Feast of the Nativity of Christ 2003
To the Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in the Lord:
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
With these words, the Prophet Isaiah expressed the hopes of his people as they anticipated the coming of the Messiah, the One destined to bring about the long awaited reconciliation between mankind and its Creator. It was the prophets of old who struggled to prepare for the Savior’s appearance, who proclaimed the ultimate Light in the midst of unbearable darkness, and who revealed “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9). In the Incarnation of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, their words - and the hopes and longings of God’s People - were fulfilled, as the only-begotten Son of God reconciled the world with Himself, offering new life to all who would receive it.
Sadly, the words of the prophets too often fell on deaf ears. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him,” we read in the Prologue of the Gospel of Saint John. “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11-12). There were those who, failing to grasp the fullness of the prophets’ words, anticipated an earthly king who would liberate them from a hostile empire. Others, refusing to repent, rejected His words and denied His miracles, sensing that their own positions would be threatened: “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him” (John 11:48). Those who shouted “Hosanna!” upon His entrance into Jerusalem were one and the same as those who shouted “Crucify Him!” four days later.
Ultimately, the Light of the world could not be overcome by darkness. The One Whose throne was a manger, Whose royal court was composed of shepherds, Whose choristers were the very angels who surround the heavenly throne, revealed that He was indeed “Immanuel” - “God with us.”
Today’s world is not unlike that into which Our Lord was born. Two thousand years after the Incarnation, the words of the prophets - as well as the words of the One Whom the prophets proclaimed - still fall on deaf ears. The name of Jesus Christ, the Savior, has been banished in many public forums, and the life-giving truth which He revealed to the world has, in too many instances, been suppressed and even rejected. Darkness once again covers the earth, and how unfortunate it is that we find countless souls with little or no understanding of the “God (Who is) with us.”
As we share in the joy of this most holy feast, we cannot isolate ourselves from the world in which we live. Hostility, anger and fear, in many instances, have replaced hope. The lure of this world can indeed be potent. The Light born from the Holy Virgin may still be denied and mocked, but He - and that which He came into this world to reveal - can never be darkened, nor can it be destroyed. In this we find cause to hope, to place our faith in the Light and Love of the world, and to find comfort as the Holy Virgin comforted her newborn son in the manger, as well as on the cross.
“Be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27), Our Lord tells Peter - and us! “Be of good cheer!” The Light of all still breaks through this darkened world, embracing and warming those who would approach Him and accept that which He so graciously and freely offers. And may we, in faithfulness to the Light, become lights to the world, bringing the Good News of “God with us” to any and all who would receive it!
I offer my greetings to the clergy, clergy wives, clergy widows and clergy families, to the monastics, the faithful, and especially to all the families of our Church and extend my blessing and prayerful best wishes for a joy-filled celebration of the Lord’s Nativity and a New Year that is abundant in divine blessings. May the Lord continue to bless you all with health, happiness, and all that is needful for eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
With love in the newborn Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada