Nativity Epistle of Archbishop Vladimir

Beloved in Christ clergymen, monastics, brothers, sisters and all pastors and parishioners of our

Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

I greet you with the Great Feast of Christ's Nativity!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

"When the time had arrived" which was the time indicated by God, when the Old Testament humanity, by God's Providence, was prepared to consciously accept the Savior, God sent His Son, born of the Virgin Mary that He would take on himself the sins of the world, redeem the sinful man and adopt him to God.

The main cause of human sin, the source of our fallen nature, is man's separation from God and the loss of the spiritual-moral union with God and, as a consequence, the rule of our sensual and physical nature over the spiritual.  That is why the basic if the not the only method of correction is the sincere desire and effort for a sinful person to return the lost connection to God, to draw humanity closer to God, that man in coming closer to God would comprehend His Holy will, would rely on it fully, master His laws and submit his sinful desires to His Divine love and fatherly cares.

The Son of God came to earth and became man, became a true human without ceasing being God so that he, in His Person, would unite humanity, as God's image, with the Prototype- that is God. In this manner He elevated human nature and so that the idea of redemption was not foreign to humanity, as though given to him from afar.  As our Redeemer and Savior voluntarily and freely took on Himself the sins of all humanity while on the cross at Golgotha, and similarly the individual, due to self-will, having sinned in paradise can voluntarily and freely bring atonement in his sins and come to Christ.

In this is the eternal power and meaning of the very wise mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God.  In it was demonstrated the eternal love of God for mankind.  During His earthly life the incarnated Son of God, with words, examples and life, taught people the truth and love and announced to all mankind the entire fullness of teachings about God, humanity, their interrelationship, on existence, on the purpose and significance of life, immortality of the soul and life beyond the grave.

The Divine revelation and teaching of the Savior, recorded in the Holy Gospel and passed on through the Holy Tradition by the Holy Apostles and their successors will forever remain a valuable treasure of human knowledge and anyone that loves knowledge and seeks the Truth can always find here life-giving food for the soul.  Our Lord Jesus Christ gave mankind exalted and very firm laws of moral development and perfection: "be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt 5,48).

The Savior's entire earthly life presents examples of meekness, modesty and humility.  All His life, from birth until the death on the cross was nothing more than the perpetual bearing of the cross.  Being King, He could subject all the riches of the world, but even his birth was in a wretched cave and crib for animals.  As He testified: "the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head" (Matt 8,20).  Being All-Powerful God with infinite Godly power, He submitted to earthly kings and gave Himself into obedience and subjected Himself to His Mother and His teacher Joseph (Luke 2,51). Having a Divine Mind and being himself Wisdom He spoke using simple words and also chose uneducated fishermen as his disciples.  He never searched for glory forbidding to talk about His miracles.  He served His disciples, washed their feet and was the first among them to feel contempt, scorn, sufferings and death on the cross.  He even chose for Himself not a benevolent and noble death, but in those days, the most disgraceful one, allowing that He be hung on a cross as a great criminal between two thieves in order to take onto Himself our evil deeds. (Matt 27, 38).

With His holiness and grandeur He could have established for Himself, during His presence on earth, a more glorious name than John the Baptist who was called "a burning and a shining light" (John 5, 35).  But He did not wish this so that with His life as an example He would help us cleanse our souls from sins such as pride, vanity, hypocrisy.  Since we often pay our attention only on the outward signs of piety.  In other words, the Lord did not want anything from this earthly life, giving His life as example, that we subjugate all that is outward to our inner person.

"Son give Me thine heart" (compare Proverbs 23, 26), says He and all else I will give to you because the heart of man can accommodate the Heavenly Kingdom" says the venerable Seraphim of Sarov.

"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the hearts" (Proverbs 21, 2) so states the Book of Proverbs.  In the first book of Samuel we read that the Lord God sent the prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint David to be king and the prophet wanted to anoint the first-born and the Lord said: "Look not on his countenance or on the height of his stature because I have refused him for the Lord seeth not as man seeth for man looketh on the outward appearance but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1Samuel 16,7).

With these examples the Lord wants to teach us  that He does not pay attention to the external features of man.  The Lord desires that we have a loving, God-fearing, faithful and humble heart.  Not only the outward appearance but also all our works the Lord judges by the internal spirit, disposition and intentions.  The same can be said regarding other human traits; no matter how wonderful they are for the world but if they do not come from a pure heart and serve not for God's glory or benefit and correction of one's neighbor and at the same time do not exclude self-glorification, self-love, selfishness, vanity and praise it not only has no significance before God but become sins for the individual.  All gifts are given to us by God solely for God's glory and to help our neighbor and only in this manner can one steer towards one's salvation.

Therefore, in celebrating the Feast of Christ's Birth let us remember what love and mercy the Lord showed us, He who calls us to love God and neighbor through the purity of our hearts.  So, let us ask the Lord that He would cleanse our hearts, illuminate them with His love and grace since only in such hearts Christ will then live in us. Amen


+Archbishop Vladimir

Christ's Nativity  2019 o.s.