A 2022 Christmas message from Ukrainian Bishop Mykola Bychok
“Don’t cry, Rachel, look, the children are whole,
do not die, but come to life, but come to life”
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Dear Beloved in Christ!
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the greatest feasts of the church’s Liturgical year. In the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sake became a little child, we see the closeness of the Holy God to sinful man. That is why the Ukrainian people have Christmas traditions that are very deep, powerful, and express this great truth with great vitality. We glorify Christ through participation in the Nativity scene, where we remember the All-Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph the Betrothed, the angels, the shepherds, the three kings, as well as Herod, the soldiers and death. We share the joy of the birth of the Son of God, greeting each other “Christ is born! Glorify Him!”
The joy of Christmas is always intertwined with notes of sadness. The Christmas carol “Don’t cry, Rachel” refers directly to Herod’s murder of the innocent children in Bethlehem. The newborn Jesus continues to manifest himself in the suffering children of war, frozen by hunger and cold, in orphaned and abandoned children, in disabled and wounded children, in street-kids and sick children, in poor and large families fleeing from war. From an early age, children are forced to hide from shelling, receive education in bomb shelters, and freeze in their homes. The newborn Messiah sympathizes with those whose childhoods are scarred by war.
Today, many of our people have become refugees, following the example of the Holy Family, who also fled to save the life of the Child Jesus. Unfortunately, people closed their houses in Bethlehem in front of the Holy Family. Jesus feels the pain of Ukrainians who are forced to leave their homes to save the lives of their children. The Saviour accompanies the refugees, opening the hearts of Christians from all over the world to the needs of their neighbours.
In this great feast, we see the Holy Family: the Mother of God, who tenderly embraces her Son, Saint Joseph, who cares for the good of the family, and the infant Jesus, who gently sleeps in the arms of His Mother. A family feels something similar when a child is born: love, comfort and a look into the future. For now, however, this Christmas, for many families, will be filled with unspeakable pain, separation from loved ones, and uncertainty about the future. I remember the Ukrainian families in my prayers and call on all the faithful to pray fervently in their families for those families who are victims of this unjust war today.
We as a people are once again experiencing painful pages in our history. Once again, we are fighting for our freedom, defending our God-given rights. Despite all the trials, however, we celebrate the Nativity of Christ, singing the Christmas carol: “The Eternal God is born.” We experience the incredible love of the newborn Baby, which envelops and unites all Ukrainians.
Let the coming of the Baby Jesus warm our hearts with God’s warmth, though many hearts are wounded by hatred, cruelty and the death of the innocent. May God’s presence amongst us give us a spark of joy, in the midst of sadness, and suffering. May He grant us patience to faithfully persevere in the trials we experience. May He fill us with hope for a better future and the victory of good over evil. May He strengthen us in faith and understanding that we may know confidently that we are not alone in these trials – “God is with us”.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
+ MYKOLA BYCHOK, CSsR
Eparch of Melbourne
Given in Melbourne,
at our Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul,
on the 4th day of December, in the Year of Our Lord 2022,
The Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple.