L-Għar ta’ Betlehem

    Iż-żmien tal-Milied iqanqal f’kull wieħed u waħda minna diversi nostalġiji. L-ewwel nostalġija li jqanqal fija il-Milied hija nostalġija għat-tfulija, għal dak iż-żmien ta’ innoċenza, u bla ħsibijiet, jiġifieri stat fejn inti għadek ma ltqajtx man-niket u l-inkwiet tal-ħajja, u tgħum fil-fiduċja tal-ġenituri tiegħek. Iż-żmien sabiħ ta’ fejn li narmaw il-Presepju flimkien jew li naraw il-Christmas Tree tiegħla u mżejjna kienet tkun xi ħaġa li timla’ l-qalb tagħna b’ferħ kbir. Kien iż-żmien li fiħ konna nisimgħu l-istorja ħelwa tal-Milied u nitħeġġu bl-imħabba lejn Ġesù, lejn Marija u lejn San Ġużepp.

    Nostaġija oħra li jqanqal fija żmien il-Milied hija l-ġabra u l-ispirtu sabiħ fil-Knejjes tagħna. Il-fatt li l-Milied dejjem ikun ħafna isbaħ jekk jibda u jispiċċa fid-dar ta’ Alla. Veru jkollna ħafna opportunitajiet li niltaqgħu flimkien u nifirħu, imma x’jiswa dan il-ferħ jekk il-motiv tiegħu ma jkunx Ġesù Kristu li jqanqqalna mmorru l-Knisja u nifirħu mal-komunità Nisranija.

    Dan l-aħħar kont Ruma għad-difisa ta’ Fr Stefan Attard li wara iżjed minn għaxar snin jistudja u jispeċjaliżża fl-Iskrittura, ħa id-dottorat mill-Istitut Bibbliku, l-aqwa skola fid-dinja dwar l-Iskrittura. Id-difisa ħadet iżjed minn disgħin minuta u fiha Fr Stefan ibbrilla u wera’ li Malta tassew għandna nies ta’ kalibru. Fit-talba tal-bidu, qabel bdiet is-sessjoni tad-difiża,  Fr Stefan semma xi ħaġa li kien qal Luteru. Għal bidu, irrid ngħid, inħsadt li dan is-saċerdot bravu u maħbub jikkwota fit-talba tiegħu lil wieħed Protestant. Imma dak li qal Luteru jagħmel ħafna sens. Qal, “ejjew waqt li nistudjaw il-maxtura ma ninsewx naduraw lit-tarbija Ġesù.”

    Din l-espressjoni sabiħa ta’ Luteru, ġagħlitni naħseb fuq dak li jiġri meta nkunu qegħdin niċċelebraw il-Milied f’dawn il-ġranet. Kemm enerġija sabiħa nużaw biex inżejjnu d-djar tagħna, biex niċċelebraw flimkien, biex nagħtu rigal lil xulxin. Imma waqt li qiegħed inżejjen id-dar tiegħi qiegħed naħseb biex innaddaf il-qalb tiegħi mid-dnub? Meta qiegħed niċċelebra ma’ sħabi, qiegħed niċċelebra b’mod li jirrispetta id-dinjità ta’ ħaddieħor, jew inkella jirbħu u jirkbuni il-passjonijiet, ta’ rabja, ta’ żina, li jbiegħduni minn Alla?  Kif nista’ jien niċċelebra it-twelid ta’ Ġesù, jekk niċċelebrah b’mod li minflok nersaq aktar lejn Alla, nagħmel aktar dnubiet?

    Fi żmien il-Milied nagħtu rigali lil xulxin, rigali li, ħafna drabi, jiswew il-flus. Jekk ikollna nagħmlu l-kalkoli ta’ kemm nonfqu flus fir-rigali, u ngħidu għaxra fil-mija se jmorru għall-fqar? Tkun ħaġa sabiħa. Jiena naf li l-poplu Malti jkun ġeneruż ħafna f’dawn il-ġranet, u nammiraħ għal dan. J’Alla din il-ġenerożità nagħmluha f’isem Ġesù Kristu biex tbierek ir-rigali li nagħtu bejnietna. Hawn min saħansitra jasal biex jgħid ma nagħtux rigali lil xulxin, imma il-flus kollha li kieku konna nonfqu fir-rigali, nagħtuhom lill-fqar. Dan hu ġest sabiħ li ta’ min jaħseb fuqu, għaliex Ġesù qalilna: “dak li tagħmlu mal-iżgħar fost dawn ħuti tkunu qegħdin tagħmluħ miegħi.”

    J’Alla wkoll, f’dan il-Milied ikollna żmien għas-silenzju. San Ġorġ Preca hu u jidħol fl-iskola tal-Għar ta’ Betlehem, kif kien iħobb isejħilha, kien ukoll jitpaxxa bis-silenzju qaddis ta’ dak l-għar. Il-Mulej meta ġie m’għamilx ħafna storbju, bikja kiebja ta’ tarbija kulma kien hemm. L-anġli, lil ftit rgħajja, xandrulhom ferħ kbir, “illum twieldilkom Salvatur, u dan huwa is-sinjal, issibu tarbija mimduda f’maxtura.” Kemm hi sabiħa il-ħemda tal-lejl tal-Milied, mhux ta’ b’xejn l-għanja Silent night, O’ Lejl ta’ Skiet, tinfed il-qlub tagħna u tistedinna naduraw lill-Iben t’Alla magħmul bniedem. Għandna bżonn inħalluh ikellem lill-qalb tagħna u għalhekk għandna bżonn ukoll nagħtuh ċans bis-silenzju tagħna. Is-silenzju mhux vojt, imma stennija. Is-silenzju mhuwiex solitudni imma li jiena nagħti widen għas-sejħa tal-imħabba li l-Mulej jrid jagħti lill-qalb tiegħi.

     

    ✠ Charles J. Scicluna

          Isqof Awżiljarju u Vigarju Ġenerali ta’ Malta

     

    English Translation: 

     

    The Cave in Bethlehem

     

    Christmas is the time which arouses in us feelings of nostalgia of every kind.  First of all, we go back to our childhood, to that time of innocence, to that care-free state, when we have not yet faced the worries of the world or experienced sorrow, that period in our lives when we felt secure in the care of our parents.  Christmas was that beautiful time of the year when our hearts were filled with joy as together we set up the crib or decorated the Christmas tree.  It was a time during which we heard the delightful story of Christmas which filled our hearts with love for Jesus, Mary and St Joseph.

    Another feeling of nostalgia which is aroused at Christmas-time is the sense of togetherness and lovely spirit which is alive in our Churches.  In fact, Christmas is more beautiful if it begins and ends in the house of God.  It is a fact that Christmas provides us with several opportunities to get together and be merry; but what is it’s worth if the reason for this joy is not Jesus Christ, who inspires us to go to Church and share our happiness with the Christian community.

    Recently I was in Rome for the Doctoral defence of Fr Stefan Attard, who after more than ten years of study with a specialization in Scripture, was awarded a doctoral degree from the Biblical Institute, the most prestigious educational establishment as far as Scriptural studies are concerned. The defence lasted ninety minutes, during which Fr Stefan outdid  himself, proving just how high the standards of the Maltese scholar are.  During the opening prayer, Fr Stefan quoted Luther. I must admit that at first, I was taken aback to hear this clever and much-loved priest quoting a Protestant scholar.  But Luther’s words make much sense.  He said “as we reflect upon the manger let us not fail to adore Baby Jesus”.

    Luther’s beautiful expression led me to reflect awhile upon what happens when we celebrate Christmas.  We use much of our energy to decorate our homes, and to celebrate together; we offer gifts to one another.  But as we decorate the house, do we think about clearing our hearts from sin?  As we make merry with our friends, do we respect the dignity of other people, or are we overcome by passions, by anger, by vanity, all of which draw us away from God?  How can we celebrate the birth of Jesus if our celebrations lead us to sin further, rather than draw us closer to God? 

    At Christmas-time we offer each other gifts; often, these cost a lot of money.  If we had to calculate how much we spend on gifts and offer ten percent of this expense to the poor, it would be laudable.  I know that the Maltese people are very generous during this time of the year and this is something I admire.  Please God, we may share generously in the name of Jesus Christ so that he may bless the gifts which we give to one another.  There are those who even go so far as to refrain from giving gifts, so that instead, the money is donated to the poor.  This is a lovely gesture which deserves much consideration because Jesus said to us: “that which you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me”.

    God willing, this Christmas we will find some time to stay in silence.  St George Preca, as he pondered over the School of Bethlehem, as he liked to refer to it, used to take great pleasure in the holy silence of the cave.  On his coming, the Lord did not make much noise; all that could be heard was the quiet cry of a baby.  The angels announced joyfully to the shepherds, “today a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:11-12).  How beautiful is the silence of Christmas night.  No wonder the carol Silent Night penetrates our hearts and invites us to adore the Son of God made man.  We need to allow him to speak to our hearts; but in order to do so, we need to be silent.  Silence is not a void, but an awaiting.  Silence is not solitude, but it is a response to the call of love which the Lord makes to our hearts. 

     

    ✠ Charles J. Scicluna

    Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of Malta