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NEW YORK: January 2, 2012
Nativity Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Most Reverend Fellow Archpastors, Most Honorable Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!

With profoundly-heartfelt spiritual joy I greet all the faithful children of the Russian Church Abroad, spread all over the world like kernels of God’s wheat, with the great and salutary Feast of Christ’s Nativity! May the Lord send all of us this joy which saves the world. This gladness is the fruit of the struggle of faith, and stems from the triumph of the Incarnation, from God becoming man, from hearing the celestial doxology from the heavens above the city of Bethlehem.

During the celebratory days which follow the Feast we especially feel God’s love for us, sinners. For though mankind turned away from its Maker, the Creator became a creature; Almighty God came down from the heavens and became one of us. He is born a helpless Infant in a humble cave where livestock is herded in bad weather. God becomes man to arrange for a mystical encounter, to destroy the barrier between Heaven and earth which was wrought by man’s sin.  This encounter must take place within our innermost selves and in our relationships with those in whom the image of God is reflected—our neighbors.

During these holy and joyful days each parish church becomes Bethlehem and the heart of every man becomes the cave. All over the world, God’s people fill our churches. But what takes place in the cave of the heart of each one of us when Christ and His Holy Family come knocking? Does our heart open? Does it receive the Lord and what does the Lord find inside? Let us contemplate this, dear fathers in Christ, brothers and sisters. Let us remember the words of Abba Makarios recorded in the book “Sayings Worth Remembering.”

    Once, traveling across Egypt with a group of his brethren, Abba Makarios heard the words of a boy directed to his mother: “Dear Mother, a certain rich man loves me, but I hate him. Another man, a pauper, hates me, but I love him.” On hearing these words, Abba Makarios was surprised. The brethren asked him: “What do these words mean, and why have they amazed you so, father?” The elder answered them: “In truth, the Lord is wealthy and loves us, yet we do not want to obey Him. However, our enemy, the devil, is poor and hates us: yet we love his impurity.” 

So, let us open wide our hearts and welcome the Son of God Who has come to earth. Let us add our voice to the doxology of the angels and worship Him with the magi. Let us rejoice in His love and mercy for us. Let each one of us, according to our meager strength, respond with love to His love. Let us find fulfillment in communion with Him. And let each of us exemplify a virtuous Christian life, thereby supporting our neighbor and showing him our heartfelt disposition.

God is with us with His grace and love for mankind always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

With love in Christ Who is born and a request for prayers,

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