JORDANVILLE: January 6, 2005

Nativity Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

"Today in Bethlehem is Christ born of the Virgin; today He Who is without beginning beginneth to be and the Word becometh flesh..." (Stichiron on the Praises)

On this day, for us men and for our salvation, the Creator of all that is visible and invisible came down to earth and became the Son of man, that He might make us children of God; He was born of the All-Holy Virgin Theotokos in a wretched cave in Bethlehem not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

But how did humanity respond to the love of its Creator? "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" (John 1:12). On this sinful earth He found no place of welcome for His divine incar-nation other than a wretched cave amid irrational flocks, as says the Prophet Isaiah: "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know Me" (Isaiah, 1:3).

Human harshness of heart and ingratitude persecuted the Lord during His life on earth. Shortly after His birth, He was forced to flee into Egypt with His family to escape persecution. More than once was He driven from cities and villages. He often had no place to lay His head. They tried to stone Him to death, to cast Him down from a precipice; they did not believe His words of life; they reviled, slandered, betrayed, spat upon, beat, and finally put Him to death.

Thus did mankind welcome its Redeemer, Who had come into the world!

We sometimes console ourselves with the notion that, had we been among the contemporaries of Christ, we would not be found amidst the mob of those who rejected Him--this is probably how most of us feel. But is this really so? Let us look at our consciences. The Lord did not only come once. He comes to us repeatedly. And even now He is among us, invisibly continuing His earthly preaching; He is constantly knocking on the hearts of all men, desiring to enter into our inner cave and find room for Himself therein.

Yet what does He encounter more often than not? The same cold, hardhearted lack of understanding; the same excuse of being too busy with our life, with vanity, which is betrayal; the same Pharisaical hypocrisy and man-pleasing that He found among His contemporaries; the same perse-cution, at times revilement and abuse, instead of love in return and the following of Him to the Cross. We are all guilty in His sight, as King David says: "They are all gone astray, they are altogether rendered useless, there is none that does good, no not one" (Psalm 13).

But the Lord is full of loving kindness and will not disdain our uselessness if only He sees sincere fruits of repentance, a sincere desire to be corrected and to be justified in the sight of Love incarnate. The Lord will forgive us if we humbly repent of our ingratitude toward Him, if we do not make our-selves like stiff-necked Israel which did not recognize the manger of its Lord.

Brethren and sisters, let us hasten toward Him with the divinely-wise Magi, who left a people which knew not the Lord, forsaking homeland and loved ones, for though unafraid that they would be dis-appointed in their hopes, undaunted by the perils of the journey and the cruelty of Herod, they fol-lowed the guiding star and found in the poor manger of Bethlehem the incarnate Son of God, Who for their gift of faith, love and hope gave them the gift of life everlasting.

In the mystery of His becoming man, His earthly and redemptive death, our Lord has shown us an example of true love for God and neighbor, the boundless love of One Who is ready to lay down His life for His friends.

Let us therefore follow His example, let us have nothing higher than love for our Creator and Deliverer; let us offer Him as a gift our souls, washed clean and spotless by tears of repentance: for only by such gifts is God well pleased.

Dear archpastors, pastors, and our beloved flock: I greet you all with the joyous feast of the Nativity of Christ!


+ Metropolitan Laurus
Nativity of Christ, 2004