need the birth of a greater hope. These are the sentiments that have accompanied us when participating in the various ceremonies linked with the lighting of the Christmas tree and the blessing of the Crib. Often, during the celebration of the feast, we could hear around us the sirens sounding the alarm, a sign of conflicts and disorder. We have always recognised in ourselves a sense of inadequacy with respect to the situation. It seemed that we were living outside time and history.

This is not the case, however. The Gospel tells us that the fullness of time has been realised during a difficult moment, when John was in the desert inviting people to prepare the Way of the Lord and preaching a baptism of conversion. The feast, the lights, the colours, although necessary, desired and celebrated in the circumstances in which we are living, should lead us to think more profoundly on the original sense of Christmas: God enters into our time and into our history. He enters into the time and the history in which we live today.

Image Custodia Terræ Sanctæ

Master of the Heralding to the Shepherds, who was active in Naples during
the second quarter of the 17th century, Adoration of the Shepherds,
Terra Sancta Museum, Custody of the Holy Land
Image © Galleria Canesso

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