Pastoral Letter 2022
By the Mercy of the Almighty God
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
My brothers, shepherds of the Holy Church of Antioch
My sons and daughters, wherever present in this Holy See,
"Glorify, my soul, the king born in a cave." The hymnologist addresses himself and the soul of each of us in this splendid season, the season of the Nativity of Christ. It is a call to every soul to contemplate the greatness of a Heavenly King who preferred the coldness of the cave to the lavish couches of kings. He is the unique King. The king Who despised earthly kingdoms and preferred the kingdom of the human soul, which He adored and loved and invited to His glory chamber as a glorious bride gazing at the groom of souls sending out light to the East.
Christ comes to His beloved world from the manger of love. From the darkness of the cave, He appears, sending a glimmer of hope to hearts hoping for the peace of the Lord of creation. From Bethlehem, the Lord of peace and the God of mercies has come to spread His solace in the hearts of this floundering humanity. To the melody of angelic glorification, the Lord of Peace comes forth, receiving gifts from the Magi, the gifts of humanity: pure gold because He is king, frankincense because He is God, and myrrh to symbolize the suffering of death. He meets that child with meekness and humility, knocking on the door of the cave of the heart. He had previously knocked on the door of the cave of the heart of Mary, His mother, with the tongue of His angel Gabriel, at the Annunciation, when the pure Virgin Lady accepted the call of her Lord and said: "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord."
We are in front of a king knocking on the door of the cave of our soul, which He only invades by the power of His love. He knocks, we hear. When knocking, He respects our will to accept or reject. He knocks humbly and asks us to exchange love for Him with full freedom, for without freedom, love would not be upright, but rather would lead to slavery that distorts the Divine image. We are in front of a King Who wanted and founded His kingdom in the soul, an internal kingdom. We are in front of a King who made His kingdom from hearts that wanted Him. We are in front of a King Who preferred the temple of human beings to the temple of stone.
We offer our prayers to this King, pleading with Him to have mercy on the humanity that He loved. We ask Him to instill peace in hearts and silence the noise of wars with the power of His silence. The wandering humanity longs for Your peace, O child of the cave, and longs for Your silence, O Christ Crucified by human desires. With the Virgin Mother, we plead from the purity of your eyes, a consolation that soothes the heart of every sufferer, and we implore You to wound our souls with the sword of your mercies.
We pray for the peace of the whole world. We pray for this East. We pray for Syria, for Lebanon, and for Palestine. We pray for our two brothers, the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, whose case is entering its first decade amid deplorable and reprehensible international silence. We pray for those who are afflicted by the hardships of this life and for our late brothers.
Many blessed returns to our children in the homeland and abroad. May God bestow upon you and the whole world days filled with blessings and lights from the Father of Lights. To him be glory and exaltation forever, Amen.
Issued by our Patriarchal Headquarters in Damascus
On the 20th of December 2022.