Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Our Hearts — The Only Gift Worthy in the Eyes of God

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

Beloved in the Lord Brethren Arch­pas­tors, Hon­or­able Fathers, 
Broth­ers and Sis­ters, God-Beloved Flock of the Russ­ian Church Abroad:

It is with a feel­ing of the great­est joy that I express my heart­felt greet­ings on the Nativ­i­ty of our Lord Jesus Christ and the approach­ing feast day of the Bap­tism of the Lord!

As expressed in one of our church prayers cel­e­brat­ing this holy event, when God deemed it good to appear on Earth, the entire world has­tened to bring him gifts: “The Angels offer a hymn; the heav­ens, a star; the Wise Men, gifts; the shep­herds, their won­der; the earth, its cave; the wilder­ness, a manger.”

What will we offer as a gift to the Almighty God, Who is now born a help­less Infant? My son, give me thine heart,1 says the Lord. Our hearts, our love, is the only gift most wor­thy in the eyes of God. To offer God one’s heart means to give Him all of our­selves: our mind in obey­ing the Gospel, our will and obe­di­ence to the com­mand­ments, sub­mit­ting and active­ly striv­ing for God, not as a ser­vant but as His off­spring, for whom hap­pi­ness and bliss is to live in Christ and with Him.

In this past year, the full­ness of the Local Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church prayer­ful­ly marked the 100th anniver­sary of the sor­row­ful events con­nect­ed with the Rev­o­lu­tion and the begin­ning of the epoch of god­less per­se­cu­tions, but also the 100th anniver­sary of the reestab­lish­ment of the Patri­ar­chate in Rus­sia, when St Tikhon, Patri­arch of Moscow and All Rus­sia the Con­fes­sor, ascend­ed to the Patri­ar­chal throne, which was to be his per­son­al Gol­go­tha. In 2018, we intend to con­tin­ue this prayer­ful com­mem­o­ra­tion, remem­ber­ing the Holy Hiero­mar­tyrs Vladimir of Kiev, Andronik, Arch­bish­op of Perm, the Right­eous Roy­al Pas­sion-bear­ers, Holy Grand Duchess Eliz­a­beth and Nun Bar­bara, who offered their hearts to Christ, the Church, and their peo­ple to the extent that no earth­ly pow­er could tear them from God’s love, no earth­ly cir­cum­stances: not tribu­la­tion, or dis­tress, or per­se­cu­tion.2

And so as we cel­e­brate the Nativ­i­ty of Christ and par­tic­i­pate in the prayer­ful com­mem­o­ra­tions of this year, let us seek out the renew­al of our inner strength and edi­fi­ca­tion, let us pay heed to both Holy Scrip­ture and the his­to­ry of our Father­land, let us strive to learn of the lives of these holy peo­ple and con­tem­plate their per­son­al­i­ties in order to enrich our­selves spir­i­tu­al­ly and intel­lec­tu­al­ly. Let us bring these labors as a gift to the Child Who offered Him­self on the Cross, remem­ber­ing that we must remove from our­selves our wicked and dark hearts, so that in exchange for this Sac­ri­fice we receive the gift of peace in our hearts, bright and renewed, a gift earned by the Holy Mar­tyrs and Con­fes­sors of the Russ­ian Church.

As we bend our knee before the Christ Child and joy­ous­ly expe­ri­ence this world-sav­ing event, I prayer­ful­ly ask on behalf of all of you God’s mer­cies and bless­ings, heav­en­ly aid in your labors and good deeds, good health, joy­ful cel­e­bra­tions and a hap­py New Year!

With love in the Nascent Christ,


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

Nativ­i­ty of Christ, 2017/2018