“...this Christmas will be special in many ways because it will be similar to the first one, when Jesus was born in solitude, without large festivities or tables overflowing with food.”
The President’s Message
By Ateneo de Manila University President, Roberto C Yap, SJ
In a year that has already been fraught with the long drawn out physical, economic, and psychological suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the past month has been especially heartbreaking. The extensive flooding and destruction wreaked by Typhoons Ulysses (Vamco), Quinta (Molave), and Rolly (Goni) have made an already difficult situation even worse, and it would be no exaggeration to say that this Christmas will be one of the saddest for many of us and our fellow Filipinos.
The response of the Ateneo de Manila University community to the triad of devastating typhoons gives us hope, however. Stories abound of how faculty, students, staff, alumni, and parents managed to go beyond their own difficulties and pain to give assistance to those who needed it more. Faculty reaching out to each of their students, the bayanihan street clearing of Ateneoville residents, the Loyola Schools Residence Halls and classrooms being opened to employees who needed to evacuate, and the donations of cash and relief goods through the DReaM Team are just some of the acts which show the depth of the compassion and magnanimity of the members of our community.
This compassion and largeness of heart has been the university’s hallmark this past year. And they are the same qualities in Mary and Joseph which allowed the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ more than two thousand years ago.
Our celebration of Christmas this year will be far different from previous years. We will not have our usual office and school programs and parties, family gatherings will probably be limited to those we share our household with, and we cannot physically attend Christmas Eve masses in our parishes or the Gesú. Yet, as Fr. Javier Leoz said in the Christmas reflection which caught the attention of Pope Francis himself, this Christmas will be special in many ways because it will be similar to the first one, when Jesus was born in solitude, without large festivities or tables overflowing with food. This Christmas, without the noise and distractions of previous seasons, we are given the unique opportunity to allow Christ to again be the center of our celebration. And with Christ as our center, we will find the strength and courage to continue responding with compassion and magnanimity to all the challenges that may come our way.
Wishing you all the blessings of peace and joy which the birth of Jesus Christ brings. ■