Christmas Epistle from Archbishop Vladimir January 7, 2017

Beloved in Christ Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!

Congratulations with the Great Feast of Christmas!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!


In this day " Heaven and earth are to rejoice today, fulfilling the prophecies; angels and men are to triumph spiritually, for God hath appeared in the flesh, born of the Virgin, to those who sit in darkness and shadow: the cave and the manger have received Him; the shepherds preach the wonder; the magi from the East bring gifts to Bethlehem" (Stichera of the Litia, in Tone I).

The first messenger of the Mystery of the Incarnation was the Angel, then the shepherds of Bethlehem (Luke 2:17) and the Magi, and afterwards, throughout the universe - the Apostles of Christ.

The shepherds kept the night watch by their flock. Suddenly, in the midst of the nocturnal kingdom of silence an Angel appeared, and the Glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they feared exceedingly …

" And the angel said unto them, 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 Savior, 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." (Lk 2:10-12).

These were not shepherds living in the paganism of this world - these were the members of the Old Testament Church, and they tended to their flock in the course of the night. And, because Savior became man at night, they, being at this time awake, were the first chosen for such a proclamation because of their simplicity and the purity of heart. This radiance of Glory revealed the phenomenon of the Divine Nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, combined with His human nature, as He was Himself the Radiance of God's Glory: "Who being the brightness of his Glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3).

This great joy of the appearing of Lord Jesus is meant for all people of the whole world, that is, everyone who will want to take advantage of it. The Savior is doing everything possible to facilitate people's acceptance of His Incarnation by sending His Angel to explain the meaning of this event to these simple shepherds.

After that gospel a wonderful angelic hymn was heard in the silence of the night, which later became the ecclesiastical chant: " Glory to God in the highest, and on earth Peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:14).

At present, modern times, each of us might ask, where is this Peace on earth, when we often see everywhere wars, military conflicts and hostile atmosphere between people and between countries; discord, division and schisms even in the church environment? Why among the people we so often see such non-Peaceful dispensation whilst from the very date of the appearing of the Savior, the Prince of Peace, this desired, full of Christ's Grace Blessed Peace is spilled everywhere, all over the world like the air, like the light of day? Why, then, is there unrest, disobedience and hostility?

Because we, humans, often forget that true Peace is a Peace with God, with our neighbor, with oneself, Peace within the three features of our human nature. As St. Nilus of Sinai says about this: “When you conjoin, by the union of Peace, the trinity that exists within you (i.e. the spirit, the soul and the body), then, as being united within yourself at the Holy Trinity's Commandment, you will hear: " Blessed are the Peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Mathew 5:9). Great is this Peaceful union, because it is also connected with the Joy that enlightens the mental eye to the reflection of heavenly benefits. If we acquire this Peace giving Joy in distress, then  we will be able to easily and thankfully deflect the sorrows that seek it..." [1] ( Philokalia, St. Nilus of Sinai on Sorrows / Dobrtolyubie Vol. 2, pp. 255-256).

We can acquire this Peace with Christ if we are true to His Church, if we observe the Canons, the Church decrees, avoid causing schisms, observe obedience and brotherly love; otherwise, without Peace with the Lord and the brethren, there will only be discord and disorder:  in Church life and in the spiritual life.

When Christ's Apostles and Martyrs had embraced the Peace of Christ, they were no more afraid of anything,  be it threats, persecution, or even death for preaching the Gospel, because Christ , the very Giver of Peace, was with them.

The one who has accepted this blessed Peace of Christ, cannot be shaken by any circumstances, be it  insults, anger, slander; for having a Peace of Christ, he does not suffer those, but approaches everyone with friendliness and forbearance.

If everyone would have such a Peace, there would be no wars, nor strife,  nor schisms. The Holy Fathers have warned us: one who will not obtain a Peaceful frame of mind, cannot acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit.

So, by what means can we obtain this spiritual inner Peace? First of all - by the love of God, by the love of neighbor, by sincere prayer and strong faith; and by humility, meekness and serenity.

The Love for God is expressed in obedience to His Commandments: " If ye love me," said the Lord," keep my commandments. " (John 14:15).  "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. " (John 14:16-17). 

The one who, through humility and love, has obtained the Peace of Christ in his heart, will not be perturbed by anything, but will always be at Peace with God and at Peace with people.

The Lord has left us "The Kingdom of Peace." It is the Holy Church - our spiritual clinic, our religious school, our ship of Salvation. The one who stays loyal to Church  and resorts to it, receives from it, through the Sacraments of Grace (Confession, Holy Communion): healing, strengthening, renewal, as per the Word our Savior: " Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden" (sins and infirmities),”and I will give you rest." (Mathew 11:28).

Therefore, beloved brothers and sisters, let us remember this while celebrating, as in this great Feast of the Nativity of Christ, and in all the days of our lives, to resort to the Holy Church as often as possible: attend the Services, to heal our souls with the Holy Sacraments, in order for us to acquire the longed-for blessed Peace of Christ. Amen.

+Archbishop Vladimir



[1] also: “He who endures distress, will be granted joys; and he who bears with unpleasant things, will not be deprived of the pleasant.”