DIOCESE OF SAN FRANCISCO AND WESTERN AMERICA: January 4, 2007
Nativity Epistle of Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
The great holy day of Christ's Nativity each year reminds us that our Lord God through His incarnation sanctified the human state – and in particular, childhood. The Most Holy Trinity, in Its great love for humankind, ordained that our Saviour should arrive on earth as a Babe, in other words, as an Infant, born of the Most Pure Virgin, Mary, His Mother. In this manner, God showed that no part of a human's destiny on earth is foreign to Him, the Eternal God: not poverty, not social rejection, not persecutions from a wicked king, not exile, not toil, not grief, nor even the helpless state of being an infant.
The Lord who was born in Bethlehem sanctified childhood, made it holy by becoming, Himself, the Divine Child. And childhood is especially tightly intertwined in the understanding of each and every one of us with this extraordinary holy day. All of us who are now adults were once children, and each one of us shall cherish forever our own sweet memories of childhood, of its joys and tribulations, and especially, of course, of our childhood memories of Christmas. Let us remember those times, even if fleetingly, during these holy days. Few amongst us, children, ever pondered deeply the blessed meaning of the incarnation of Christ, the God-Man. We may not have given it much thought, back then – but neither did we doubt it. We found joy in every detail of the holy story: the Most Holy Virgin Mother, the holy manger, the angels' glorious song of praise, the shepherds with their sheep, the holy mage-kings bringing gifts to the Baby… We, all of us, believed in this great miracle, in miracles, in God's intervention in our lives, in God's coming to help us, in God's saving us. Even when in a child's language this faith finds its expression in the naive idea of Santa Claus, yet nevertheless, within this simple, homespun, benevolent childhood tradition, the real miracle revealed is the great and wondrous miracle of a child's pure, complete belief: belief in the miracle as such, in the fact that the miraculous is part of our reality.
And for all those of us who were born in the émigré community, one more memory from childhood inevitably arises. Each Christmas, our minds would home in with special attention on the words of the Prayer for the salvation of Russia, which to this day is read aloud during each Liturgy, although now with slightly different phrasing, for the atheist tyranny has ended. Our childhood in those times was always touched with an especially fervent prayer to God for the liberation of Russia from the heinous theomachist yoke, and equally with an unwavering faith that the Lord our God would certainly grant us this joy. All of us, I know, remember this feeling – remember how the child's dream of a much-sought toy became interwoven in the child's mind with the dream of a free Russia, with a prayer for her, on such a Holy Night, once again to have her churches crowded with faithful with children; for Russian people once more to live the spiritual joys of this Day, to exult in the exaltation of Christ; for bells to ring out again across the land and hymns to be sung in God's praise; and for the true Russian flag, the tricolor, to be flown in its rightful place…
And the Lord God received our prayers and granted us this joy. A great miracle came to pass! But, just as on Christmas Day, the child does not always receive precisely the one gift most longed for in precisely the exact form imagined… so, too, in this case, the Almighty, Ever-Merciful, All-Good Father provided the gift in its most needful form, in its most beneficial form – and not in the fanciful way that even a well-loved child might fantasize it should be given, for children, even good children, crave to be indulged: they have shortcomings, can be capricious in their demands, and are certainly not omniscient! And this truth is also a constant and inevitable part of every Christmas as a child experiences it, because we, being children, are never willing to accept why our good, nurturing parents are busy thinking of ways to make us better Christians, and not just spoiling us in the way we would all love to be spoiled…
Brothers and sisters in Christ! In these holy days of the Nativity, as our Church lives through such historic events, let us all pray for God to bless us with the Grace of the Holy Spirit, that we might all of us comprehend, what is most beneficial for us, and why we must not fail to rejoice at the great miracle that has befallen the long-suffering people of Russia before our very eyes. Let us recollect the prayers of our childhood – and let us also remember in our own prayers today those Russian children of our own time, so many of them destitute, overcoming terrible hardships and praying for their own Christmas miracle… Let us be mindful of how our Lord Jesus Christ called on us all to preserve our own faith in a child's state of purity (Luke 18:17), how He promised us all: ask and ye shall receive (Luke 11:10). And let us accept, with pure and perfect joy, with thankfulness, with the complete trust of a child certain in the Omnipotence of the Father, that the Lord God has seen fit to give us, in the resurgence inside Russia of our Orthodox Church life, a genuine Christmas miracle, long-awaited, prayed for by millions of us for decades upon decades – and let us glorify Christ for it, for God is with us: the Wondrous Councilor, the Mighty Sovereign God, the Prince of Peace, the Ever-Lasting Father of the times to come! Amen!
Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America
The Nativity of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2007