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CANADIAN DIOCESE: January 11, 2013
Nativity Epistle of Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada
To the Clergy & the Whole Divinely Saved Flock of the Diocese of Montreal & Canada

Beloved brethren and sisters,

Throughout the forthcoming holy and great days of the Nativity of Christ, Orthodox Christians strive to bring joy to one another. In particular, we try to bring joy to children, preparing presents for them and distributing sweets. The intent of this beautiful custom is to remind the people of the gifts given to the divine Infant by the magi; but more importantly, of the divine benefactions, the spiritual gifts, which are sent down upon us from the cave of Bethlehem. The grace-filled joy of the Nativity of Christ is expressed in oue triumphal glorification of the divine Infant, not only in the holy church, but also, as much as possible, in the homes of all of us Orthodox Christians. Unfortunately, in the West they have not only all but forgotten the spiritual essence of this great event; indeed, they have distorted even the very concept of what actually happened, of what we are celebrating! We see plenty of ornamented windows, even whole streets decorated, where, however, not even a single word is uttered about the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we hear only bland greetings, no one knows what for. Parties and amusements await the revelers. But who prepares himself for the Nativity of Christ, which they do not call by its proper name? Who fasts? Who, ultimately, can recount to those close to them the wondrous and moving events of the Nativity, which soften men’s souls?

Dear brethren and sisters, let us strive during these holy days of the Nativity to maintain peace and joy within ourselves, driving evil thoughts from our hearts. In this, the preeternal Infant, Christ the Savior, will help us, just as two centuries ago, on His Nativity, He helped our glorious forefathers drive from Russia the invading armies of Napoleon. “Let us with tears of gratitude moisten His all-pure feet; let us worship Him with humility and joyous glorification, spiritually placing ourselves before the cave of Bethlehem; and at the same time let us feel pity, with all our souls, for those around us whose hearts and minds fail to share in the great event of the Nativity of Christ,” says His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anthony, the founder of our Russian Church Abroad.

“What shall we offer Thee, O Christ, in that Thou hast appeared on earth as a man for our sake?” (from a Vespers sitcheron of the feast). “As God of the world and Father of compassions, Thou hast sent to us Thine Angel of great Counsel, Who granteth us peace” (from Irmos V of Canon I of the Nativity of Christ).
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CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!

+ GABRIEL
Archbishop of Montreal & Canada
Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2012/2013