MOSCOW: January 6, 2012
Christmas Message of His Holiness Patriarch KIRILL of Moscow and All Russia to the Archpastors, Pastors, Monastics and All the Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church. Republished from the ROCOR Synod Website
Your Eminences the Archpastors, Honorable Fathers,
God-Loving Monks and Nuns, Dear Brothers and Sisters!
On this radiant and joyful feast of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, I cordially greet you all, my dear ones. On this light-bearing night together we prayerfully echo the doxology of the angels, proclaiming “great joy to all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior” (Luke 2:10-11).
Humanity, which rejected God in the Fall, discovers anew the chance to be united with its Creator and Provider. The coming of the Son of God into the world is his voluntary self-abnegation, ready to descend to a tortuous and shameful “death – even death on the cross” (Philippians 2:8). God is born in the flesh so that He may manifest His love to people and help every person willing to listen to His call to find the fullness of life.
That is why today’s feast grants to us the immutable hope of help from above in the most complex situations of our life. God, Who has not abandoned His creation and has revealed to it the way to eternity, is revealed to us in the Infant Christ, a defenseless Child in need of care and love.
All of us must retain in our hearts this Biblical image. In recalling the Divine Infant lying in a manger, we acquire a firm faith and indestructible hope in Divine Providence leading to the good of every human person. And even if in our life no support remains, if all seems to be unsure and unreliable, we are to realize clearly that the Lord can transform through His gracious power the pain, suffering and poverty of our world into happiness, joy and an abundance of spiritual gifts.
On the feast of the coming of the Savior the mental gaze of the faithful is turned towards the cradle of Christianity, the Holy Land, which was deemed worthy to be the place of the birth, abode and earthly ministry of the Lord. Today, Christ’s followers in the countries where the events of sacred history took place are experiencing difficult trials, encounter new threats to the existence of centuries-old spiritual traditions. During these radiant days of the Nativity, let us offer up ardent prayers for our brothers in the faith, the guardians of precious holy sites, the inheritors of the tradition of ancient Christianity.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). These words of the Apostle concern not only the members of a single parish, a single church community. Indeed, they embrace all of the children of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church spread throughout the world. Her unity abides not only in a single patristic faith and communion in the sacraments but also in the sharing of hardships together, in sacrificial ministry towards each other, in mutual prayer. The past year has been difficult in the life of many countries and nations, including those who live in the expanse of historical Russia: many tragic events and cataclysms have proved to be a trial of our faith and steadfastness.
However, today the worst tribulations occur not in the material but in the spiritual realm. The dangers which abide on the physical plane have a negative impact on our physical well-being and comfort.
And while making the material aspect of life more complex, they nevertheless cannot do essential harm to the life of the spirit. Yet it is precisely the spiritual dimension which sheds light on the most important and grave challenge to our view of the modern world. This challenge is aimed at the destruction of the sense of morality embedded in our souls by God. Today we are told that the human person is the measure – and sole measure – of truth, that each individual has his own truth and that each individual decides for himself what is good and what is evil. The divine truth, and this means the distinction between good and evil that is founded on this Truth, is being substituted by a moral indifference and permissiveness which destroys people’s souls and denies them eternal life. If natural disasters and wars ruin the external structure of life, then moral relativism corrodes ones conscience, making us spiritual invalids, distorts the divine laws of being and breaks the connection between creation and Creator.
We are to resist this danger in the first instance by calling to our help the Most-Pure Virgin and the host of God’s saints so that through their intercession before the Throne of the “Sovereign Lord, holy and True” (Revelations 6:10), now venerated in the image of the newborn Infant, they may beseech for us the strength to combat sin and fight “against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). It is important to learn how to recognize the deceits and illusions of earthly well-being in our destructive addictions, in our greedy strivings, in the temptations of advertisements, in the entertainment industry and political propaganda. It is important at all times to listen to the voice of our conscience warning us of the danger of sin, to be able to make our actions fit the commandments of the Gospel.
Now, as always, each Christian is called upon to assert through his everyday actions the dignity of a righteous way of life, to consciously resist moral relativism and the cult of getting rich quickly. We are surrounded by a great number of infirm, sick and lonely people. There are also many who out of economic necessity have left their homes in search of a wage and need our care, often finding themselves in a hostile environment. Every pastor and layman is to participate in the social, missionary and public life of the Church. As St Innocent of Chersonese says: “It is only in the light of Christ that we can see God, see ourselves and see the world in its true aspect; it is only through the guidance of heavenly Revelation that we can find the path leading to life eternal.”
With those who hope for the consolation of Christ we are to share warmly the joy of today’s feast. Each of us can bring the light of the star of Bethlehem to those close to us and far from us – to our colleagues, friends, relatives and neighbors.
In the past year, working with the state authorities, public organizations and the representatives of the business community, many initiatives have been undertaken that can unite people and revive the strong spiritual and moral foundations of public life.
The development of this cooperation, as well as witness to the precious unity of our Church, was aided by my trips throughout Russia, Ukraine and Moldova. These visits enriched my experience of prayer and communion with the faithful and, I hope, helped to strengthen our spiritual ties. In divine worship attended by a huge number of people, the strength of faith and prayer which is the beauty of Orthodoxy, the beauty and power of “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), manifested itself in a special way.
In congratulating all of you on the Nativity of Christ and the New Year, I prayerfully wish that you abide unfailingly in the joy of the Lord who was incarnate so that “we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Amen.
PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIAThe Nativity of Christ
В ночь с 6 на 7 января 2012 года, в праздник Рождества Господа Бога и Спаса нашего Иисуса Христа, Святейший Патриарх Московский и всея Руси Кирилл совершил в кафедральном соборном Храме Христа Спасителя Рождественские богослужения — великое повечерие, утреню и Божественную литургию.
NEW YORK: January 2, 2012
Nativity Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Most Reverend Fellow Archpastors, Most Honorable Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!
With profoundly-heartfelt spiritual joy I greet all the faithful children of the Russian Church Abroad, spread all over the world like kernels of God’s wheat, with the great and salutary Feast of Christ’s Nativity! May the Lord send all of us this joy which saves the world. This gladness is the fruit of the struggle of faith, and stems from the triumph of the Incarnation, from God becoming man, from hearing the celestial doxology from the heavens above the city of Bethlehem.
During the celebratory days which follow the Feast we especially feel God’s love for us, sinners. For though mankind turned away from its Maker, the Creator became a creature; Almighty God came down from the heavens and became one of us. He is born a helpless Infant in a humble cave where livestock is herded in bad weather. God becomes man to arrange for a mystical encounter, to destroy the barrier between Heaven and earth which was wrought by man’s sin. This encounter must take place within our innermost selves and in our relationships with those in whom the image of God is reflected—our neighbors.
During these holy and joyful days each parish church becomes Bethlehem and the heart of every man becomes the cave. All over the world, God’s people fill our churches. But what takes place in the cave of the heart of each one of us when Christ and His Holy Family come knocking? Does our heart open? Does it receive the Lord and what does the Lord find inside? Let us contemplate this, dear fathers in Christ, brothers and sisters. Let us remember the words of Abba Makarios recorded in the book “Sayings Worth Remembering.”
Once, traveling across Egypt with a group of his brethren, Abba Makarios heard the words of a boy directed to his mother: “Dear Mother, a certain rich man loves me, but I hate him. Another man, a pauper, hates me, but I love him.” On hearing these words, Abba Makarios was surprised. The brethren asked him: “What do these words mean, and why have they amazed you so, father?” The elder answered them: “In truth, the Lord is wealthy and loves us, yet we do not want to obey Him. However, our enemy, the devil, is poor and hates us: yet we love his impurity.”
So, let us open wide our hearts and welcome the Son of God Who has come to earth. Let us add our voice to the doxology of the angels and worship Him with the magi. Let us rejoice in His love and mercy for us. Let each one of us, according to our meager strength, respond with love to His love. Let us find fulfillment in communion with Him. And let each of us exemplify a virtuous Christian life, thereby supporting our neighbor and showing him our heartfelt disposition.
God is with us with His grace and love for mankind always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
With love in Christ Who is born and a request for prayers,
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia