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NATIVITY EPISTLE

TO THE FAITHFUL FLOCK OF THE NORTH AMERICAN DIOCESE

 

December 25, 2009/January 7, 2010

 

“And the angel said unto them (the shepherds)...For unto you is born this day
in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a
sign unto you;  Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying
in a manger.”  (Luke 2:10-12)

Not only the shepherds, but all of us faithful children are astounded by this significant phenomenon. It is not in the midst of the rich and glorious of this world that the Saviour, Who is Christ God, appears on earth, but in a stable for dumb beasts.  His cradle is a manger, a trough used for animal feed.  The King of glory and the Lord of lords is bound in swaddling clothes!
From the very first day of His earthly sojourn, our Lord – the Redeemer, serves us an image of  humility and self-abasement.   Through this image of His, He calls upon each one of us to take up our own individual podvig with humility and self-abasement, for the sake of our salvation.

For thousands of years, man could only look up to the heavens sighing, dreaming of the lost paradise;  but on this blessed and glorious night the heavens have been opened up for those on earth,  the heavens have joined with the earth – for the Son of God has become the Son of man.  For the first time in man's existence, on earth, wondrous, angelic singing is heard:  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Lk.2:14).

This marvelous event, the incarnation of God the Word is not a mere historical event, a celebration of a remarkable anniversary, but the new beginning of the kingdom of God, as the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary at Her conception:  “and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” (Lk.1:33).  Through His Holy Church, the Lord vouchsafes even us to be communicants of this Kingdom.  “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection:  (i.e., blessed is he that has put on Christ through baptism and has been resurrected together with Him) on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Rev.20:6).

According to the teaching of the Holy Fathers, the “thousand year kingdom” is the Kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of the Christian world in the form of His “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”. (Creed).

Certain people ask in perplexity:  “Why does it say a thousand years, when in fact already two thousand years have passed?”  The Lord gave us an answer to this question when He said to His disciples:  “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:7).  Is it for us to be perplexed that our Heavenly Father has doubled the time of the earth's existence?  We must thank God that He has extended time for a second thousand years, according to His grace-filled teaching (in the Sermon on the Mount):  “And (if) whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Matt.5:41).  He thereby gave us too the possibility, by being born and called, to enter into the Lord's Supper, “that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:23) -  as the Holy Gospel teaches on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers.

However, it is so sorrowful to see, that the apostasy from the True Church has reached its limit.  The pervasive craftiness and all the apostatic actions of the former guardians of Truth indicate the possibilities of the fulfillment of the following prophesy: “And when the thousand years are expired, satan shall be loosed out of his prison and shall go out to deceive the nations.” (Rev.20:7, 8).  How is it possible for us to juxtapose in our minds, without distress, the following prophetic words:  “satan shall be loosed” with the great and joyous feast of the Nativity of Christ?  These words must not cause us to become depressed or to lessen our joy in the Lord, but must comfort us for behind them is “hidden” the comforting joy that EVERYTHING is according to God's will and all things which occur were meant to be!

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1).  “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy:  and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19).  Yes, the time of great tribulations has come.  There is no doubt in this.  But no persecutions or craftiness on the part of the apostate false brethren will have the power to defame the Church of Christ, or to lead Her into the darkness of the evil cunning of the new “World Orthodoxy”.  She will remain the un-blemished Bride of Christ, the abode of the Holy Spirit in all fullness until the end of the ages.

Our purpose, our duty, particularly that of the hierarchs and clergy is to preserve this precious pearl of Christ untarnished.  The faithful are likewise called to the preservation of this uncompromised purity.  All of us have been given by God “the power to tread on serpents”, to trample upon the devil!  The significant words of our preceptor, the newly glorified Saint Metropolitan Philaret:  “You are a warrior of Christ.  Even if you fall, don't languish on the ground. Get up, roll up your sleeves, and continue to wage battle against the enemy of our salvation.”
And our battle is not a battle of “blood and flesh”, not in wrath or malice, but in patience and mildness without spite we are commanded to carry out this podvig, ever remembering, that the power of God is made perfect in weakness.  We should not engage in a war of words, but we should be sorrowful and admonish error with meekness.  To behave with meekness is not a sign of weakness or timidity, but the power to overcome demonic pride and the audacity of the apostates from God.  We must pray without hardness of heart or anger for those in error, those who persecute and crucify us.  We must be “harmless as doves” (Matt.10:16), just like the shepherds around whom “the glory of the Lord shone” (Luke 2:9) and who were vouchsafed to be the first to hear the joyful tidings:  “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11).

May the Glory of the Lord shine over all of you on this blessed day!

 

†Bishop Stefan of Trenton and North America

 

 

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