The Christmas Season is upon us - the sacred time when we recall the incredible, magnificent, stupendous, overflowing and unconditional love of God who “so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that all of us may be saved, experience and enjoy the fullness of life in Him” (Jn 3: 16).
The Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us, all the promises of God were fulfilled once and for all, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became One of us so that we may be given a share in the Divine Family of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I wonder if our minds can truly understand the sheer depth of this wonderful mystery of the Incarnation which has transformed our whole life forever?
St Francis of Assisi was always mesmerized with wonder to contemplate true God and true Man in the Little Child of Bethlehem. The utter poverty of the Son of God moved him to tears of love and joy! He saw the epitome of this on the crucifixion and he coined the image of Christ “poor and crucified”. He desired to embrace in his life the poverty and the passion of Christ. He was granted this ‘grace’ in his lifetime.
The reflection called ‘One Solitary Life’ captures the meaning of Christmas perfectly:
“Here is Jesus, the Son of God - a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years, He was an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family of his own. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.
He had no credentials but Himself...
While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Twenty long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centrepiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.
I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of all humanity upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life”.
(Adapted from a sermon by Dr. James Allan Francis).
Christmas is the time of introspection, prayerful reflection, generosity, gratitude, joyful celebration and making tangible this stupendous love of God by sharing ourselves, our quality time and resources with all our needy brothers and sisters.
I wish each and every one of you restful, refreshing, fulfilling and enriching Christmas celebration with all your immediate family, relatives, friends and all your loved ones. Merry Christmas!
Yours in Christ
Bishop Vincent Mduduzi Zungu OFM
Advent is the time of grace that requires all of us, individually and as a community of believers, to slow down, recollect our minds and hearts, examine our lives – especially the quality of our interpersonal relationships that suffer neglect during our busy and punishing schedule throughout the year. Often success becomes a goal in everything we do. The African gospel value, called “ubuntu” teaches us that: “umntu ngumntu ngabanye abantu” which, put simply, means ‘a person is born, develops, flourishes and achieves fulfilment in and through a healthy network of relationships with others’. In this Liturgical Year A, which is coming to the end, what has been the quality of my relationship with myself, members of my immediate family, parish community, workplace and most importantly with God our Creator in whom ‘we live, move and have our existence’? (Ac 17:28)
The Church invites us to celebrate the Season of Advent in three moments that are interconnected: The Past, the Present and the Future.
We recall the past with gratitude – when we re-live the joy of Christmas through Liturgy, prayerful reading of the Word of God, devotional prayers and carols. Imagine the sense of wonder, beauty and awe when the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity was born of the Virgin Mary and became one of us? Jesus became a little child who needed care, love and hospitality. He is Emmanuel, the name which means: God is with us. Advent prepares us for the fruitful celebration of this wonderful mystery of the incarnation which took place more than two thousand years ago.
Advent also challenges us to live the present with renewed commitment. In Mark’s Gospel - which shall guide us through the Liturgical Year B - Jesus tells us: “I say to all of you: Stay awake!” (Mk 13:37) As we remember the past and anticipate the future, we are challenged to stay awake and attentive to our divine encounters in the present, the ways God “arrives” in our everyday life. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis puts this magnificently in the Joy of the Gospel: “I invite all to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ… I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step to Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms”.
Finally, Advent invites us to look into the future with hope. Our Catholic faith teaches us that the Lord “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end”. Advent therefore, summons us to the Christian virtue of hope. It is said that while there is life there is hope. This has an even deeper meaning in reverse: while there is hope there is life. Hope is strength. Hope sheds light into despairing hearts. It inspires the will to live. It is the doctor’s most powerful ally. It is a shield against defeat and failure. It revives ideals and renews dreams. As long as there is hope, no situation is impossible. Advent summons us to wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In the final analysis, he is our HOPE” (Fr. Flor McCarthy, SDB)
I wish all of you and your families, loved ones, friends and colleagues a joyful, fruitful and fulfilling celebration of Advent and Christmas season!
+ Bishop Vincent Zungu OFM
Ixesha Lokulindela lixesha leemfefe elifuna ukuba sonke: ngabanye okanye silibandla labakholwayo sikhe sithi xha, sibuyise iingqondo neentliziyo, sihlole ubomi bethu – ingakumbi ubume bobudlelwane nabanye abantu nobudla ngokungakhathalelwa ngamaxesha okuxakeka nawezinto ezisixinileyo ebudeni bonyaka. Kwinto yonke esiyenzayo, sijonga impumelelo esuka ibe yinto yonke. IVangeli yase-Afrika, ebizwa ngokuba “ bubuntu” isifundisa ukuba: “ umntu ngumntu ngabanye abantu” nethi ivakale ngolu hlobo ngentetho ecacileyo, ‘ umntu uyazalwa, akhule, aphumelele aze afikelele kwinzaliseko ngonxibelelwano olululo lobudlelwane nabanye’. Kulo nyaka weNkolo A, esiza kuwuqukumbela , ingaba bube yintoni ubudlelwane obububo nesiqu sam, abo ndizalana nabo, abantu beBandla, emsebenzini, ize ngokubaluleke ngaphaya, noThixo, umDali esithi’ siphile kuye, sishukume sibe nobomi kuye’?(Ac 17: 28)
ITyalike iyasimema ukuba silibhiyozele eli Xesha Lokulindela kwiimeko ezintathu ezinxulumeneyo: sizikhumbuza ngoko sekugqithile sinombulelo – xa siluphila kwakhona uvuyo lweKrismesi ngoNqulo, sifunda izifundo zeLizwi likaThixo ngendlela yokuthandaza, imithandazo yentembeko kunye namaculo eli xesha. Khawucinge ngendlela emangalisayo , nobuhle xa uNyana kaThixo , iSiqu Sesibini soButhathu-nye ezalwa nguVirigo uMariya waza wangomnye wethu? UYesu waba ngumntwana ofuna ukukhathalelwa, ukuthandwa nokwenzelwa ububele. Ungu – Imanuweli, gama elo lithetha ukuthi: INkosi inathi. Ixesha lokuLindela lisilungiselela ukubhiyozela isiqhamo sale mfihlakalo ingummangaliso yobuthixo eyathabatha inxaxheba kwiminyaka engaphaya kweenkulungwane ezi mbini zeminyaka.
IXesha Lokulindela likwasicela umngeni wokuba siphile obu bomi kodwa sineembophelelo ezintsha. KwiVangeli kaMarko – iza kusikhokela kuNqulo loNyaka B, uYesu uthi: “ Oko ndikutsho kuni, ndikutsho kubo bonke, Lindani!” (Mk 13: 37) Njengokuba sikhumbula okwadlulayo, sithelekelela okuzayo, sicelwa umngeni wokuba sihlale silindile, siphaphile kwizinto zobuthixo esidibana nazo, iindlela athi “afike” ngazo uThixo kubomi bethu bemihla ngemihla. UPhapha Ongcwele, uPope Francis uyibeka kakuhle kakhulu kwincwadi yakhe ‘The Gospel of Joy’: “Ndimemela wonke ubani kwindibano entsha noYesu Krestu ....ndiyanicela ukuba oku nikwenze yonke imihla ningaqhwalelanga. Akukho mntu unokucinga ukuba esi simema asibhekiswa kuye. INkosi ayibaphoxi abo bathabatha eli nyathelo libumngcipheko; nanini na xa sinyathelela kuYesu, siye sifumanise ukuba sele elapho, esilinde ngeengalo ezivulekileyo”.
Okokugqibela, iXesha Lokulindela liyasimema ukuba masilijonge ngethemba ixesha elizayo. Ukholo lwethu oluKatolike lusifundisa ukuba iNkosi “ iya kuza kwakhona iseluzukweni ize kugweba abahleliyo nabafileyo, yaye ubuKumkani bayo abuyi kuphela.”IXesha Lokulindela lisibizela kwizimilo ezizizo zethemba lobuKrestu. “ Kutshiwo ukuthi njengokuba kukho ubomi, nethemba likwakhona. Le ntetho ikwanentsingiselo enzulu xa ivelwe ngasemva: njengokuba kukho ithemba, nobomi bukhona. Ithemba kukomelela. Ithemba lizisa ukukhanya kwiintliziyo ezincamileyo. Likhuthaza umdla wokuphila.LIngumlingane onamandla kagqira. Lilikhaka kwabo boyiswayo nabangaphumeleliyo. Lihlaziya okulungileyo kunye namaphupha. Kusekho ithemba, akukho nto ingenakoyiswa. IXesha Lokulindela lisibizela ekubeni silinde ngethemba lovuyo ukuza koMsindisi wethu, uYesu Krestu. Kuhlalutyo lokugqibela, uliThemba lethu” ( Fr Flor McCarthy, SDB)
Nina neentsapho zenu, enibathandayo, abahlobo nabasemsebenzini nani, ndininqwenelela imibhiyozo ezaliswe luvuyo neziqhamo ezixolisayo ngeli xesha lokuLindela neleKrismesi.
Advent is tyd van genade wat ons almal nodig het: individueel en as ‘n gemeenskap van gelowiges om stil te word, om ons gedagtes en harte te onthou, en ons lewens te ondersoek – vernaamlik die gehalte van ons interpersoonlike verhoudings wat tydens ons besigste en strawwe skedules deur die jaar, verwaarloos word. Dikwels word sukses die doel in alles wat ons doen. Die evangeliese waarde van Afrika, wat “ubuntu” genoem word, leer vir ons dat: “umtu ngumntu ngabanye abantu” wat eenvoudig beteken “‘n persoon is gebore, ontwikkel, groei en bereik vervulling, in en deur gesonde netwerke van verhoudings met andere”. Wat was die kwaliteit van my verhouding met myself, lede van my onmiddelikke gesin, parogiale gemeenskap, werkplek en die belangrikste met God ons Skepper deur wie ‘ons lewe, beweeg en bestaan’ (Hand 17:28), in hierdie Liturgiese Jaar A, wat nou tot ‘n einde kom?
Die Kerk nooi ons om die Adventstyd in drie oomblikke wat onderling verbind is, te vier: ons onthou die verlede met dankbaarhied – wanneer ons die vreugde van Kersfees deur Liturgie geniet, biddende lesing van die Woord van God, godsdienstige gebede en kersliedere, herleef. Stel die sin van verwondering, skoonheid en ontsag voor, toe die Seun van God, die Tweede Persoon van die Heilige Drie-eenheid, gebore van die Maagd Maria, en wat een van ons geword het. Jesus, het ‘n klein kind geword wat sorg, liefde en gasvryheid nodig gehad het. Hy is Immánuel, die naam wat beteken, God by ons. Advent berei ons voor vir die vrugbare viering wat meer as twee-duisend jaar gelede plaasgevind het.
Advent daag ons ook uit om die hede met hernieude verbintenis uit te leef. In Markus se Evangelie - wat ons deur die Liturgiese Jaar B gaan lei, vertel Jesus vir ons: “En wat ek vir julle sê, sê ek vir almal: Bly waaksaam!” (Mk 13:37) Soos ons die verlede onthou en die toekoms antisipeer, word ons uitgedaag om waaksaam te bly, en om bedagsaam te wees in ons huidige goddelike ontmoetings, hoe God elke dag in ons lewens “opdaag”. Ons Heilige Vader, Pous Franciscus stel dit skitterend voor in die ‘Joy of the Gospel’: “I invite all to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ... I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step to Jesus, we come to realise that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms”.
Laastens, nooi Advent ons uit om met hoop na die toekoms uit te kyk. Ons Katolieke geloof leer vir ons dat die Here ‘weer in heerlikheid sal kom, om die lewendes en dooies te oordeel, en sy ryk sal sonder einde wees”. Advent roep ons dus tot die Christelike reinheid van hoop. “Daar word gesê dat waar daar lewe is, is daar hoop. Dit het omgekeerd ‘n dieper betekenis: Terwyl daar hoop is, is daar lewe. Hoop is sterkte. Hoop werp lig op harte wat twyfel. Dit inspireer die wil om te lewe. Dit is die geneesheer se magtigste bondgenoot. Dit is ‘n skerm teen nederlaag en mislukking. Dit veroorsaak hervatting van ideale en hernuwing van drome. So lank daar hoop is, is geen situasie onmoontlik nie.
Advent roep ons om in vreugdevolle hoop te wag vir die koms van ons Verlosser, Jesus Christus. Op slot van sake, is hy ons HOOP” (Vr. Flor Mc Carthy, SDB)
Ek wens julle almal, en julle gesinne, geliefdes, vriende en kollegas ‘n vreugdevolle, vrugbare en genotvolle viering van die Advent en Kersfees Seisoen.
Mary is honoured as the Chief Patron of our Diocese of Port Elizabeth. In accordance with the official liturgical Pastoral Guide it is therefore elevated to a solemnity (big feast) for the local church and celebrated on the Sunday that occurs on 4th February or between the 4th and 10th February each year.