Nativity Epistle of His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad

NEW YORK: Nativity of Christ 2020/2021

Your Graces, broth­er-arch­pas­tors, rev­erend fathers,
beloved broth­ers and sis­ters in the Lord!

Greetings on the Nativity of Christ!

By God’s inef­fa­ble good­ness, we enter once more into the joy­ous days of the great feasts of Christ’s Nativ­i­ty and Theo­phany. I sin­cere­ly greet you all with this world-sav­ing joy! The feat of faith and its fruit in life must be this joy: from the tri­umph of the Theo­phany — God’s man­i­fes­ta­tion and incar­na­tion — and the sound of the Heav­en­ly dox­ol­o­gy and oth­er­world­ly peace being sung over Beth­le­hem.
Every­thing that tran­spired in that sim­ple cave in Beth­le­hem and in the holy Riv­er Jor­dan, both espe­cial­ly revered by the entire Chris­t­ian world, bore the deep hall­marks of mod­esty and humil­i­ty. In His Nativ­i­ty, the Cre­ator of the uni­verse, Who holds all things in His right hand, becomes cre­ation; the Almighty God becomes a help­less babe. The Most Blessed Vir­gin Theotokos humbly receives the prophe­cy of Syme­on, which fore­tells for her the pain of a dou­ble-edged sword, which will pierce her moth­er­ly heart. The magi from the East humbly adore the New­born King and bring Him gifts, hav­ing been led by a mirac­u­lous star. In His Theo­phany, Christ, receiv­ing bap­tism of John, humbly bows His head under the hand of the Fore­run­ner. See­ing “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the Prophet, bewil­dered, at first refus­es to bap­tize Him, but hear­ing the words of the Sav­ior: “for thus it becometh us to ful­fill all right­eous­ness” (Matthew 3:15), humbly agrees.

Humil­i­ty is the state of rec­on­cil­ing our­selves to God’s will, when man joy­ous­ly gives him­self over to it, ful­ly trusts it, and is grate­ful for all things: for life’s mer­cies and tri­als. Humil­i­ty is not weak­ness of char­ac­ter, as one hears again from among sec­u­lar folk, but rather demands deep faith, courage, and inner strength.

It was this great gift of God that was pos­sessed by the Ven­er­a­ble Nun-Mar­tyrs of Ala­paevsk, mur­dered by the Bol­she­viks: Grand Duchess Eliz­a­beth Feodor­ov­na and Nun Bar­bara (Yakovl­e­va), whose relics were tri­umphal­ly greet­ed by His Beat­i­tude Dami­an, Patri­arch of Jerusalem and All Pales­tine, when they were brought to Russ­ian Geth­se­mane in Jan­u­ary 1921. The cen­ten­ni­al of this event, as well as of the I All-Dias­po­ra Coun­cil, will be prayer­ful­ly com­mem­o­rat­ed in the new year, along with the 40th anniver­sary of the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the Synax­is of New Mar­tyrs and Con­fes­sors of the Russ­ian Church.

Russ­ian Geth­se­mane — the Con­vent of the Equal-of-the-Apos­tles Mary Mag­da­lene in Jerusalem, with its majes­tic Roy­al church con­tain­ing the reli­quar­ies of the New Nun-Mar­tyrs – is an espe­cial­ly pre­cious inher­i­tance of the Russ­ian Church Abroad, which through­out these decades has been pro­tect­ed with great care by her mis­sion in Jerusalem. Thanks to the active involve­ment of Arch­bish­op Anas­tassy (Grib­anovsky), future First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Church Aboard, who 100 years ago was appoint­ed admin­is­tra­tor of the Russ­ian Eccle­si­as­ti­cal Mis­sion in Jerusalem, the lat­ter was able to receive recog­ni­tion of its rights by the then-Eng­lish gov­ern­ment in Pales­tine, and not only pre­serve a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the Russ­ian church­es and holy sites in the Holy Land, but also to fra­ter­nal­ly sup­port the Local Church of Jerusalem. For instance,

in 1921, work­ing along­side the Most Blessed Patri­arch Dami­an to over­come strife with­in the Jerusalem Patri­ar­chate, Arch­bish­op Anas­tassy took part in the hier­ar­chal con­se­cra­tion of His Grace, Bish­op Tim­o­theus, who would lat­er become Pri­mate of the “Moth­er of Church­es.” With the bless­ing and care of Arch­bish­op Anas­tassy, new con­vents were estab­lished, includ­ing at Geth­se­mane; a new school was found­ed in Bethany, and land was acquired on the Riv­er Jor­dan. Hav­ing become First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Church Abroad, the Most Blessed Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­tassy con­tin­ued to care for the needs and neces­si­ties of the monas­tics in the Holy Land, until his repose in 1965.

In these holy days of Christ­mas­tide, the brethren of the Russ­ian Eccle­si­as­ti­cal Mis­sion in Jerusalem and the sis­ters of her con­vents make haste to Beth­le­hem and to the sacred banks of the Riv­er Jor­dan, in order to prayer­ful­ly hon­or these holy sites. Unit­ing in spir­it to their ven­er­a­tion, and greet­ing them with these upcom­ing fes­tal days, I ask their holy prayers for our Church: for our arch­pas­tors, cler­gy, monas­tics, parish­es, and fam­i­lies!
In their minds press­ing their lips to the hum­ble manger in Beth­le­hem, that “con­tain­er of the Uncon­tain­able,” the Ven­er­a­ble Nun-Mar­tyrs of Ala­paevsk accept­ed griev­ous suf­fer­ings and a mar­tyric death in obe­di­ence to God’s will. The above-men­tioned Met­ro­pol­i­tan Anas­tassy, as the Holy Hier­ar­ch John (Max­i­movitch) attests, self­less­ly “shared with the Russ­ian exiles their sor­rows and mis­for­tunes,” dilut­ing their bur­den with the spir­it of his humil­i­ty, meek­ness, and love. All of this, of course, must also inspire us to humbly bear our cur­rent sor­rows and temp­ta­tions. There­fore, pious­ly kiss­ing the Divine Infant depict­ed on the icon of the Nativ­i­ty and humbly bow­ing before His prov­i­den­tial right hand, let us with patience await deliv­er­ance from the tri­als that beset us in the past year. And let the new year 2021 be a time of boun­ti­ful­ly flow­ing mer­cy, strength, and help from God, which I wish for every one of you!

Amen.

Ask­ing your holy prayers, I remain yours with love in the New­born Christ,

+Hilar­i­on,
Met­ro­pol­i­tan of East­ern Amer­i­ca and New York
First Hier­ar­ch of the Russ­ian Church Abroad