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

Most Rev­erend Broth­er-Arch­pas­tors, most-hon­ored Fathers, dear Broth­ers and Sis­ters!

With a feel­ing of hum­ble grat­i­tude and love toward the Lord I greet you all with the “begin­ning of all feasts,” as the Gold­en-tongued1 calls the Nativ­i­ty of Christ, which we now cel­e­brate! Let not the grace of God, which shines for us from the low­ly cave in Beth­le­hem and appears on the banks of the Jor­dan, cease to pour forth upon us, warm­ing our spir­its that car­ry the woe­ful inher­i­tance of Adam through heav­en­ly com­fort and peace, bless­ing our per­son­al, fam­i­ly, parish-church and monastery lives, our rou­tine labor and every char­i­ta­ble, soci­etal, and espe­cial­ly eccle­sial activ­i­ty!

May this New Year become a time of God’s good plea­sure, and of His all-pow­er­ful aid, and may He renew and for­ti­fy our strength for the wor­thy offer­ing of thanks to Him and prayer­ful com­mem­o­ra­tion of our pre­de­ces­sors in the Jubilee year of the cen­te­nary of the Russ­ian Church Abroad!

How did the Russ­ian Church Abroad come to be?  In Novem­ber, 1920, a defeat­ed but unyield­ing Russ­ian Ortho­dox peo­ple aban­doned the bor­ders of their beloved land, and into exile went hun­dreds of thou­sands of offi­cers, sol­diers, cos­sacks, peas­ants, landown­ers, and labor­ers. With them went the pas­tors who cared for them. These arch­pas­tors and cler­gy did not depart in a dis­or­ga­nized fash­ion for whilethey were still in the ter­ri­to­ry of the Father­land, with the bless­ing of the Holy Hier­ar­ch Tikhon, the Patri­arch-Con­fes­sor of All Rus­sia, they cre­at­ed the Supreme Church Author­i­ty in the south of Rus­sia.

How were the lead­ers of the Russ­ian Church sup­posed to act, find­ing them­selves abroad?  Guid­ed by love toward the per­se­cut­ed Moth­er Church and the 39th Canon of the VI Ecu­meni­cal Coun­cil which spoke of an anal­o­gous case, when part of the pop­u­la­tion of Cyprus aban­doned its home­land, “in order to free them­selves from hea­then slav­ery”, and thus the Russ­ian hier­ar­chs re-formed the Supreme Church Author­i­ty abroad.  Besides this, chas­ing the flee­ing mass­es of emi­grants the famous and clear­ly divine­ly inspired Ukaz No. 3622 of 7/20 Novem­ber, 1920 is sent by the Holy Hier­ar­ch Tikhon and the Holy Syn­od with him. The bish­ops out­side of Rus­sia took the first steps of their unique ser­vice in the Roy­al City3 act­ing on the bless­ing of the Locum Tenens of the Patri­ar­chal Throne of Con­stan­tino­ple, Met­ro­pol­i­tan Doroth­e­os, who wrote at that time with respect to Met­ro­pol­i­tan Antho­ny (Khrapovit­sky) of Kiev and Gali­cia: “Under your guid­ance the Patri­ar­chate allows every begin­ning, for the Patri­ar­chate knows that Your Emi­nence will not com­mit any uncanon­i­cal act.” Lat­er this Supreme Church Author­i­ty abroad, renamed as the Russ­ian Church Abroad, was trans­ferred to Ser­bia, where it found itself under the tru­ly fra­ter­nal pro­tec­tion of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church, with whom we now share com­mon fathers and teach­ers.

In 1924, when Patri­arch Gre­go­ry of Con­stan­tino­ple sup­port­ed the ren­o­va­tion­ists and demand­ed that the Holy Hier­ar­ch and Con­fes­sor Tikhon ” imme­di­ate­ly remove your­self from the admin­is­tra­tion of the Church,” many under­stood the fer­vent desire of the exiled hier­ar­chs of the Russ­ian Church not to be dis­solved into the exist­ing Local Church­es, but in all things to pre­serve the liv­ing and organ­ic bond with the per­se­cut­ed Church in Rus­sia. Since that time, the Russ­ian Church Abroad, with lov­ing and ded­i­cat­ed eye, kept watch over the Church’s life in the Father­land, rejoiced in Her suc­cess­es, mourned over Her temp­ta­tions, and force­ful­ly wit­nessed to Her suf­fer­ings, pious­ly ven­er­at­ing the strug­gles of those, who fear­less­ly went to their death for the sake of Christ.

And let us also beg for this all-encompassing renewal as we noetically worship the Divine Christ-child, born now in Bethlehem, with which feast I again congratulate all of you, sincerely wishing that we spend these holy days, and the jubilee year, with Joy in the Lord, as a family, in philial manner, prayerfully, and in an ecclesial spirit!

Mark­ing this glo­ri­ous jubilee, which will con­tin­ue with the cel­e­bra­tion of next year’s cen­te­nary of the I All-Dias­po­ra Coun­cil, we do not plan to cel­e­brate either the fear­some events, as a result of which many Russ­ian Ortho­dox peo­ple found them­selves in a strange land, nor the bit­ter divi­sion of the Moth­er Church thrown under per­se­cu­tion. The chief aim of our cel­e­bra­tion is to raise up thanks­giv­ing to God, who abun­dant­ly pours forth on us His rich mer­cies and to prayer­ful­ly hon­or our pre­de­ces­sors, who in com­plex cir­cum­stances abroad held high the ban­ner of our Holy Russ­ian Ortho­doxy and impart­ed to us a great inher­i­tance. Let not the flames upon their graves be extin­guished! Besides this, every jubilee must force each and every one to once again inter­est him­self in his his­to­ry and reflect on the human fig­ures being com­mem­o­rat­ed. Only such an approach to cel­e­brat­ing the jubilee, joined to prayer and a hum­ble hope in God’s aid, can ensure the renew­al of our hearts, all our strength and all the paths of our low­ly ser­vice to God and men.

May our fathers among the saints John the Won­der­work­er, Arch­bish­op of Shang­hai and San Fran­cis­co, and Jon­ah, Bish­op of Han­k­ou, Holy Hier­ar­ch Ser­afim (Sobolev), and Mar­tyr Alexan­der (Schmorell) of Munich, along with the innu­mer­able “Every­day Saints”, our pre­de­ces­sors, inter­cede for this renew­al! And let us also beg for this all-encom­pass­ing renew­al as we noet­i­cal­ly wor­ship the Divine Christ-child, born now in Beth­le­hem, with which feast I again con­grat­u­late all of you, sin­cere­ly wish­ing that we spend these holy days, and the jubilee year, with Joy in the Lord, as a fam­i­ly, in phil­ial man­ner, prayer­ful­ly, and in an eccle­sial spir­it! 

 
With love in Christ,

+HILARION,

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

Nativ­i­ty of Christ 2019/2020