The Gold of Prayer, the Frankincense of Humility, and the Myrrh of Repentance

The 2021/2022 Nativity Epistle of Metropolitan Onuphry


Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
has shone to the world the Light of wisdom

(Nativity Troparion)

I heartily greet you all, God-loving archpastors and pastors, pious monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters, with the great world-saving feast of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.

In these sacred days, the holy Orthodox Church lovingly remembers and prayerfully glorifies the great mystery of God’s appearance in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16), through which the sad event of man’s loss of Paradise was transformed into the joyous event of man’s return to Paradise.

Divine Love, with its wondrous, mysterious power created man from the ground. The Lord singled out Adam from all creatures, adorning him with His Divine image. Adam became the bearer of the beautiful image of the eternal God. What a great honor for man! The Lord gave Adam Paradise, in which he lived and enjoyed its beauties. But, according to sacred history, man sinned and lost his dignity. And sacred history tells us a little about what happened next: Adam turned away from God and became unable to live in Paradise; and Divine Love, without limiting his will, allowed him to live in a world devastated by sin, where Adam labored in the sweat of his brow; and the earth brought forth thistles and thorns for him (Gen. 3:18).

Adam turned away from God, but God didn’t turn away from Adam. The Lord sent His prophets and righteous ones into the world, who reminded the descendants of Adam about the lost Paradise. And when the fullness of time came, the Lord Himself comes into the world. Divine Love takes upon Himself the image of fallen man, restores him, sanctifies him, and returns him to Heaven.

The coming of God to earth takes place in a wondrous and mysterious simplicity. The Most Holy Virgin Mary, from whom God desired to take human flesh and blood for Himself, comes to the city of Bethlehem. The Holy Family came to Bethlehem by order of the Roman Emperor Augustus, who was taking a census of the population, not suspecting that thereby he would become an instrument in the hands of God, by whom the Lord fulfilled the ancient prophecy according to which the Messiah Christ was to be born in the city of Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2).

When the Son of God was born in the Bethlehem cave, the wondrous glory of God filled the world. Heaven rejoiced, the angels sang, and all of nature exulted. The first of all to receive the tidings of the Nativity of the Son of God were the simple Bethlehem shepherds, who were tending their flocks near the blessed cave. An angel of God appeared to them and said: Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, Which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Lk. 2:10-14). The shepherds made haste to the Bethlehem cave, found the Divine Christ Child, and worshiped Him with love, recounting what the angel had announced to them.

After the joyous shepherds, on the very day of the Nativity, three Magi came from the east to worship the newborn Divine Infant, whom the Lord led to Bethlehem from various countries by means of a miraculous star. And the Magi brought gifts with them: gold, frankincense, and myrrh—by which they testified that the One Who came into the world was the King of kings (Rev. 17:14) and the High Priest of future blessings (Heb. 9:11), Who would return the lost Paradise to mankind through His voluntary suffering and death.

And we today, dear brothers and sisters, like the pious shepherds, worship our Lord and Savior and humbly thank Him that He, our Maker and Fashioner, the pre-eternal Son of the pre-eternal Father, became the Son of Man to make us sons of God. Together with the wise Magi, we offer our gifts to the newborn Divine Infant: the gold of our humble prayers, the frankincense of our humility, and the myrrh of our repentance. The world in which we live today has a special need for prayer, humility, and repentance. These holy virtues cultivate love for God and love for man and make a man like His Maker and Fashioner, Who is Love by His very nature.

We live in apocalyptic times, especially signified by fear and confusion; and we need prayer, humility, and repentance, for by them we protect ourselves from fear and confusion and lay out for ourselves a path to Heaven, to eternal, blessed life.

The first words of the angel to the Bethlehem shepherds were: Fear not. And today, the Nativity angel says to every one of us: Fear not, because the Son of Man, Who overcame sin with its fears, confusions, and sicknesses, was born into the world.

Today, when dangerous viruses are spreading throughout the world, many people are rushing to take the vaccine to prolong their earthly lives. But we who believe in Christ as the Son of God, as the Savior of the world, know that there is another, more terrible and more dangerous virus in the world—our sins. Sin deprives us of our eternal life. How much do we, who bear the high name of a Christian, need to rush to take the spiritual vaccine—repentance, to defeat the virus of sin and save ourselves for eternal life!

Again, I greet you, dear brothers and sisters, with the Nativity of Christ. I wish you all health, salvation, and the blessing of God. May Divine Love, Which has bowed Heaven down to earth, touch every human heart, comfort us, and give us the strength to courageously overcome all difficulties and complexities of our earthly existence. May the light of wisdom, brought to us by the Son of God Who became the Son of Man, shine forth in every one of us—a light that reveals falsehood, even if it’s hidden under the guise of nobility; a light that shows us the road leading to Paradise. Amen.

Blessed Nativity!

† Onuphry
Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine


Ivan1/7/2022 4:02 pm
Amen! Truly is born.
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