SAN FRANCISCO: January 11, 2011
Nativity Epistle of Archbishop Kyrill
Christ Is Born! Glorify Him!
We celebrate, each year at the feast of the Nativity of our Lord, a wonderful miracle by which our world, and all of history, has forever been changed. God has become man. The Creator has come amongst His creatures, taking the whole of our lives into His. We hear at matins on the feast: “Creation is filled with mighty joy,” for the Lord “has overthrown the ancient curse.” Our merciful God has united Himself to the creation He fashioned, “becoming man,” in the words of St Athanasius the Great, so that our sin might be overcome “and man might become God.”
But though our hearts stand in wonder at this miracle, though we look forward each year to singing the festal hymns and celebrating the Lord’s Nativity, we are confronted at the same time with the sorrowful brokenness of our world. This has been a year of great trials for many: the global economic downturn, record unemployment, hostilities and struggles in numerous parts of the world. It is especially when the season is one that proclaims rejoicing and comfort, that the harsh reality of the absence of joy, of the lack of comfort, is felt by some most poignantly. Among so many who are suffering, impoverished, lonely, sick and struggling, this season—and perhaps particularly so this year—brings with it challenging questions: “Where, in my life, is the joy promised by Christ’s birth? Have I somehow been forgotten in the miracle of this Feast?”
My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called in this season to remember that the joy of the Nativity, the joy of our Orthodox faith, is not a worldly joy, and the comfort that it brings is “not of this world.” While society struggles with the very real challenges of financial, social and political hardship (to which we are called to respond with prayer, love and action), our loving Saviour comes directly to the heart of each person with the pronouncement that there is a joy beyond these struggles and a peace beyond such turmoil. Our joy is found in the fact that the real cause of all sorrow and pain, namely our sin, is conquered in Christ. Our peace is found in the coming of the Prince of Peace, whose birth in the flesh means that suffering and pain and death are all become transitory things; that beyond all these, out of all these, we are given glad tidings—the promise of life everlasting.
In this, there is true joy for all the earth. Our suffering and trials cannot separate us from the love of our man-befriending God. No power or force can keep us from the love which “bowed the heavens and came down.” And so, let us join all creation in being filled with a mighty joy this Nativity season. Let us bow our knees and lift up our hearts, that we may sing out in the words of the Nativity canon: “Christ is born, glorify Him! Christ is come from heaven, go to meet Him! Christ is on earth, be ye lifted up! Sing to the Lord, all the earth; sing out with gladness, all ye people. For He is glorified!” Amen.
Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America
The Nativity of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 25 December/January 7, 2011