My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
PEACE FROM GOD, CHRIST IS BORN!
By the saintly Serbian Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory (+2009) Nativity epistle to the Serbian flock.
"Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life" (St. John 6:68).
Persons and events come and go with the relentless march of time. That which today seems important and crucial may be completely forgotten tomorrow. Persons regarded by their contemporaries as influential and powerful are forgotten, as if they had never existed. History brings and then carries, it concocts and then abandons to oblivion. Everything appears temporary and relative, even us.
Man can carry on in various ways with the pessimism of history, but it is far more important how God sees history. God, by His constant presence and action in history and through what appears as a meaningless course of events, prepares the way that leads toward a predetermined goal. By His entering into history He has transformed history so that particular events are not relative and temporary; on the contrary, they are unique, un-repeatable and of crucial importance both for God and for man. God's presence in history thus cures history itself of its natural, perpetual pessimism.
And precisely today, here and now, for the two thousandth time we celebrate and remember the event that divides history in two; the event so significant that we count the years from it as we now complete the second millennium. Two thousand years have passed since that night when history's greatest miracle took place in that cave near Bethlehem, when the Son of God Himself came and put on flesh and became like one of us: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (St. John 1:14). He is none other than the Eternal and Uncreated Son, the Word or Logos of God, through Whom all things in human life and history is as it was before. The "Sun of Righteousness" (Mal. 4:2) was born to us and all the depths of human fallenness and struggle against God have been filled by His warmth and Light. From that night on, all human life and the history of every nation comes down to only one dilemma, to one simple question: Are you for or against Christ? One simple question, but a question so crucial that our entire life and the future of our people hinges upon it. That question overshadows and defines every historical period of the past twenty centuries.
For or against Him? Earlier periods that were "for Christ" (at least for the most part) brought forth fruit that stands as an example and a starting point for all times. That fruit is called Christian culture. It represents an attempt to Christianize every segment of personal, social and national life, so that nothing remains outside or apart from Christ. We call it an attempt, since nothing in history is absolute and final. But the value is truly in the deeply Christian attempt, since a basic characteristic of Christianity is its all-inclusiveness--that "Christ be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28).
...What is man, and what is he worth? The twentieth century said that man is nothing, but this feast today tells us, just as that day two thousand years ago told us, that "man is sacred." And that applies not only to his spirit or his soul, but also to his body. "The whole of man, body and soul together, is an inviolate shrine of incalculable and eternal worth." Today's feast tells us this, the day on which the Bodiless becomes embodied and on which the Son of God becomes the Son of man. This precisely is what is radically new in our faith. That the soul is holy is suggested by other religions, but that the body is equally sacred is found nowhere else. During the whole first eight centuries of Christianity, which were characterized by struggles against heresies, the Church unyieldingly defended this truth: that the whole of man, both body and soul, is holy. And that applies to every human being, regardless of his religion or nationality. Every murder, every disrespect for human personality and freedom, is sin, even more so when it is justified on ideological or nationalistic grounds.
In contrast to this dismal picture of the twentieth century, today we see before us a young mother holding her newly-born Child to her bosom, and are moved to feel one of the greatest of human virtues and attributes: a warm heart. The motherly love of the Most Holy Theotokos permeates today is entire event and radiates a warm feeling within us. "Christmas is the feast of warmth and of warm human hearts." It is seems that there is no place today a person can "warm" himself, it is because human hearts have grown cold. They have become hard and unfeeling even towards the suffering of so many of our brothers and sisters who in recent years have been left homeless, exiled from their birthplaces, and some even without their loved ones. That life is hard is not the exception but the rule. Only the twentieth century has brought the simple-minded dream that life should be easy and leisurely, which it never has been throughout history. "In the sweat of thy face thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground" the Lord tells Adam (Genesis 3:19), and that is the law of human life. But afflictions and difficulties and limitations are easier to bear when we have warmth in us and amongst us. For in the day of His Second Coming, the Lord will not ask us what kind of times we lived in, but how we related to our neighbor. Was he our "hell" or our "heaven?" We ourselves build either heaven or hell in our own hearts out of the momentary circumstances we are given, and the warmth of the human heart is able to transform any situation, even to make a cave in Bethlehem the most beautiful palace and birthplace of the King of kings...
...If the Lord has not revealed the near future to us, leaving it up to us to create it, He has revealed to us the final and ultimate truth--that no matter what, He will triumph. He revealed that good is far stronger than evil, and that every triumph of evil is temporary and illusory. The weeds and the wheat grown together, but only until the harvest. Are we for or against Christ? This is the question that will determine both our future and the future of all nations.
As we gather here today around the Divine Infant Christ celebrating His birth, we hope and we pray to Him that He will be reborn in our hearts, in our neighbors, in our people and our country, and in the hearts of all people and nations.
Peace from God, Christ is Born!
Patriarch PAVLE, Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade
(Source: Orthodox Heritage)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in the Holy Theophania of our Lord,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God