The Church-Manger: The Visitation of God and the Visitation of Man

Pastoral Letter on the feast of the Nativity of our Lord – 2019 of H.E. Metropolitan Silouan of Mount Lebanon
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“She (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2: 7)
Warmth, light, and presence radiate even beyond the manger of Bethlehem. The Guest of the manger makes warmer our ties with His love, illuminates our lives with His grace, and strengthens our determination through His presence. Jesus soothes our hearts because He is with us, gives meaning to our hope, and mobilizes our souls towards faith, love, and solidarity.

The first days of the Guest in the manger of Bethlehem brought together all aspects of the human condition stuck in loneliness, poverty, violence, shortage and isolation. This atmosphere was illuminated by the presence and animated by the spirit of Mary and Joseph, servants of a mystery which is slowly revealed; by the appearance of angels who praise Him whom they worship in heaven; by the wonderful presence of the shepherds; and by the prostration of the magi, the first fruits of a fervent adoration that humanity offers to the Lord. In this way were formed the beginnings of a gospel, which the angels, followed by the first witnesses of the Child born in a manger, began to announce.Today, our churches are a manger in the center of the world. Among us are Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the magi, and with them the new-born who comes from Above, surrounded by earthly angels who praise him. Our churches are established in countries that experience different, difficult and painful troubles to varying degrees. Each of us strives to serve in a manner that we would not lose sight of the star which leads us to Bethlehem, that our parishes might become the manger that receives the Lord, and that our witness brings forth the good news of God to man, in all its strength, vitality, realism, authenticity and efficiency.Although the human being suffers today, there are, however, brilliant witnesses which are born from a conscience, an understanding and a sensitivity, which are the result of the suffering and the determination to overcome weakness, laxity, corruption and fragmentation, and which carry the seeds of solidarity, faith in the truth, kindness and unity. They await the dawn of Him who is their source, their inspiration and their benefactor.I put all my hope that the suffering experienced today becomes a manger, in which we see the birth of the Redeemer in the hearts of those who need Him (and we all need Him), and that it is also an opportunity for us to be His witnesses in love, service and adoration. How much I yearn that the present suffering be a starting point for joy to be revealed because of this double visitation: the visitation of the Lord to us and our visitation to our neighbor!

In the approaching feast, I cannot help but thank the Lord for all these manifestations of solidarity and determination that were expressed by the faithful of the parishes and monasteries of our archdiocese in order to relieve the pain of those who suffer more, thanks to their spiritual, moral, fraternal and material visitation towards their neighbour. I also thank the Lord for the constructive dialogue that many of our young people and our elders opened during this gestation that we are living in Lebanon. In fact, they favoured, within the family and the parish, true love over differences in public affairs which led to nervous and sometimes violent attitudes. They also showed a positive response to the call of our Church to initiate a fruitful dialogue and to encourage a campaign of solidarity in favour of the most suffering, during this last period, a space where the clergy and the parishioners were involved, in which there were many young people, families and secular commissions. I firmly believe that, in this way, we have taken a step together to strengthen the culture of dialogue and solidarity in order to embody divine visitation in human visitation and commit ourselves to serve our brethren and their needs. Thus we live our Christian faith and our authentic humanity, and we consolidate the pillars of our country on the basis of “the Church-manger”, the place of God meeting with man, the place of dialogue with Him, of worship to Him, and union with Him.

I join in my prayers to those of my predecessor, His Eminence the Metropolitan Georges (Khodr), who does not cease to pray with his heart immersed in the depth of suffering and the depth of God’s mercy as well; I also join them to those of the pastors of our parishes and monasteries, to the monastics and rational sheep of the Holy flock of Christ, in pursuit of the good of our Church, of our country and of the whole world.

+ Silouan
Metropolitan of Byblos, Botrys and Dependencies
(Mount Lebanon)

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About the Author

Jivko Panev

Jivko Panev

Jivko Panev, maître de conférence en Droit canon et Histoire des Églises locales à l’Institut de théologie orthodoxe Saint Serge à Paris, recteur de la paroisse Notre Dame Souveraine, à Chaville en banlieue parisienne.

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