Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of blessed memory
His Final Nativity Epistle
Humble Anthony, by God's mercy Metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia, greets his God-loving flock, scattered throughout the world, on the Nativity of Christ and the Epiphany, and wishes all health and salvation, and moreover to remember that we are temporary visitors here on earth, who must drink from the chalice of the Lord until our death, which will not tarry, and if we sense that it does, then we must think even more about our passage through death and prepare for it with prayer and struggle against our passions.
And if we all fulfilled such wishes for pious wisdom given to us from the Holy Fathers of the Church, and before that in Holy Scripture, then our lives would be much easier and we would always remember the Paschal words of instruction: "Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free."
Further, if we prepared for this eventuality with prayer, it would be appropriate for us to recall the words of St. John Chrysostom read during the days of Holy Pascha: "Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave."
Alas, hardly anyone takes these words to heart, living carelessly, with idle amusements and sinful recreation, which do not give genuine joy but only cover over the sadness of an un-Christian life.
I hope that upon the arrival of the joyful days of the Nativity and Epiphany, the rays of Christian hope will once more shine in the hearts of the faithful, through their sinful acts: "Even as I sin, but depart not from Thee," and the all-forgiving events surrounding the star of Bethlehem, once again give us life in our hearts and our minds, especially now, when one can hope that our entire flock in the diaspora can glorify the Born Savior with one mouth and one heart. We are given such hopes from the expressions of those Russian bishops who were once far from us but now desire to unite with all of us in one Church Abroad and under one hierarchy. In America, this unification is already taking place, and in Western Europe, we must still wait for it, for first the Constantinople Exarchate must be dissolved, otherwise full unity of church life cannot be achieved there. Still, we have hope that our unity will arrive with the mercy of the Lord, who does not reward us for our sins, but forgiving us through His grace.
Those living during the events in Bethlehem were no better than us and yet the Lord did not deprive them in this night of joy and holy consolation.
This is why the in the church singing of the Nativity of Christ, the Church relentlessly reminds us of the meaning of this great event in the salvation of mankind, the appearance on this earth of the God-Child, His Most-Pure Mother and other witnesses of His grace-filled birth in the Bethlehem cave. May the Merciful Lord allow us sinners also, together with the shepherds and His Most-Pure Mother and the carpenter Joseph sing His praises: "grant that we too, who are on earth, may with pure hearts give glory to you." Amen.