NEW YORK: January 4, 2018
Nativity Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Beloved in the Lord Brethren Archpastors, Honorable Fathers,
Brothers and Sisters, God-Beloved Flock of the Russian Church Abroad:
It is with a feeling of the greatest joy that I express my heartfelt greetings on the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the approaching feast day of the Baptism of the Lord!
As expressed in one of our church prayers celebrating this holy event, when God deemed it good to appear on Earth, the entire world hastened to bring him gifts: “The Angels offer a hymn; the heavens, a star; the Wise Men, gifts; the shepherds, their wonder; the earth, its cave; the wilderness, a manger.”
What will we offer as a gift to the Almighty God, Who is now born a helpless Infant? “My son, give me thine heart” (Proverbs 23:26), says the Lord. Our hearts, our love, is the only gift most worthy in the eyes of God. To offer God one’s heart means to give Him all of ourselves: our mind in obeying the Gospel, our will and obedience to the commandments, submitting and actively striving for God, not as a servant but as His offspring, for whom happiness and bliss is to live in Christ and with Him.
In this past year, the fullness of the Local Russian Orthodox Church prayerfully marked the 100th anniversary of the sorrowful events connected with the Revolution and the beginning of the epoch of godless persecutions, but also the 100th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Patriarchate in Russia, when St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia the Confessor, ascended to the Patriarchal throne, which was to be his personal Golgotha. In 2018, we intend to continue this prayerful commemoration, remembering Holy Hieromartyrs Vladimir of Kiev, Andronik, Archbishop of Perm, the Righteous Royal Passion-bearers, Holy Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Nun Barbara, who offered their hearts to Christ, the Church and their people to the extent that no earthly power could tear them from God’s love, no earthly circumstances: not “tribulation, or distress, or persecution” (Romans 8:35).
And so as we celebrated the Nativity of Christ and participate in the prayerful commemoration of this year, let us seek out the renewal of our inner strength and edification, let us pay heed to both Holy Scripture and the history of our Fatherland, let us strive to learn of the lives of these holy people and contemplate their personalities in order to enrich ourselves spiritually and intellectually. Let us bring these labors as a gift to the Child Who offered Himself to the Cross, remembering that we must extract from ourselves our wicked and dark hearts, so that in exchange for this Sacrifice we receive the gift of peace in our hearts, bright and renewed, a gift earned by the Holy Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church.
As we bend our knee before the Christ Child and joyously experience this world-saving event, I prayerfully ask on behalf of all of you God’s mercies and blessings, heavenly aid in your labors and good deeds, good health, joyful celebrations and a happy New Year!
With love in the Nascent Christ,
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Nativity of Christ 2017/2018.