Most Reverend fellow archpastors, most honorable fathers–concelebrants,
God-loving monastics, dear brothers and sisters!
In their writings the Holy Fathers of the Church portray the Feast of the Nativity as great, universal and joyful; the beginning and basis for all other Feasts. It is no wonder the Holy Church sings: "Christ is born, give ye glory, Christ cometh from the heavens. Meet ye Him, Christ is on earth, be ye exalted ..."
The Holy Church calls upon us to worthily celebrate the Nativity of Christ. It was not that long ago that in many countries Christians laid aside worldly and earthly cares. Government offices shut down, trade ceased and everyone hurried to God’s churches for festive services during which all prayed and partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. After the services many engaged in works of piety, visiting hospitals and prisons, providing substantial assistance to the poor. Philanthropic assistance to the poor and orphaned was inherently characteristic of our ancestors. Not a Feast went by without being accompanied by attention to those that struggle and are heavy laden (Matt 11:28).
With the simplicity of the shepherds, let us go to the cave in Bethlehem to worship the living God Who became a living Man. In other words, let us go to church bringing the Infant Christ the gift of warm tears of compunction, a heart enlivened with delight and boundless devotion; and to our neighbors and the needy – benefaction and love.
It is time for us, beloved, to bless ourselves with the Cross of Christ — the cross of self-sacrifice and love in the spirit of light filled Christian understanding. It is time for us to improve in all aspects of our lives. Let us contemplate this during these holy days, referred to as "Christmas-tide", and make a firm decision to become better, closer to God and to each other.
I take this opportunity with great pleasure to announce the upcoming XIII All-Diaspora Youth Conference to be held in San Francisco from June 27 to July 4 this year. This forum will be devoted to missionary work in the field of philanthropy and will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the glorification of St. John the Wonderworker (Maximovich) by the Russian Church Abroad. This great hierarch of the Russian diaspora exemplified a life of prayer, a life active in selfless good deeds. On behalf of the Synod of Bishops and Archbishop Kyrill, the ruling bishop of the Western American Diocese, I extend a heartfelt invitation to our clergy and representatives of our youth to this gathering. I hope that this conference called "In the Footsteps of St. John" will spiritually and intellectually enrich all the participants. Concurrent with the Youth Conference a Council of Bishops will be held to discuss the pressing issues of internal Church life and the external ministry of our dear Church. This will also give our Archpastors the opportunity to participate in important discussions with our young people. May these general Church gatherings, for which we prayerfully prepare, vouchsafe us the mercy and blessings from God: inexhaustible heroism, courage, vigilance of spirit, a selfless, captivating and inspiring faith, and other gifts of grace, so necessary in serving the Church, in serving God and people in our complex world.
May the coming New Year, beloved Archpastors, pastors, brothers and sisters, be one of Christian renewal of our hearts - a year of spiritual sobriety and ennoblement of our entire life! Let us become genuinely and deeply aware of the necessity of spiritual struggle, dictated by the spirit of life, and concern ourselves with the conscientious fulfillment of all our Christian duties: whether they are personal, family or employment responsibilities, or our duty as Orthodox Christian members of the Church, i.e. performing generous charitable works. May the feast be for us a time of prayer, the strengthening of our internal energies, the refreshment of our soul with Christian ideals, feelings and activities!
With love in the new-born Christ and requesting your holy prayers,
Metropolitan of New York & Eastern America,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
Nativity of Christ
2013 / 2014