Message by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna
It is a great pleasure to offer you my sincere greetings on this holy Christmas night. It is truly wonderful if we understand what we are telling each other when, throughout these holy days, we greet one another with ‘Happy Christmas’. We are recalling the birth of a baby; we are recalling the birth of God made man for you and me.
When we set up our cribs and mangers in our homes, in our village squares, in our churches, we are carrying out an act of faith that this baby, in its sweetest form, is God’s love made man; in a manger since, as we are told in the Gospel, there was no place for him at the inn and his mother had to give birth in a cave; she swaddled him and placed him in a manger. Joseph must have struggled to find a more suitable place for him, however the manger is a comforting sign for us all: the Lord is willing to be born in every environment in order to be close to us, close to me, and close to you. Today we ought to reflect on how we can do the same to others, since the name He is given is God the Saviour, but also Immanuel, God with us. How can we truly be close to others by our actions, our words and our thoughts this Christmas?
A port of shelter
This leads me to a profound meaning attributed by academics to our country’s name. They tell us that the name ‘Malta’ derives from the Phoenician malat which means a sheltered port, a safe haven. But do we find this shelter in our hearts towards one another? It would be wonderful if our nation lived up to the vocation that its name implies, that of being a safe haven for those who live here and for those who knock on the doors of her heart. During this beautiful season of festivities, joy and care, can we possibly forget someone among us?
I wish to greet those people who perhaps we do not give much thought to: those at the Corradino Correctional Facility, in hospitals or other institutions, our elderly in so many homes – where they may be cared for, surely, but where they may nevertheless feel lonely throughout these days. Our thoughts go to those who may have become victims of an addiction, and who are searching for joy in something that will crush them instead of build them. They are also members of our family. We need to be close to them and work on caring for one another so that Malta may truly become a place of shelter for those who live here.
If the baby of Bethlehem, was refused a place in the inn on this holy night, how can we do the same with those who knock on our shore? How can we tell them that we are full up and that we have no place for them? Is it really possible that we have no place, or is there no place in our hearts in reality?
The sweetness of honey in our words
Another word that academics attribute to Malta’s name is ‘honey’. Many academics say that the name Malta derives from mel, from honey, from the sweetness of the honey that was produced in large quantities and is still produced today, by the grace of God, on our islands of Malta and Gozo. Honey is the fruit of hard work by bees, but bees cannot make honey without the flowers in the countryside. Honey is the expression of harmony in creation. It would be wonderful if Malta continues to live the vocation of the profound meaning of its name, which includes an environment where bees may continue making honey. This implies that we need to take care of the environment that is so essential for us to have the healthy and beneficial honey we are so proud of.
But honey and its sweetness does not only belong to bees. There is also ‘sweetness’ of kind words that touch the hearts of those who listen as we encourage and console them. We sometimes add so much bitterness and poison in our words and on social media. Unfortunately, at times we delight in insulting one another with harsh words! Where is the ‘sweetness’ in the words we speak?
Malta, a safe haven; Malta that produces healthy and beneficial honey. We can say that in the account of the birth of Jesus, these two concepts join together, as Scripture tells us – through the birth of the Son of God, a honey of sweetness and mercy was poured on the world and in humanity’s heart, in the same way that dew on plants and trees tells us that there is still hope, that there is still life.
Whilst wishing every one of us a Blessed Christmas, I wish to thank all those who try in every way to promote our welcoming culture, a culture of kindness. After all, when Dun Karm thought of Malta he referred to her as: “this gracious land, our motherland”. By the grace of God, this Christmas, may we open our hearts to welcome one another, and may our kind Christmas greeting to each other also be our commitment to use kind and gracious words with one another.
I heartily impart my pastoral blessing and wish you a blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with peace and health.
✠ Charles Jude Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta