Catholicos Karekin II’s Christmas Message

"Set me as a seal upon thine heart–as a bracelet upon thine arm; for love is stronger than death." (Song of Solomon 8:6)

Beloved Pious Faithful,

Today the Armenian Apostolic Church is bringing us the Good News of the Holy Nativity of Christ from her altars. Through the joyful tolls of her silver-toned bells ring the great tidings of the grace and deliverance of mankind.

For 2000 years–mankind has continuously been astonished and awed by the Birth of the Savior. The world-sustaining truth of the mystery of the Holy Nativity–which is incomprehensible to our minds–can only be perceived through faith. It has been denied by many of little faith–while many others have accepted and witnessed to it with their very lives.

Through the eyes of faith we see today–in the cave of Bethlehem–the Christ Child–wrapped in swaddling clothes. He–in divine holiness and youthful purity–has fixed His gaze upon the world–and invites mankind to "Come to Me". We see the Divine glory of the newborn Child. We see descending from heaven–the praising multitude of angelic host–and with the wise men and the shepherds–we bow down and exult–"Great tidings to you and to us. Christ is born and revealed".

Under the roof of the humble manger–God was incarnate. The Uncontainable of heaven and earth was born. The writer of the hymn calls this mystery "great and wondrous"; whose subject matter is God’s love of mankind–and the revelation of God’s love towards His creation. As the apostle says–"Who is able to keep you faultless and unblemished standing in the presence of his glory with fearless and true exaltation?" (Jude 1:24). Who could rescue man from the webs of mortal sin–renew and restore his sinful and wounded spirit–elevating it to the perfection of his original state of creation–if not He Who created us in His image and likeness?

The Son of God came–walked among men–and rejoiced at the marriage in Cana. He wept together with the mourners of the death of Lazarus. He taught–healed–consoled and bestowed everlasting resurrection. He came with divine power and with human perfection–willingly drank the bitter cup of human’sinfulness–submitted to the crucifixion–and we "through Him came to know love."

Love always spreads hope and forever has faith. Love has no fear–for it thinks not of evil and does not rejoice in iniquity. Love has transformed–and is transforming the spirit of mankind and the progress of time. Love rings as an eternal exhortation: "Set me as a seal upon thine heart–as a bracelet upon thine arm; for love is stronger than death." (Song of Solomon 8:6).

Beloved Faithful,

At this deep and mysterious moment of the Holy Nativity let us raise our prayer of thanksgiving to the Redeemer of the world. He has generously granted the graces of the Divine Love also to our people–establishing the Armenian Church through the preaching of His holy apostles. The Mother See of All Armenia’s–this Holy Sanctuary with her mission–is the most generous manifestation of God’s grace and Love–which has been nurtured in the heart of our Motherland–and from where today we transmit the tidings of the Holy Nativity to our beloved people of Armenia–Artsakh–and the Diaspora.

Here–in the vision of the Holy Illuminator–the Son of God descended in view of Mount Ararat–and established the Bethlehem of the Armenia’s. From the Holy Altar of Descent the rays of love of the Light of Bethlehem were dispersed throughout the whole of Armenian life. Christ descended stamping with the seal of the golden hammer the mystery of our national conversion–so that through Holy Etchmiadzin–our people continue and remain united even though they are separated and spread throughout the world. He descended with the message–"Set me as a seal upon thine heart–as a bracelet upon thine arm; for love is stronger that death". And we set the seal of love upon our hearts and tied it as a cuff on our right hands. In the year 301 AD–our love of Christ converted our Armenian Nation into a chosen people. Our love of Christ filled Armenian life with faith and hope. It became selfsame with Armenian identity–and developed into a nation-unifying church and nation-preserving love for the Motherland. It nurtured our love of family–founded upon self-sacrifice–dedication and fidelity. Our love of Christ intensified in our hearts the love of justice–truth and life–the rejection of evil and the conquering of death. It filled the expanses of the Armenian spirit with labor pains–which bore ample fruit–always in tune with the progress of civilization.

Dearly Beloved,

The Love of God is always with us–and through the Holy Nativity is revealed to us time and again. And if today–in our Motherland and in our nation–everything is not well–and everything is not as it should be–and our love for the Lord–for the Church–and for the Motherland has decreased–then we are negligent for we are slow to show our love towards each other.

The lack of love brings forth distrust and intolerance–opposition and enmity–poverty–estrangement from one another and flight from our Homeland. The lack of love today is jeopardizing and endangering our unanimity–which is the hope–the faith–the victory–the optimism–the trust–and the road towards our future. Through unanimity we liberated Artsakh–reestablished the independence of Armenia–we endured the pain of costly losses–and became willing to endure many sacrifices and difficulties. Truly–it is correctly stated–and our history is witness–that through discord the greater becomes the lesser–through unanimity the lesser becomes the greater.

Today with the tidings of the Holy Nativity–Armenian churches once again invite our children in Armenia–Artsakh and the Diaspora to the manger of Bethlehem. We call on the Love of God–and demand the love of brotherhood–since we are strong as individuals–as a nation–and as the Holy Church–only because of our love of God and of each other. Let it not be that we hear this call and be indifferent to it. Let it not be that we are found to be lacking in faith. Let it not be that love of position–profit–cares or vanity–passing deceptions and seductions strangle our faith. Let it not be that we consider love a weakness and we prefer darkness more than light.

Thus–let us look upwards with perfect faith. Let us find the cave of Bethlehem and come to know the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes. For it is He Who comes to dwell among us–to redeem us from sin–to endow us with the graces of virtue. He comes to make us fearless and without deceit; He comes to strengthen in us the love of mankind and respect for the rule of law. He reinforces our love of the Motherland and gran’s us the creative urge and nerve to produce so that the hymn of praise–"and peace on earth–good will among men"–always rings throughout the world and multiplies within the hearts of men.

From the Mother See of All Armenia’s where the Only Begotten descended–with the song of the revelation of the Divine Love–the victory of which is upon our lips–We send our fraternal greetings of love to the incumbents of the Hierarchal Sees of our Apostolic Holy Church; to His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia; to His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian–the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem; and to His Beatitude Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian–the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople.

Asking the blessing and support of the Most High–We extend Our greetings to the President of the Republic of Armenia–the Honorable Robert Kocharian–and to the President of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh–the Honorable Arkady Ghoukasian. We greet all the government officials of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads–directors and representatives of the diplomatic missions registered in Armenia.

With the Good News of the Holy Nativity of the Lord–We bring Our Pontifical love and blessings to the Primates of our Holy Church–to all the members of the oath-keeping sacred orders–to the respected members of the diocesan and parochial executive bodies–and to all of our faithful throughout the world.

Together let us ask for the Saving Will and the Grace of the Most High. Wherever the Will of God–there is great and wondrous mystery and miraculous results. Wherever the Grace of God–there is blessing.

"Christ is born and revealed–Great Tidings to you and to us."

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