Nativity Epistle of Hilarion, Metropolitan of New York & Eastern America, 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!” (Luke 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” (Hebrews 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” (John 8:12) and the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).
With love in the Incarnate Lord,
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Nativity of Christ, 2016/2017.