Eminent Brother Archpastors, Honorable Fathers,
My Dear Brothers, Sisters and Children in Christ:
With the holiday of the Nativity of Christ comes the New Year. Time flies, year after year, day after day. Commotion, problems, bad news and complicated times instill in us despondency, alarm and fear of the future, distracting us from committing good deeds, attending to our internal life and relying upon the blessed Providence of God, always unerringly directing man towards true joy.
In one passage of the Gospel, the Lord says: “But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains” (Mark 13:14). And King David, whose memory is honored on the Sunday after the Nativity of Christ, cries out: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalms 121:1). “Come, let us ascend the mountain of the Lord, even unto the house of our God,” we sing in church.
Holy Scripture and its wise interpreters: the successors of the Apostles, the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church, always saw in the climbing of a mountain the spiritual elevation of man towards God, his active striving for unity with Him, and holiness. The peak of the mountain and the “house of our God” symbolizes the Kingdom of God, the Church of Christ, the place of the living God and His abode with mankind. This is the world of the spirit, of spiritual joy and true bliss in unity with God. Here is our native and blessed land; here is the resolution of all problems which trouble the inner man; here is the eternal salvation of the soul.
Brothers and sisters, observing world events, let us not fall into despair, alarm and fear, but hasten in a spiritual sense “up the mountain,” so that, girding ourselves with humble gratitude for everything that God sends us, with staff in hand, begin our ascent “to the mountain of the Lord.” Let us to the best of our feeble powers strive for God, uniting our active effort in living by the Gospel with our immersion into the wisdom and the mystical life of the Church, this school of piety, Christian virtues and sanctity, paying no heed to that which distracts us from “the one thing needful” (Luke 10:42).
It is not revealed to mankind what might befall us over this year. But that is for our benefit and edification. For if man knew in advance of the coming joy, he might resort to complete idleness, making no progress in becoming able to worthily receive the gift of God; at the same time, knowing in advance of his necessary sufferings would be too great a burden. That is likely why the Lord secretes our future from us, teaching us to hope in His Providence, faith, patience and humility.
Upon this difficult but blessed path let St John (Maximovich) be our intercessor, this great achpastor and miracle-worker of the Russian diaspora, the 25th anniversary of whose canonization we will be ceremoniously marking in 2019.
I will conclude my greeting to you with his words: “To the Lord lying in a manger, together with praise and laudation, may each of us bring from our heart some good deed. May the joy of the whole world fill the hearts of each of us, scattering earthly sorrows and lifting up our thoughts and strivings to Heaven. From there we hear the joyful herald of the angels: “For unto you is born this day… a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
With love in the Born Christ,
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.