The Christmas Epistle of Archbishop Vladimir
Dear in Christ brothers and sisters, clergy and flock, monastics of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia!
Congratulations on the Great Feast of the Nativity of Christ!
Christ is born – Glorify Him!
The many prophecies that were foretold in the Old Testament by the Holy Prophets about our Saviour, about His nativity, have all been fulfilled with great accuracy.
It was prophesied that Christ would be born of all-pure Virgin “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7, 14), - and so it was: Christ was born of a Virgin (Matt. 1:18-23).
It was prophesied that the Saviour would be born of the tribe of Judah in the city of Bethlehem: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel” (Micah 5: 2; Matt 2: 6) - and so it was: our Lord spake forth from the tribe of Judah: in Bethlehem of Judah was Jesus Christ born (Matt. 2: 1).
It was prophesied that our Lord Jesus Christ would be born of the seed of David - and so it was: Christ was born in the flesh of the seed, that is, of the tribe of David, therefore he was called the son of David (Matt 9:27).
It was prophesied that many would come to the newborn Christ with gifts and worship Him: “The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him… and to Him shall be given of the gold of Sheba (Psalm 72:10-11,15) – and so it was. The Magi, the wise men, came to the Divine Infant Christ, and, falling to the ground, bowed to Him and presented unto Him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).
The flight to Egypt and the return of Christ from Egypt were prophesied: I called my son out of Egypt (Hos. 11:1) – and it was so.
It was prophesied that Christ the Lord would begin His sermon in Galilee: “He did grievously afflict her” in Galilee of the Gentiles, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is. 9:1,2) - and so it was: it was in Galilee that our Lord Jesus Christ began to preach and say: “Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).
It was prophesied that our Lord Jesus Christ would perform many miracles: “He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isaiah 35:4-6) – and so it came to pass – the Lord performed many miracles: the blind received their sight, the deaf received hearing, the dumb received the ability to speak, the lame and the sick of the palsy were healed, lepers were cleansed, the dead were resurrected (Matt. 11:5).
Many other prophecies indicate with the greatest accuracy that our Lord Jesus Christ is the true Messiah, the Savior of the world.
In Jesus Christ there are two natures, the Divine and the human: Jesus Christ is true God and true man, the God-man. The world could never have arrived at this idea if there had not been an apparition of the God-man.
The Lord Jesus Christ alone we recognize and confess as perfect God and together perfect man, apart from sin. This is what the St. Evangelists and the St. Apostles tell us.
St. Ephraim the Syrian shows us this very vividly: "If Jesus Christ was not flesh, who did the Virgin Mary give birth to? And if He is not God, whom did the Archangel Gabriel call Lord?”
"If He was not flesh, who was He that was wrapped in swaddling clothes? And if He was not God, in whose honour did the star appear and show the place of His birth? If He was not flesh, Whom did Simeon hold in his arms? And if He is not God, to Whom was it said, "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart”, O Lord?
“If He was not flesh, who in the wilderness took loaves in his hands? And if He is not God, Who fed 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fishes, besides wives and children? If He was not flesh, Who slept in the ship? And if He is not God, Who forbade the waves and the sea?
“If He was not flesh, Who wore human clothes? And if He is not God, Who healed the bleeding woman by touching His garment? If He was not flesh, Who wept at the tomb of Lazarus? And if He is not God, Who commanded the four-day-old dead man to come out of the tomb?
“If He was not flesh, Who was crucified on the cross? And if He is not God, Who shook the earth at its foundations? If He was not flesh, Whose hands and feet were nailed to the cross? And if He is not God, why was the curtain of the Temple torn, why were the stones split, why were the tombs opened? If He was not flesh, Who hung on the cross among the thieves? And if He is not God, how did He say to the thief: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise”?
“If He was not flesh, Whom did the women see laid in the tomb? And if He is not God, then about Whom did the angels say to them: “He is risen; He is not here”?
By calling and confessing our Lord Jesus Christ as the God-man and following the revelation of the word of God, we must understand the God-man as uniting in one Person, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably two natures, Divine and human, the intercessor of God and men.
The entire earthly life of the Savior was to do the will of the Father Who sent Him. In doing His Father's will, He constantly prayed to Him: He prayed at His baptism, He prayed in the wilderness, He went up the mountain to pray; before the election of the Apostles, He spent the whole night in prayer; after feeding of the five thousand people, he prayed on the mountain at night; He taught the Apostles the Lord's Prayer; children were brought to Him so that He would pray for them; during His prayer on Mount Tabor, He was transfigured; He prayed at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:41-42); He prayed for the Apostle Peter, that his faith would not fail (Luke 22:32); He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, kneeling down, falling on His face, falling to the ground, stood up to prayer three times and prayed until he sweated blood; when He was sorrowful and longing, when His soul grieved to death before the coming sufferings and the horror of death on the Cross, He overcame this grief by being awake and praying; finally, in the midst of the cruelest pains on the Cross, He prayed for those who crucified Him.
Praying Himself, by His example, He taught, and teaches all people for all ages - to pray always and not to lose heart, to pray for those who offend, to pray to avoid present and coming calamities and not to fall into temptation.
The Apostle Paul says: “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Hebr. 3:1).
According to the call of St. Apostle Paul, we are to clearly understand the Lord Jesus Christ as "The Messenger of our Confession of Faith", Who without comparison is well above all the messengers of God, not only those on earth, such as Moses and the prophets, but also those in Heaven, such as the Holy Angels, who are sent to serve those who wish to inherit salvation: The Lord Jesus Christ first gave us the concept of God as our Father, Who so loved the world, that gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
We should also think of our Lord Jesus Christ as the "High Priest of our Confession of Faith", the eternal Priest, Who offered Himself as a Sacrifice for our sins, Who sent from the Father to the Church His Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Who fills all with grace-filled power, and Who at the right hand of God the Father continually intercedes for us.
With this understanding and Confession of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is clear that in Him is our life, in Him is our strength, in Him is our hope, in Him is our healing for soul and body, in Him is our blessing in the present life and blissfulness in the life to come. Without Him we "can do nothing" (John 15:5).
Therefore, beloved brethren and sisters, let us always thank the Lord for His rich mercies towards us; let us cling to Him in His Holy Temple and in the seclusion of our hearts; With God's help, let us guard the Faith and the truth that He has left for us; let us cultivate in ourselves a love for Him and for our neighbor; let us grow in hope in Him, no matter what external circumstances may befall us, so that, seeing our zeal and striving for Him, the Lord may have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins and transgressions, protect us with His grace, and guide us always to the path of salvation. Amen.
+ Archbishop Vladimir