Dear Brother and Sisters,
St Ignatius of Antioch (who was part of the generation after the apostles, and what we would now call a Syrian Christian) writes in chapter 19 of his letter to the Church at Ephesus of 'three mysteries that are cried aloud' – the virginal conception of Jesus, the nativity, and the crucifixion. These are hidden matters, events whose meaning is deeply mysterious, and conceived in the silence of God's providence. Yet the Church cries out about them, proclaims them to the world as the centre of all its history and all its hopes.
But perhaps also Bishop Ignatius may mean something more. Mary cries out with astonishment and fear at Gabriel's word; she cries out in the anguish of childbearing; and Jesus gives 'a loud cry' as he surrenders his spirit to the Father. The mystery of Christ is announced by cries of pain or bewilderment, and – like Moses at the Burning Bush – we are forcibly drawn aside from our ordinary preoccupations by the shock of these interruptions into the ordinary flow of history.
This past year has been full of terrible cries that have interrupted our ordinary day-on-day lives – cries from those killed and injured and orphaned in the war in Syria and Iraq; cries from the kidnapped and butchered children of Nigeria and Pakistan; cries from those who continue to die of ebola; cries from those who suffer hunger and poverty because of the coldness and selfishness of others: there are many more.
The challenge for us Christians is whether we can let these cries wake us up so that we can listen too to the cry of God, announcing his presence, announcing the truth that he alone – in the birth and death and resurrection of Jesus – can deal with human evil at its roots, and bring healing to the terrible pain of our world. When we allow him to wake us from our selfishness and sin, we are able to receive the Spirit of God's Son, and find the courage to join in his work, join in compassion and healing, join in his mission in the world. We have a promise and a hope that we can share.
'The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber' (Rom. 13.11). God cries out to us in Jesus Christ. He calls to us: to wake up and go, as the shepherds and the wise men did at his first coming, to seek him among those who suffer pain and poverty. Awake, beloved, and Christ will give you light.
I end by sending you my prayers and greetings for this holy season, and hope for all the unexpected joy that 2015 may bring.
in the Lord: