Nativity Epistle of Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!
Remembering on this Christmas night the greatest event in the history of mankind—the incarnation of God— we sing along with the whole Church: "As God of peace and Father of compassions, Thou didst send to us Thine Angel of great Counsel, Who granteth us peace" (Irmos of Ode V of Canon I of the Nativity).
On this day, God the Father sent to earth His own Son, "Who granteth us Peace", to reconcile men with God, to unite the sundered powers of the human soul, and to reconcile us with one another. Exulting in the deliverance of men, the angels joyously chanted: "Glory to God in the highest! On earth peace, goodwill among men!"
Two thousand years have passed since the incarnation of God, and all throughout this time mankind has refused to receive peace on earth, staining its own history with cruel inhumanity.
To this point, divisions, wars and malice surround us, and there is scant room for peace in the life of men. Why is this? The Lord says: "My peace I give you. Not that peace which the world giveth." We know that the world lies in evil, and that this will hold true until the Second Coming. The Lord was speaking about inner peace, and not external peace. Even if we live in an unstable, outward peace with our neighbors, attempting to maintain if only the peace which the world gives, we often fail to find peace of soul within ourselves.
Man receives true peace only in preserving his own conscience, in oneness with God, when he truly begins to live in Christ. The Lord brought this peace to earth, and when we find it we ourselves are saved and, in the words of Saint Seraphim, many are saved around us.
In us the Church prays: "Grant peace to me who am fallen!" The first step toward peace of soul is an awareness of our own fallen state. When we begin to see our own ugly nakedness of soul, then does the Lord draw near unto us, and with His loving hand cleans out the cave of our soul, no matter how poor it is. He fills us with His peace, and makes us prepared to worthily receive Him.
For this He became incarnate and was born in the cave of Bethlehem, for this He prayed in His own high priestly prayer: "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us" (Jn. 17:21).
Unity is from God; division is from the devil. The tactic of the one who hates mankind is ancient: to rule, divide and conquer. And the root of all divisions lies in our passions: pride, self-love, envy, lack of faith—with these the devil stirs up misunderstanding and enmity among men. The Lord calls upon us to uproot within ourselves the passions which separate us and to go unto Him by preserving our conscience and peace of soul.
At this time, we are confronted by a fateful event: in May, the All-Diaspora Council will convene, at which the process of the reconciliation of the Church of Russia will be deliberated upon in council in the person of our chosen representatives.
During the days leading up to this Council we must preserve with great care our peace of soul, lest passionate emotions, enmity and disputations extinguish it. For this we should apply ourselves all the more diligently to prayer, attending church more frequently, resorting to the Holy Mysteries more often.
Only in the Church can we find peace of soul, in the grace of God imparted to us abundantly in His Mysteries. Addressing himself to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul said: "I beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4: 1-6).
And so, following the advice of the Apostle, we must also maintain the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," and seek that which is of God, and not of mankind. And if we will act in accordance with the will of God, His peace will not abandon us.
In our limited perception of the judgments of God there is little room for the sober view: we see only a small part of the general picture, and that through the distorted lens of our own passions. But the omniscient God knows what is more salvific for the children of His Church: His Holy Body. Therefore, let us purify our minds and heart from passionate and vain philosophizing, and with peace in our souls let us ask the Lord to grant us understanding.
May the King of peace grant peace to our souls!
Beloved archpastors and pastors, brethren and sisters, with my whole heart I greet you all with the feast of the Nativity of Christ! Amen.