OCA Chancery - Oyster Bay Cove, New York
December 3, 2008
Beloved in Christ,
Christ is in our midst!
As we prepare for the celebration of the First Coming in the Flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must fast and pray, and especially give alms, to be able to enter into the joy and grace of the Feast. By prayer and fasting, we empty ourselves of the chaos of our passions and the distractions of the world, so that we might have peace in our souls and silence in our hearts. By this, we identify ourselves with the silence and peace of the Mother of God, who accepted the Divine Presence within her self, so that the Word might become flesh and dwell among us. Let us also let the Word become incarnate in our hearts and souls and bodies, our thoughts and actions, that we might become instruments of His Will, being recreated in Christ for good works.
We give alms as a way of overcoming our selfishness, of detaching ourselves from grasping for possessions and money, so that the generosity of God who gave His Son for us may shine forth from us. We give alms to those in need, as a way of honoring Christ, who identified Himself with the poor, the suffering, the persecuted and the oppressed. Whoever is poor, whoever is suffering, whoever is rejected and oppressed, is Christ; let us minister to Him in them. Let us open our minds and hearts, our homes and our wallets, to those suffering from loneliness and despair, those who have lost their jobs and fear to lose their dignity, the orphans and widows-the fatherless and divorced, elderly, abandoned and alone. It is good to write checks to organizations. But the spiritual riches come from consoling Christ by serving those in need, personally, with warm affection.
Ours is a time of great uncertainty, fear and war. The economy is teetering, unemployment is mushrooming. Tens of thousands of our children, brothers and sisters are in peril at war in distant lands. Of those who have returned, how many are broken and in despair, not knowing where to turn from the unending nightmares in their memories and their minds. We must especially reach out to them and their families, Orthodox or not, to comfort and console and give them our help, as individuals and as Christian communities.
The Coming of Christ is a message of hope, the banishment of despair. True spiritual striving is the means by which we cast out the works and thoughts of darkness, and let the Holy Spirit heal and console our souls. Let us cleanse our souls through confession, accepting Christ’s forgiveness, forgiving everyone who has offended or hurt us, and forgiving ourselves. By repentance we must cast out all resentments and anger, bitterness and self-loathing, selfishness and carnality, self-serving desires for revenge and retribution, all that entombs us in guilt.
Then with a pure mind and a broken heart enkindled by love, overflowing with compassion for those suffering and in need, we might give birth to Christ in our lives, that we might behold His Glory, the Glory of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Wishing you joy and peace, as we prepare together to receive Christ Come in the Flesh, in the Holy Mysteries, in prayer, and in the service of the needy, I remain faithfully yours,
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada