Nativity epistle of the primate to the archpastors, pastors,
monastics, and all the faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
I heartily congratulate you all, God-loving archpastors and pastors, pious monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters—faithful children of our holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church—with the great world-saving feast of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
In His mercy, the Lord has vouchsafed us to meet this great and joyous feast again.
The feast of the Nativity of Christ is the feast of God’s Incarnation, in which we remember and prayerfully glorify the miraculous and joyous event of the coming into the world of the Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And the Word was made flesh, says the holy apostle John the Theologian, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14). People on Earth beheld this Word, which was with God and was God from the beginning (Jn. 1:1-2), and Who took human nature upon Himself and became man, that we, sinful men, might again be made innocent and pure children of God.
What a great honor is given to us, fallen men, through the union in Christ of our human nature with the nature of God. Now our human nature, which is in Christ, is seated in Heaven at the right hand of the Heavenly God the Father. Even the holy angels are not accounted worthy of such an honor. And all of this is given to us, men, not for the sake of our merits or worthiness, but for the sake of the great mercy of God.
There is such a law in the spiritual life according to which God’s strength and power is revealed where there is an awareness of human infirmity and impotence before God, and Divine reason and wisdom are revealed and made manifest where there is an innocent simplicity.
The Son of God, Who is the Word and Wisdom of God, takes human flesh upon Himself, is born in a poor Bethlehem cave, and reveals Himself to the simple shepherds who had innocent simplicity within themselves. This innocent and pure childlike simplicity made the shepherds able to see in the infant God, swaddled and lying in a manger, the Messiah, the Lord of the visible and invisible world, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race.
The comprehension of the power and strength of God and their human infirmity and impotence before God made the eastern Magi able to behold the miraculous star and understand that the strong and mighty God had come into the world.
History tells us that the Magi, who are also called kings, came not from one country, but from three different countries: Persia, Arabia, and Ethiopia. All of them, independent of one another, studied the heavenly bodies, and the miraculous star appeared to each of them, independently and separately, and led each of them from his country to Bethlehem. They met on the way to Judea and arrived to Bethlehem together. In Bethlehem, in the cave, they found the Divine Christ Child and worshiped Him as King and God, placing their gifts at His feet: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The Magi gave the Christ Child gold as a sign that He is the King of kings, incense as a sign that He is the High Priest of eternal blessedness, and myrrh as a sign that He is the Divine High Priest Who will offer Himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of us sinful men.
The interpreters of the Sacred Scriptures say that the miraculous star appeared in the heavens on the day of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos and shone in the sky for nine months, until it brought the Magi to Bethlehem, to the blessed cave, where Christ the Savior of the world was born. The Magi arrived in Bethlehem on the very day of Christ’s Nativity. Thus, the Lord wisely arranged everything with those who sought Divine Wisdom.
We, modern men, sometimes ask ourselves: If we lived during the time of Christ’s Nativity, would the Lord have revealed to us this mystery—the mystery of His coming into the world, as He revealed it to the shepherds and Magi?
He would have revealed it if we, like the shepherds and Magi, had sought God in simplicity and humility.
The Gospel shepherds were no ordinary shepherds. They tended those animals that were intended for sacrifice: those animals offered as a sacrifice to God on certain days and feasts, as a symbol of the great Sacrifice that God was to bring for us. The shepherds knew about it. They knew there would come into the world the Messiah Who would offer Himself as a sacrifice for men, and they eagerly awaited Him.
The Magi also sought the Divine truth that was preserved among the pagans, although in a seriously distorted form, and according to which the Liberator was to come into the world, Who would deliver mankind from evil, and they also awaited Him.
Therefore, if in simplicity and humility we seek God, our Creator and Savior Who already came into the world and completed the podvig of our salvation, then the Lord will send each of us our angel, or our star today, which leads us to Christ, our Creator and Redeemer.
The Lord can send us either a Divinely-wise priest, or a God-loving monk, or a pious layman as an angel, who will guide us on the Divine road—the road that leads man to God; and as a star, the Lord has granted all of us our conscience, which is the voice of God in our soul and which directs us to God, to Christ, as the Bethlehem star once did the Magi; we need only to look at our star, that is, to give heed to our conscience and force ourselves to obey it.
It is wondrous and miraculous that the Son of God came into the world through the Most Holy Virgin in the Nativity of Christ. St. John Chrysostom says that just as Adam brought Eve into the world without a wife, so the Most Holy Virgin bore the Savior without a husband. Moreover, Adam remained whole after the taking of the rib from his body, and the Most Holy Virgin remained incorrupt after the birth of the Divine Christ Child.
Again I heartily congratulate you all, dear brothers and sisters, with the Nativity of Christ, with the great mystery of the appearance of God in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16).
In these days, we rejoice and humbly thank our Savior that He, our Lord and Master, by His unspeakable love for us, sinful and fallen men, came into the world, took our human nature upon Himself, and purified, sanctified, and saved it.
On the blessed Nativity night, the angels sang the glorious hymn: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Lk. 2:14). Today we especially pray and ask the Lord that the peace that the Lord brought to Earth in His Nativity and which the holy angels hymned, would reside in our hearts, in our families, and in our entire blessed Ukrainian land. May the Lord bless us all with peace. Amen.