‘‘There was no place for them in the inn…’’ Luke 2:7
From AECQ (In-house translation)
Beloved sisters and brothers,
This year, the pandemic afflicting the whole world requires that we celebrate Christmas and the New Year in a way that is unprecedented for our families and our Christian communities.
Although we love to spend happy times with our families and friends, out of caution and the concern for protecting each other, we must as much as possible limit our contact with them, in spite of how much we would enjoy it.
This unprecedented situation requires us all to move within, reorganizing ourselves in relation to our families, our parishes and our lives in society. On many levels, we are living through a deep grief.
During this time, we are entering the Advent Season, which symbolizes our expectation and desire leading to the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus.
Let us not merely ‘‘comply’’ passively with the sanitary constraints that we have been observing for over nine months, but let us continue putting our ingenuity and creativity to work, finding opportunities to live and grow in faith.
Let us remember in our hearts and in our prayers the many families here and around the world who have lost a loved one or who have a friend or family member who is seriously ill with Covid 19. Let us also pray for the workers in the sphere of healthcare and for all those who give generously of themselves for the benefit of families who are affected by illness.
Let us also remember in our hearts and in our prayers the workers who are losing their jobs, the storeowners who are declaring bankruptcy, those who suffer in isolation and those who cannot manage week after week to feed and clothe themselves, to live in dignity. Let us also be compassionate towards young people who are going through a difficult academic year, as well as towards our elderly who are the worst affected by the pandemic, many of whom are suffering from loneliness.
In his encyclical Fratelli tutti, which translates as ‘Brothers all,’’ Pope Francis presents us with an inspirational reflection advocating universal brotherhood based on the dignity of each human being. He writes, ‘‘Goodness, together with love, justice and solidarity, are not achieved once and for all; they have to be realized each day.’’ Let work actively towards the realization of this ideal of brotherly love in our family relations, as well as socially, professionally, and in our friendships especially during this time of the Nativity and the New Year.
Religious celebrations will not be observed in the usual manner this year, given the limited number of people authorized to be in attendance at each celebration. We are left feeling like the innkeeper who, as the Evangelist Luke writes, does not have enough room to accommodate all those who come to him, not even those in greatest need. For this reason, diocesan services and those in charge of your Christian communities are suggesting a variety of initiatives to help you celebrate Christmas differently, with your family, both in the parish or in the home. Take the time to visit your parish and diocesan websites to learn more about these suggestions.
Beloved sisters and brothers, this year shows us that God is even incarnate in our world as He takes on the reduced condition of our families and our Church. The Advent Season is an invitation to us to Hope in His presence through our simplest actions.
This Advent, the Bishops of Quebec wish to reassure you of our solidarity with you and to reaffirm to you our presence in brotherly and spiritual support. Let us keep strong the close bonds of trust that are essential in our marriages, our families and our Church, as well as in our society. While the people of Israel awaited a triumphant Messiah, let us remember that, in spite of all expectations, it was in the form of a tiny babe in Mary and Joseph’s arms that God entered our humanity, in a stable in Bethlehem.
Along with my brother bishops, I wish you a holy Christmas and a better year in 2021!
✠ Christian Rodembourg, MSA
Bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe
President of the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops