Nativity Epistle

"Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, goodwill among men!"

The words of the angelic hymn, relayed to us by the Evangelist Luke in the narrative dedicated to the day of the great feast of the Nativity of Christ, are repeated by the Church at the beginning and end of every matins service (except the Paschal matins of Bright Week). Such special weight is given by the Church to these words because in them are clearly depicted the three component parts of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God, according to the words of our Savior, is not some sort of utopia, which at some point will arise on the earth, but the pre-eternal reality of the universe created by God, perfect and immovable, regarding which the Savior said that it is within us. In other words, we must ourselves find the path to the Kingdom of God, constantly working on our own spiritual salvation, and not expecting for it to come from the outside through supernatural means.

"Glory to God in the Highest" is given by the angels of God and by the choir of all of the saints (ie all the perfected and saved souls) headed by the Queen of Heaven. Their number is many times greater than that of the sea of lives which surrounds us in our sinful age... In other words, the material reality, with all of its vices, earthly riches and events for which we care, is nothing in comparison with the greatness of the eternal Glory of God, the joy of the Righteous who are established in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is toward what we must all strive for. Only having cleansed ourselves completely from sins and passions can our souls be made capable of being established in the indescribable heavenly dwelling places.

Let us consider the words "peace on earth." At first glance it seems that there is no peace on earth. When Christ became incarnate there was no peace--for Herod immediately began persecution against the Son of God... Every year during the days of the Nativity many weep for the lack of earthly peace, and pray for the granting of peace to the world. But does peace really not exist on earth? Yes, we see terrible wars, terrible conflicts, calamities… The reason for all of these tragedies is only one: sin and conflict with God! A person, bound with terrible sins, runs back and forth attempting to ease his sufferings through: battlefield victories, political competitions, luxuries, narcissism, accumulation of wealth... Such a person is not able to ever feel real calm, or gain rest for his soul. The concept of peace is foreign to him. However, a soul that has given itself over to God, loves God with all of its strength and mind finds no reason for alarm. The familiar angelic words ("peace on earth"), are felt by those who have placed their entire hope in the Lord, they are in a condition of whole peacefulness. This is truly so! If you have not experienced the condition of full peace and full confidence in the situations that surround you--whatever they may be--may mean that you have not yet put your faith in the care that the Lord God has for you. The Righteous teach us that when we place all our hope only in the Lord, then all difficulties disappear from our path, all sorrows melt away and suddenly living on the earth comes with ease. Death, suffering and sicknesses are no longer frightening, they are borne with joy in the Lordís holy unfathomable Providence.

And finally "good will among men!" What is good will? It sounds so beautiful, so commonplace… Yet perhaps it is the most important of all. Good will is simply the manifestation of will that is good. And what will is good? We can only speak thus of God: Good, All-Good... Good will, therefore, can only be one: the will of God, about which Christ taught us to pray: Our Father! Thy will be done!

Therefore, brothers and sisters, only when amongst us--among men--will the Will of God reign completely, when each person accepts it individually as the beloved law that directs our lives, at that moment (before death) here on the earth, we will be able to be in communion with the incorruptible divine peace that is around us and within us. Then, and only then, are we able to prepare for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Exulting, rejoicing hymning God together with the Hosts of Angels and Saints, not only in those moments which are established by the rubrics of the calendar, but unto the ages of ages: Amen!

+Archbishop Kyrill

Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America
25 December/7 January 2005