Archpastoral Letter for the Nativity 2001
Prot. N. 145
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Monastics, Clergy and Pious Faithful of this God-Saved Diocese:
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Today, I can greet you with no better words than what the Angel says to the Shepherds, on that wondrous Christmas night: Be not afraid: for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy ... For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2.10).
Indeed, let us truly lift up our hearts, for in this year of challenge and tragedy, there has been much to keep them low. We have mourned the loss of thousands in September, and our troops continue to fight in faraway deserts. The Holy Lands where Our Saviour walked has been thrown into a new and more dangerous cycle of violence. And while our nation and the world have been gripped by enormous grief, an even more threatening danger now looms on the horizon, with the advent of stem cell research and human cloning. It has been, needless to say, a hard and difficult year.
And so, in the midst of uncertainty and anxiety, we need to listen, as a child on Christmas Eve, the wondrous, miraculous, soul-brightening words of the Angels: Don't be afraid ... there is great, joyful news ... the Saviour, Christ the Lord, is born for you!
Hear the wondrous tidings! There is a Saviour born for you! He has come into our world ... He has entered into this human life ... He has come into our human experience ... He has taken upon Himself our emotions, our perceptions, indeed, our entire human nature. "For we have not a high priest Who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses," St. Paul taught concerning Christ, "but One Who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4.15).
Think of what this means. Because Christ is born, God has brought life and renewal, peace and grace to all of life. No person can say that he is beyond the limit of God's grace, for there is no limit. No person can say that he has experienced tragedies and problems that God cannot understand, for God understands everything, through personal experience. Christ has come into all our world, He brings grace to all of human life.
Christ brings this matchless grace because He has come into the world as fully man, and fully God. While He embraces all of human life, at the same time, He does so as God. He does not come as a representative of God, or as a mere fragment of the Deity. He comes as God Himself: "For in Him," St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, "all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (1.19).
In the Orthodox Church, we deeply cherish the awesome and beautiful mystery of Christ. We testify that He has two natures, that He is fully God and fully man. And in a world that has grown used to the darkness, and in a day and age that is well-acquainted with grief and fear, we confess, as the Church has always proclaimed, that in Christ Himself all of God is brought into contact with all of man!
In Christ there is a miraculous, profound mingling of the human and the divine. In Christ Himself there is peace for you, a peace that passes all understanding. In Christ Himself there is life that is abundant and free. In Christ Himself there are no separations or anxieties. There is only healing and light, joy and wholeness. There is only resolution and harmony, quiet reverence and silent awe.
In Christ Himself, and in Christ alone, are all the questions of your life answered. All the wounds are healed. All the brokenness and jagged edges are smoothed and mended.
All this, simply because Christ is born! God has come into our world! And He gives us the eternal Christmas Gift of divine life, gleaming from the infinite depths of His immortal Person.
Now it remains for us to unwrap this gift and receive it. Do not be afraid to allow your heart to soften with wonder today. Watch a child at Christmas and learn from him. Look at his wonder and excitement, and let your soul anticipate the richness of Our Lord's Nativity.
Allow the life of God Himself, the gift of the newborn Child Christ, to fill your heart and make your soul young again!
Beloved faithful, let us lift up our hearts to these Christmas "tidings of great joy," and allow this Nativity song of the Angels to become our song as well: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men (Luke 2.14).
With prayerful good wishes for a joy-filled Feast, and blessing, I remain
Most sincerely yours in Christ,
+ METROPOLITAN NICHOLAS