Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful
of The Orthodox Church in America
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men” [Luke 2:14].
The angelic proclamation at the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the good news of the restoration of all things. In Christ, all things are made new, God is made man, and the order of nature is restored. All things are filled with His glory. All creation itself sings with joy, radiating the glory of God, while the angelic hosts join in praise of the One Who has been made manifest to us.
There is no separation between God and us, because God has taken our flesh and been born of the Virgin. He has emptied Himself in order to fill us with Himself. He has drawn us to Himself that He might fulfill every aspect of our lives with His joy, His presence, and His righteousness.
In light of this great mystery, how are we to respond to God?
Our spiritual life involves our every breath—how we live in this world and conduct ourselves in our neighborhoods, at work and in school, in the midst of our families and communities and parishes. It involves bringing the remembrance of God into every aspect of our lives. During the Nativity Fast, as we prepared ourselves for the coming of the Savior, we were offered the opportunity to repent, to seek renewal, and to recommit ourselves to Christ and His Church. We discerned those areas of our lives in which we turned away from God, once again opening ourselves to His radiant presence, that He might heal and raise us up. Even when things seem dark and dismal, when we struggle to find the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, we can regain our spiritual focus—that focus which is once again restored to us through the Incarnation of the One Who, as the “Light of the world,” leads us.
Too often, we allow ourselves to be blinded to the light of God’s presence. We become preoccupied with anger and pride, lusts and the desire for material things, and—even worse—gossip, slander, judgment, criticism, and condemnation of those whom we should accept as our brothers and sisters. These sins must be confronted, confessed, and stopped. It is only by repentance that we can accept Christ back into our lives when we have banished Him by our sins. It is only by forgiving those who have offended us that we can be freed from slavery to the demons of anger and bitterness. And, indeed, it is only through repentance and forgiveness that we come to remembrance of Him as the One Who has come to set us free.
God comes and reveals Himself in the midst of our lives—if we let him—just as He came to the obscurity of a cave in Bethlehem. He exposed the envy and hatred of Herod. He was intuitively known to the simple shepherds—the “pure of heart”—but those immersed in the bitterness of sin “knew Him not.” His Mother was slandered and condemned by those around her; how, then, can we slander? He was adored by the Wise Men of Persia, but those who, in their pride thought they were wise, could not understand.
Giving thanks to God for our healing and salvation, let us join with the angels and the shepherds, and all creation in the song of praise, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will to men!”
With love in the Newborn Lord,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada