The Papal Encyclical of the Glorious Feast of the Nativity – 2021
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.
I congratulate you, beloved, for the New Year and the glorious Feast of Nativity. I congratulate all the fathers, the metropolitans, the bishops, the hegumens, and the priests. Also, the deacons, the archons, and every house and family. Also, all the youth and all the young children. I congratulate all of you and wish you a happy year and a glorious feast.
According to the ecclesiastical tradition, we conclude the year with fasting and praise, and begin the new year with the Nativity Feast. This new beginning is a beginning of joy. We can call the Nativity Feast, the feast of the coming of joy into the world. Before the Birth of Christ, the world was without joy. There was daily worship and repeated sacrifices. The righteous ones longed greatly [for joy], but Paradise was shut. Christ came, and was born and incarnated, “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14). A new era began, and we call it “The era of joy.”
In truth, joy is the life of the person and his happiness. Humans were created to be joyful and happy. This is why we find the word “Alleluia” repeated many times in our Church, that each person may become joy and praise itself. I would like to mention some scenes of joy from the story and events of the Nativity.
St. Mary, our mother, gives us the first scene when she met with St. Elizabeth after hearing the glad tidings from the angel. She traveled to Elizabeth, who was old and pregnant, and the baby leaped in her womb, welcoming the Theotokos, Virgin, St. Mary. St. Mary stood, praying this praise, which begins with her famous words: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). It was as if she was offering us a scene of joy in receiving salvation. St. Mary, our mother, like all humans, needed the salvation of Jesus Christ on the Cross as she announced that very clearly by saying: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” This joy is the joy of salvation that was offered to humanity. We pray in the litanies of the sixth hour of the Agpeya and say: “We give thanks to You, for You have filled all with joy, O Savior, when You came to help the world. O Lord, glory be to You.” This is the first scene.
The second scene we see in St. Joseph the carpenter, the revered elder, who was entrusted to care for our mother, the Virgin, who was a young girl. He cared for her and became the guardian of the mystery of the divine Incarnation. God desired him to be the trusted and loyal guardian, teaching us the joy of taking responsibility. While the Bible has few mentions about St. Joseph, they are but instances of obedience and fulfilling the Law with all joy, whether in the annunciation of the angel to St. Mary, or her giving birth in Bethlehem, or even in escaping to the land of Egypt, and then returning to Palestine—This is the joy of taking responsibility. Whoever fulfills his responsibility is filled with joy, and will succeed because of his honesty and loyalty.
The third scene is found in the angels; they rejoiced in heaven and offered us a lesson in joy. This is the joy of praise. The angels stood to chant and say: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). This song summarizes and offers a picture of joy and how it may come to the person. You cannot experience joy unless you glorify God. You cannot experience joy unless you make peace with others. And you cannot experience joy unless you share it with and offer it to everyone—“Goodwill toward men.” This is the joy of praise and the joy of worship. This is why we end the year with the month of praising, the month of Kiahk, in which we praise and bless our mother, the Virgin St. Mary and consider her to be our role-model by calling her “The pride of humanity.”
I congratulate you for the Feast of Nativity and offer my greetings to all those in attendance—all the fathers and brethren. I greet you from the land of Egypt and from the Coptic Orthodox Church. I know we are in the midst of this spreading pandemic, but we have hope that God will lift this pandemic from the world. May this pandemic be a call of repentance for every one of us. May God always grant us purity in our hearts, our lives, and our behavior.
Again, I congratulate you for the New Year and the Feast of Nativity. May God grant a joyful year to all. To our God be all glory and honor, now and forever. Amen.