WESTERN EUROPEAN DIOCESE: January 9, 2019
Nativity Epistle of Bishop Irenei of Richmond and Western Europe
To the Venerable Clergy, God-Loving Monastics
and Pious Faithful of Great Britain, Ireland and Western Europe
Dear in Christ, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!
Christ is born! Glorify Him! With profound joy and deepest humility we find that the Heavenly Father has once again permitted us to arrive at the birth of His Son. From the darkness of ignorance, we have been called to bear witness to the coming of the Light; and beholding the glory of this longed-for incarnation, we cry out together with our great Archpastor: ‘I behold a new and wondrous mystery … the Ancient of Days has become an infant; He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger; and He Who cannot be touched .. now lies embraced in the hands of men’ (St John Chrysostom, Homily on the Nativity).
The depth of this Mystery — that the eternal Son of the Father should take flesh and enter into the world He had fashioned — must never cease to fill us with the saint’s sense of wonder. Christ does not enter into human life merely as a sign or consolation, but in order to transform and sanctify that life: my life, and yours. As St John goes on to say, ‘Taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so, He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.’
The Nativity of our Saviour is the reality that grounds our profound hope as Christian people. Our God does not view His world from afar off, looking down upon creation from a distance; rather, He enters into our world — a world we mar too often with anger, judgement, fear and rebellion — and takes the creation we have scarred as His own, healing it by uniting it to Himself. It is into this world, in all its frailty and fallenness, that the Lord comes. From all eternity He dwells in the heavens, beyond the grasp of all created things; and yet, out of love, He makes Himself accessible to creation, humbly accepting its most meagre lot. ‘He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven could not contain, a manger would this day receive.’
I pray that on this day of His birth in the flesh, His incomprehensible love for us will give birth in each of you to a deeper love for Him. There is so much sorrow in the world: but today we meet its source of joy — and into the mangers of our own hearts, humble and dark and unworthy, Christ comes anew, bearing His Father’s love. To Him, then, Who in the confusion of our lives has wrought a clear path into His Kingdom, let us dedicate our lives, our hearts, and all the glory with which we sing: Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Bishop of Richmond and Western Europe
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia