Nativity Epistle of
HILARION,
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Moved by the most pro­found feel­ings of fra­ter­nal love and joy for the Sav­ior of the World born in Beth­le­hem, I con­grat­u­late the arch­pas­tors, cler­gy­men, monas­tics and all the faith­ful flock of the Russ­ian Church Abroad on this great and holy feast of the Nativ­i­ty of Christ!

O, blessed Nativ­i­ty night!

On this holy night, the Son of God meek­ly descend­ed to Earth and was born in a hum­ble Beth­le­hem cave. He brought news of the Sal­va­tion of all mankind, and by His exam­ple of humil­i­ty and self-sac­ri­fice point­ed the way to eter­nal blessed­ness. The angels praised the Birth of Christ with the words, Glo­ry to God in the High­est, peace on Earth and good will toward men!  (Lk. 2:14). The whole world, heed­ing this won­drous song, became a form of tem­ple and altar, where a unique Divine ser­vice was invis­i­bly being per­formed, dur­ing which divine hymns from the heav­en­ly abodes merged with those of suf­fer­ing human­i­ty.

In our trou­bled days, when the Gospel com­mand­ments of patience, humil­i­ty and broth­er­ly love resound with par­tic­u­lar force, we bear wit­ness to internecine strife, bru­tal per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians, all forms of polit­i­cal fer­vor and social dis­cord. The human heart races at the mere thought of these great tribu­la­tions. We can­not help but pose the ques­tion: is this how the world is to hon­or its God, its Cre­ator and Sav­ior? As we cel­e­brate this holy event, let us lift up our prayers for broth­er­ly uni­ty and under­stand­ing, for patience and mutu­al respect with­in soci­ety, and for peace among nations. Let us unite in our church­es dur­ing these days, leav­ing aside at least for a while our earth­ly cares and trou­bles, let us offer the God-Child our fer­vent faith and hope in sal­va­tion, let us fill our lives with Chris­t­ian virtues.

As we enter the new year of 2017, I pon­der the humil­i­ty of God Who became Man and can­not help but remem­ber the humil­i­ty of His Holi­ness Patri­arch Tikhon. One hun­dred years ago, after his elec­tion at the All-Russ­ian Local Church Coun­cil, he meek­ly accept­ed the wood­en staff of the Pri­mate of the See of Moscow, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Peter. Let us turn our atten­tion to the image of this holy hier­ar­ch-con­fes­sor, who togeth­er with the entire Russ­ian Church ascend­ed the Gol­go­tha of sor­rows and humil­i­a­tion! In those hor­ri­fy­ing years, a spe­cial host of mar­tyrs for the faith rose up, pass­ing through fire and water, endur­ing abuse and injury, chains and impris­on­ment, tor­tured, not accept­ing deliv­er­ance; that they might obtain a bet­ter res­ur­rec­tion (Heb. 11:35). In the spir­i­tu­al achieve­ments of His Holi­ness Patri­arch Tikhon and the mar­tyrs of the 20th cen­tu­ry, a pro­found love for God and neigh­bor was revealed, and also unlim­it­ed devo­tion to the Will of God. May the self-sac­ri­fi­cial pod­vig of the mar­tyrs who suf­fered in the years of god­less per­se­cu­tions serve as an exam­ple of faith and piety not only for us, but for all Ortho­dox Chris­tians!

As we noet­i­cal­ly kiss the holy manger of Beth­le­hem, let us pious­ly pray to the Divine Child that this 21st cen­tu­ry, in con­trast to the last one, will be a time of build­ing the Church and of mankind turn­ing to God, that the seeds sown by the suf­fer­ing of the Holy New Mar­tyrs and Con­fes­sors of Rus­sia will con­tin­ue to bring forth abun­dant fruits of faith, hope and love in human hearts. Let us pray to Him that He grant us spir­i­tu­al peace and true Chris­t­ian life, so that we would be to our neigh­bors a light of the world (Jn 8:12) and the salt of the earth (Mt. 5:13).

With love in the Incar­nate Lord,

+HILARION,

Met­ro­pol­i­tan of East­ern Amer­i­ca and New York,
First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church Out­side of Rus­sia

 Nativ­i­ty of Christ, 2016/2017.