NEW YORK: January 3, 2008
Nativity Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad
Eminent Fellow Hierarchs,
Dear Fathers, Brothers, Sisters and Children in the Lord!
With a feeling of great spiritual joy I greet all of you on the world-saving feast of the Birth of Christ, foretold by the prophets, and bringing heavenly joy to all people, for there has been accomplished the “great mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). I congratulate all of you with this great joy! May the Divine Infant Christ grant all of us this joy. The struggle of faith and its fruits in our days must be that joy which comes from hearing the heavenly doxology and the feast of the Incarnation of God.
The Feast of the Birth of Christ, like the approaching feast of the Baptism of the Lord, elicits feelings of love and thanksgiving in the heart of every believer. Just consider: God Himself is coming to us, He is coming down to earth; the Unlimited Almighty Creator is entering the limitations of creation, is born as a helpless infant in a poor cave in Bethlehem, along with others, He approaches John the Baptist and humbly bows His Head under his hand in the waters of the Jordan. What humility and condescension, what love for mankind! God speaks with us in our language and in our image.
God became man so that His mystical union with us might be accomplished. This union must take place in our inner life, and it is possible only in the Church. For in the pious partaking of the Holy Mysteries is accomplished the full merging of human essence with the God-man, i.e., the three parts of human essence, spirit, soul, and body, are united with the two natures, Divine and human, of our Savior. Thus, this mystical union is accomplished in every pious communicant and the miracle of the Incarnation of God is repeated, for, as St Simeon the New Theologian writes, “In receiving the spirit of our Master and God, we become partakers of His Divinity and essence; in eating His all-pure Body, we truly and fully become related to Him and share one body with Him.”
In these holy days I pray to the Divine Infant Christ that in the coming New Year of His Goodness He may enlighten our Russian Orthodox Church and our Russian people, in the homeland and in the Diaspora, with the light of the Star of Bethlehem, bestowing on everyone the peace that the angels proclaimed on the night of the Nativity. Let each of us be inspired by the call of John the Forerunner, who “cried in the wilderness to all the people: ‘Repent and be cleansed while there is yet time. For lo, Christ is at hand, Who delivers the world from corruption.'” (from the irmos of the 6th ode of the canon for Theophany). For only repentance, a moral change, and turning to God will allow us to actually enter the Kingdom of Christ, that is, His Church, and profit by everything She offers: the mysteries, the divine services, the fasts, and in general, by all of Her treasures and grace-filled means for our salvation, renewal, and deification.
May God help all of us to live a genuine Church life and become spiritually wealthy. Then our life will become an unceasing Divine Liturgy, a continual feast of communion with the Living God, Who has become a Living Man!
With love in the Incarnate Christ,
First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad
Nativity of Christ, 2007/2008