NEW YORK: 4 January 2023
Eminent Fellow Archpastors, Honorable Fathers, Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Greetings with the Nativity of Christ!
In these days of great joy, the thoughts of the archpastors, pastors, monastics, parishioners, and faithful of the churches and monasteries of our dioceses, scattered like God’s wheat over the vast earth, meet in the meek Bethlehem cave, in the semi-darkness in which was lit the unquenchable Light of the world — our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God! Spiritually gathering with all of you in the modest cave near Bethlehem, and kneeling down before the poor manger of the Divine Infant and His Most Pure Mother, I join my prayers to yours and implore God the Word incarnate to grant His Church grace-filled mercies and blessed success in Her ministry, and to all Orthodox peoples speedy deliverance from fratricidal war, restoration of justice and peace, that peace of which the angelic choir sang over the city of David on that holy night of the Nativity!
As the Biblical book, “The Wisdom of Sirach” narrates: “The crown of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, which brings forth peace and unharmed health; but both are gifts of God, Who spreads the glory of those who love Him” (Sirach 1:18). It is the fear of God — that is, sensing the Divine presence in our lives and walking reverently before God, fearing to grieve Him through sin — that leads to peace; for “the fear of the Lord”, as the Old Testament sage writes, “is glory and honor, happiness and the crown of joy. The fear of the Lord will delight the heart and give happiness and joy and long life” (Sirach 1:11-12). Other types of fear give rise to all kinds of ailments, hatred, enmity, divisions and ill will, but the fear of God promises health, joy, and longevity. This is why it is so important for us to work on our spiritual lives, to remember God, His presence among us and participation in our lives. We must stop neglecting our Christian and Church duties, and instead return to the roots of our faith and hope in God, Who has always, as can be seen from our history, helped us to acquire this peace. “Let us make our souls beautiful and let us cherish love for one another,” writes St. John Chrysostom.
Celebrating these holy days when the Lord revealed Himself to the world, and feeling His breath on earth, let us remember the sick, the lonely and the poor, and refugees and displaced persons, our persecuted and suffering brothers and sisters in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Let us remember the need always to sincerely pray for them and sacrificially to help them to the best of our strength and ability. With a moderate celebration, let us not forget to stop and hear with our hearts and understand with our minds that we are living in a time of the visitation of the Lord. He visits us not only in our present joy, but also in the trials surrounding us. And blessed is the person who meets and spends these festive days fully armed with Christian virtues and spiritual vigor!
Entering the New Year, I am very happy to announce the celebration this year of the 75th anniversary of the Holy Trinity Theological Seminary, founded at the monastery of the same name in Jordanville (New York, USA) by the well-known head of the Pochaev printing brotherhood, Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko; 1873 - 1960). In this regard, I urge everyone to take advantage of the opportunity once again to take an interest in the unique history of the Russian Church Abroad and reflect on the great personalities who assisted in the founding of this seminary, in the education and nurturing of generations of fine pastors, who worthily carried out the work of God in the difficult conditions of the diaspora. It is gratifying now to see serious and conscientious teachers, numerous students and young clergymen, graduates of the seminary, together with their older brethren, nourishing the flock of Christ. For all of this let us give thanks to Christ the Chief Shepherd, Who bestows His blessing on us! We thankfully remember all those who have labored in the improvement and establishment of our spiritual school! We wish the present teachers and students bountiful success for the glory of God and the good of the Church!
Once again congratulating all on the feast of the Nativity of Christ, I prayerfully wish everyone good health, strength of spirit and the help of God, so that the rays of this bright celebration may illumine the first days of the New Year of 2023 and may warm our hearts.
With love in Christ,
Nativity of Christ 2022/2023