The Christmas Epistle of Archbishop Vladimir

Dear beloved in Christ fathers, brothers, sisters, clerics and the flock of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia!

Congratulations with the Great Feast of the Nativity of Christ!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

    On this blessed day we, together, celebrate the Son of God, “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man” - as we, together, confess our faith.

    The mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, the mystery of unification of the two natures, divine and human, in a single form in Jesus Christ is unattainable for the human mind; but it is the foundation of our redemption and salvation.

    Being unattainable in its essence, this mystery has nevertheless been sufficiently uncovered and explained to us through the Word of God, by the Holy Apostles, the Holy Fathers (including those of the 7 Ecumenical Councils), and the Dogmatic Teaching of the Orthodox Church.

    It is revealed to us that the Holy Virgin Mary, upon giving birth to Christ -  before, during and after His Nativity remains the Virgin, and therefore is called Ever-virgin; She continues being the Mother and the Virgin. 

    It is revealed to us from the mystery of incarnation that the Son of God took upon Himself our human flesh, however not flesh of sin, but flesh clean of infirmities, and even alien to the possibility of sinning (re. Hebrews 4:15).  Christians have known this for over two thousand years by now, yet even in our modern times followers of the antichrist and enemies of God re-appear, teaching the heresy of “Savior's involvement in the Original Sin”, thereby elevating blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; for our Lord Jesus Christ was incarnated of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.

    It is revealed to us that in God-man, the Deity has united with humanity from the moment of His conception (Annunciation); that the Deity has united with the whole human nature, i.e. with soul and body; that the Deity has united with manhood inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably – as is confessed in the Oros (Dogmatic Definition) of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon.  “Inconfusedly and unchangeably” means that Godhead and manhood natures in Christ do not merge and do not convert one into another.  “Indivisibly, inseparably” means that both natures are united forever and will never be separated, unto the ages of ages.  The Lord Jesus Christ is not two but one whole Divine Person – the God-man; He became a genuine man without stopping being a true God and Lord.  It is with our manhood that our Lord Jesus Christ – the God-man, is now residing in heaven, sitting on the right hand of the Father.   It is with our manhood that He will descend to Earth in the Second Coming to judge the living and the dead.  It is with our manhood that He will reign with all the saints forever and ever.  Such is the endowment of grace and mercy that our human nature has been granted through the God-man.

    “The Incarnation of the Lord,” says St. John Chrysostom, “is the root and source of countless benefits for us.”

    As one of Church hymns describes it, “the God came down to earth to elevate us into heaven”.   These words clearly indicate the purpose for which the Son of God came to earth and became incarnate - to again elevate to heaven a man, who was originally created for heaven, however fell and was put to death by sin, enslaved by earthly passions. However, the return to heaven can only be under the rightful condition of when a man realizes the depth of his fall and his separation from God, sincerely turns to God, repents of his sins with all his heart and, rejecting his passions, with all his heart, will love God and neighbour.

    This is a commandment, it is the condition of our salvation. But how many people understand and accept this elaborate plan of our salvation? How many agree to accept the God-given means of their salvation?

    Look at modern humanity - its goals, hobbies and passions. What a great abyss it seeks to fall in, tying itself up with a multitude of passions and sensual pleasures. Look at how far the modern man departs from Christian virtues, perverting not only the order of life and its pleasures, but even his very own nature that was given to us by the Lord.

    What can we say about the modern world, if even those who call themselves Christians are distancing themselves more and more from the commandments of Christ, not only via enmity between themselves, but also by stubbornly following the anti-Christian sins of heresy and schism.

    More and more man forgets about heavenly things, clinging instead to earthly things, while the Lord God has descended to earth in order to elevate man to heaven.

    Therefore, beloved brothers and sisters, on this great Feast of the Nativity of Christ we should especially reflect on its purpose, its Christian meaning and our obligation to it, on the greatness of the gifts the Lord has given to us, and on the eternal gratitude that we owe Him.

    Let us continually thank the Lord, and also ask that the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, which we now celebrate, be made pleasing to the Savior, and that the born God-child Christ becomes our Savior in eternal life, through our self-correction and His Divine mercy. Amen.

+ Archbishop Vladimir

The Christmas of 2018 (old calendar)