Pontifical Christmas Message of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I - 2022
Translation by Fr. Stephan Baljian
John the Apostle, in his first General Epistle begins by testifying, “The Son, the Word, who himself was Life,” was revealed to mankind by way of Bethlehem. Along this line I find it necessary to underscore the following points:
God the Creator of Life
The Bible asserts that God is the Creator of life. In the universe, no creation is created by itself; it has its creator. God created the universe, with its animate and inanimate objects, out of nothing, clarifying the place and role of each within the framework of creation.
Mankind is the crowning feature of God’s Creation
In the final step of creation, which was carried out incrementally, God created Man. The first book in the Bible, Genesis, in its two accounts of the creation of mankind, emphasizes that, in contrast to all other creatures, man was created from the earth, was endowed with the ability to speak and reason and as a partner with God was given the unique responsibility to govern his surroundings.
The Fall of Man’s God-given Life
The Bible tells us how the first man, Adam, was not found to be faithful to his calling, and instead used the authority given to him for his own pleasure and glory, falling short in his accountability to God. In other words, the first man sinned and became the reason that future generations would inherit the “Sin of Adam.” In consequence of the man’s sin, the God-given life was corrupted, causing evil and harm to the entirety of Creation.
Bethlehem is the Birthplace of a New Life
The life that had been corrupted because of the sin of Adam’s disobedience became renewed through the revelation of the Son of God in Bethlehem. Bethlehem became the birthplace of a new life. Jesus Christ proclaimed, “I am the life,” (Jn 14:6) and he declared the objective of his becoming man by saying, “I came that they may have life.” (Jn 10:10) The New Testament clearly spells out how the entire thrust of Christ’s mission, from Bethlehem until the Resurrection, was to endow mankind with a new life.
Christ is the Way That Lads to New Life
The incarnate Son of God not only presented himself as new life, but also as the only way that leads to new life. Therefore, in order to have this new life, it is necessary to turn to Christ and to walk on the path that leads to Him.
Christ is the Source of Eternal Life
John the Apostle testifies that through Jesus Christ “God gave us eternal life, and the source of that life is his Son.” (I Jn 5:11) He continues, saying, “we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life.” (I Jn 1:2) The life that Christ brought to earth was no ordinary life. The New Testament characterizes it as increasing, abundant, true and new life. In other words, eternal life. Eternal Life is a rejection of the life dominated by sin and evil and led with material and earthly values. Eternal life is life lived in the presence of Christ.
So how can we become worthy of eternal life? Let us follow the wisdom of the Gospel writers and Apostles:
1. By believing in Christ. The Apostle emphatically reminds us that, “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” (Jn 3:36) Therefore, by confessing Jesus as the Savior of the world, man becomes worthy the eternal life that Jesus promises.
2. By following Christ. Christ himself said, “whoever believes in me, must follow me.” Thus, as the source of eternal life, we must draw near to Him. As he is the way to eternal life, we must walk along that way. As the door that leads to eternal life, we must enter through that door.
3. By living eternal life. For one to follow Jesus Christ assumes that one accepts him in one’s heart, becomes a new person and lives a renewed life. The Apostles who lived in the presence of Christ impress this upon us. To live the “eternal life” means to serve our peers, to do what is righteous, to permeate our lives with moral and spiritual values, to fill our lives with spiritual gifts and to enrich the days of our lives with good deeds.
Dear Armenian children, life is a gift from God. Above and beyond the narrow confinements of our soul and the limited capacities of our daily lives, we must live it for supernal values and eternal truths. This is the quality, meaning and purpose of life, that was revealed to the world through the coming of the Christ.
And so, eternal life is not a finite apparition, not a future reality; it has already come to the world by the incarnation of the Son of God. The person who has pledged to follow Christ is called to live Christ, in faithfulness, responsibility and dedication. Paul the Apostle proclaims, “take hold of eternal life, to which you were called by God.” (I Tim 6:12)
We live in a world where life – both in nature and in civilization – is morally corrupt and physically endangered. We are surrounded by visible and invisible evils and evil works of those who would take the God-given life and turn it into a life that deters from God and has only self-gratification as its focus and aim. Along with the manmade evils that have befallen nature, we are also experiencing the awful effects of these evils on human life, in all arenas of our individual and collective lives.
Surely, no matter how much Science tries, with its various discoveries and innovative experiments, to enrich and safeguard life, without the life-giving presence of Christ who has gifted eternal life to mankind, life becomes a pointless existence. From wherever there is the presence of Christ, who shed his blood in order to grant eternal life to mankind, sin, evil and evil deeds remain far away.
Bethlehem is the revelation of eternal life to human beings. Bethlehem is a heavenly invitation to mankind, to steep his life in the renewing presence of Christ, as the source of eternal life.
Thus, with this faith let us turn to Bethlehem and live its meaning.
On the occasion of the New Year and the Feast of Holy Nativity & Theophany, I greet with brotherly love His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians, wishing him a long and healthy incumbency filled with service for the edification of the Church. With Christian love I greet the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, and the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, His Beatitude Archbishop Sahag Mashalian, wishing them both ministries filled with God-pleasing works.
With fatherly love and patriarchal blessings, I greet the Diocesan Prelates of the Catholicosaste of the Great House of Cilicia, the ranks of the clergy and administrative officials, all committees and organizations active within Armenian community life, as well as all the beloved children of our People, praying that the life of our Nation would become resplendent through eternal life of Bethlehem.
CATHOLICOS ARAM I
of the Great House of Cilicia
January 6, 2022