by Metropolitan Philp (Saliba) of New York and North America


"What is a merciful heart? It is a heart that burns with love for the whole creation — for men, for birds, for beasts, for demons and for every creature." (St. Isaac the Syrian)


Christmas music is filling the air. In every home there is a Christmas tree; some real and some plastic. Lights of every color are glittering in windows, in shops, in bars and even in the discos. Some people are selling, some are buying, some are eating, some are drinking and some are starving to death.

I put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on my door because Christmas Eve is a very special and private time to me. I want to be alone in order to embrace all men and love all things. In the depth of my aloneness, the past, the present and the future become one single moment. In the depth of my aloneness I experience that boundless love which encompasses the whole creation. I am alone on Christmas Eve but not lonely because in Christ Jesus there is no loneliness and there is no separation. The walls are destroyed and the barriers are no more. The Child of the manger has reconciled everything to Himself; henceforth, there is no race, no color, no conflict and no hatred; in Him there is "a new heaven and a new earth."

Christmas Eve, to me, is a time for reflection. The year is slowly sinking into the ocean of eternity, and in my reflection, there are painful questions:

Did I love Him enough? Did I serve Him enough? Did I suffer enough? Did I forgive enough? How many tears did I dry? How many wounds did I bind? Was I faithful to Him who loved me beyond measure? How loving and compassionate God is that despite my sinfulness and unworthiness He "became flesh and dwelt amongst us." What an unfathomable condescension that He assumed our nature in order to make us "partakers" of His nature. Despite His incarnation, He will always remain "incognito" in this world if we don't care for each other. But do we really care? Have you ever seen the Cambodian children on your television screens? Have you ever seen so much despair, so much misery and so much helplessness? These are our brothers and sisters, His brothers and sisters. How sad it is that we do not see the tragedy unless it is projected for us on the screen?

Tonight the Body and Blood of this tender Child will touch millions of lips throughout this troubled world. This Divine touch will make you Christ-like if you care and respond to His love. To be Christ-like we must be born with Him in the manger, crucified with Him on the cross and be resurrected with Him from the dead. The manger, the cross, the empty tomb are one single event which sums up the entire history of salvation.

It is Christmas Eve, O Lord, and another year is about to dawn on us. Let your light shine upon us so that we may see a new vision, sing a new song and dream a new dream. And if we live to celebrate another Christmas, give us courage to love you more, serve you more and worship you "in spirit and in truth."

From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
December 1979
pp. 3-4