Nativity Epistle of Archbishop Vladimir

Beloved in God Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!

Congratulations with the Great Feast of Christ's Nativity!

The Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

"God became a man, so that a man could become god" - we find these eternally important and deep thoughts in the writings of the Holy Fathers: St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, St. Gregory the Theologian (Gregory Nazianzen), St. Gregory of Nyssa.

The God Himself, the Son of God, "being found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself," "and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2: 7-8), came to this earth for our salvation, becoming the "light of the world", for all people to have the perfect example of all the virtues, to follow Him and believe in Him, and to be enlightened by the light of Christ.

The one who bases his life not solely upon the will of flesh and earthly concerns, but strives to be guided by the exemplary life in Christ's Grace, following the Lord by faith and in obedience to His commandments, that one is indeed enlightened by Him. And whoever in his life does not follow Christ, can not be enlightened, for he loves darkness rather than light, just as the Lord says: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12).

Therefore only the true followers of Christ, who uphold the truth of the Orthodox confession of Faith, resisting various heresies and schisms, and following the God's commandments, have the light of life, that is the true enlightenment and the light of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. Apostle Paul calls the believers "light" for their Christian faith and life, saying: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Ephesians 5:8-9).

"For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding " (Wisdom of Solomon 1:5). If He flees the deceit, how then would they be enlightened by the light of Christ? Truly the Lord says: "the world cannot receive" "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17), where "the world" means those people who live according to flesh, unrepentant. It is also those who shy away from the truth and fail to preserve it uncorrupted: heretics and schismatics.

The light of Christ is bestowed upon man in this world through the God-inspired Scripture, which explains how to enter this light, how to enter the body of the Church of Christ.

St. Evangelist Mathew explicates the coming of Jesus Christ into the Capernaum as the fulfillment of the prediction of prophet Isaiah: "The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up." (Matt. 4:16; Isaiah 9:1-2). In His Sermon the Lord explained how to enter this light of His Church, so that while fulfilling His Commandments one could enter His Kingdom in the next World: " Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5).

If a person falls away from the Church through unification with heretics (for example, with ecumenists and Sergians) or via a schism, thus violating the unity of Church, then he obeyed the prince of this world, who had blinded his mind, similarly to the minds of other unbelievers: "... the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Those who fall into schism or heresy fall away from the Church and are deprived of the light of Christ, which is given in the Sacraments of the Church; not available via schismatics and heretics, and the absence of which makes the salvation impossible: "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:53).

Therefore all those who want to consider themselves Orthodox, should remember the admonition of St. Paul the Apostle: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (1 Corinthians 11:19). (The Greek word αἱρέσεις means heresy.)

By these words St. Apostle Paul warns us that there will always be heretics, but it is up to us whether we will support another heretic, or preserve the Orthodox doctrine uncorrupted. Any clergyman, who fell into heresy or schism, always counts on participation of those who will support him in his enmity against God. But these will never be able to escape the accountability to God, saying "we did not know", because that would be blasphemy against the Almighty God, Who arranges the circumstances for salvation for every person who comes to this world. If a person, following his free will, did not take advantage of this call of God, then he himself is to blame for his godlessness, when he supports another heretic or a schismatic.

Therefore, beloved brothers and sisters, with God's help, we will strive with all our strength to steadfastly follow the truth of Christ, asking the Lord to keep us from the darkness of misconception of this age, and deliver us from the eternal darkness; cleanse our hearts from all sin and illumine us with His Divine Light. Amen.

+Archbishop Vladimir

Nativity of Christ 2017 (Old Calendar).