A few hours before Christmas, the bombs finally stopped falling on Aleppo. For the Latin parish of the city, held by the Franciscans of the Custody, it is the opportunity to experience this feast with the children as a very beautiful gift. That is the text that the parish sent us.
Christmas, light and joy, the hope that, despite our darkness, the light of God shines. Christ is born to be the Light in our world. [He is] the Light that never goes out. At the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, the numerous children, entered with the celebrants in procession, carrying in their hands lighted candles, a sign of our vigilant hearts, which are ready to go meet the Newborn Christ. The Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is a model for us, who are preparing to receive Him. She carries in her arms the true Light to offer It to those who live in darkness.
For the first time in six years, the Christmas mass took place without bombings or shootings. We are convinced that it is the fruit of the ardent prayer of the united hearts of so many children throughout the world. We have received messages from all over--Japan, Egypt, Ukraine, Slovakia, Italy, Poland, the UK, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, USA, etc.--assuring us of their communion with us through prayer and through their various and very creative initiatives! We deeply believe that God hears the cries of “his little ones.”
The universal prayer was pronounced in four languages. We prayed for our dear country, Syria, so that the Child Jesus by His power may shine His grace of peace and stability on her. The Eucharistic celebration was enhanced by the choir with Christmas carols in Arabic and Latin.
At the end of the mass, the children accompanied the Child Jesus in the procession from the altar to the manger. The Crèche had the shape of a map of Syria. The statue of the Child Jesus was placed inside, a sign that the birth of Christ is a new hope, a light for the city of Aleppo, and for all of Syria and its inhabitants.
The Light desires to come into every heart so that no one may dwell in the darkness... We want to offer It to others in order to praise God together: “Glory to God, peace to men, may the joy of heaven [come to us] on earth! "
At the end of the mass, the participants welcomed Fr. Ibrahim, the parish priest, and the other celebrants, exchanging Christmas greetings, followed by refreshments. The children and families then went to the social hall. What a surprise they had when they saw a reindeer and a sled! The feast was made even more exciting with Christmas carols. Families took advantage of every decorated corner to take pictures. Long after mass was over, our parochial community--or rather our ecumenical community, since many of the faithful of the other rites joined us for the celebration in our church--all celebrated the joy of the birth of Christ, true Light, Liberator and Prince of Peace. This was the opportunity to come together in the joy that confirms our belonging to the Church. The children, who were all joyful, left us with great gifts. We thank the Lord for all of the joy of this day. We thank Him that everything has been carried out in peace. We were afraid of the attacks but a whole group of young people had been mobilized under the direction of a security expert.
From the heart of Aleppo we repeat: Merry Christmas to all!