“The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid’; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
The most consoling and encouraging message of Christmas is the angelic message, “Do not be afraid.” This is a phrase that occurs over 85 times in the Bible – and is mostly spoken by God to His people. So, in this Christmas Season, perhaps this message is the very one God would give to us today: “Do not be afraid.”
2020 has been a very difficult year for many people. Living with a global pandemic all of us have fears: fears for the health and wellbeing of our families and friends; fears about our jobs and fears about the future. The heart of the Christmas message is that we need not be afraid because we have Emmanuel – God-with-us. Our God is one who lives with us and within us as our source of strength, hope and guidance. We have a God who wanted to share His love with us by becoming one of us, sharing our lives, our joys and fears, our pains and sufferings, and our loves and kindnesses.
This year a different Christmas is in view. Families and communities will be distanced from loved ones and unable to take part in our usual Christmas celebrations and traditions. As we gather to celebrate a different but equally meaningful Christmas, let us pray that the peace and joy at the birth of the Saviour will fill our lives so that we may face the future, the new year, with faith, hope and love for God and for each other. “Do not be afraid.”
We in the Carmelite Order are grateful for all the support we have received throughout this year. We thank you for your kindness and generosity. It is much appreciated. We will remember you in our thoughts and prayers during this festive season. Now that our churches have begun to reopen for public worship, we may come together to celebrate our faith with a new appreciation of each moment and each other.
Many who have contributed to our ministry have sent donations specifically for our work in Zimbabwe. We are happy to include in this newsletter some information and update about Carmelite life and ministry in Zimbabwe. Your generous support makes much of this good work possible. In recent months we celebrated the Final Profession of three of our Zimbabwean friars and on November 14th three friars were ordained to priesthood by Carmelite bishop, Paul Horan.
This year we mark the death of two of our brothers: Raymond Maunde, who lived and worked primarily in Zimbabwe, and Christopher O’Donnell. Chris was a highly respected theologian, writer and preacher. Through his lecturing and writings Chris made an immense contribution to the Irish Church and the worldwide Order. May they rest in peace. In tribute, we include a homily given by Chris at the Dawn Mass on Christmas Day 2010. In this poignant reflection, Chris invites us to visit the Christmas story again, to visit the crib and open our eyes to the wonder and beauty of God in the new-born baby. Over the Christmas season I invite you to visit the Crib in your churches and take a moment to contemplate in the nativity scene God’s kindness, love and compassion. May we make a home for God’s gift to us in our hearts and lives.
Again, I would like to thank you for your friendship, generous support, and assistance to the Carmelites. We wish you and your families every blessing during this festive season and a new year filled with peace, joy, and hope.
Michael Troy, Prior Provincial