Archpastoral Letter of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon for the Nativity of Christ 2015
ARCHPASTORAL MESSAGE OF HIS BEATITUDE
FOR THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST
CHRIST IS BORN ! GLORIFY HIM !
To the Honorable Clergy, Venerable Monastics, and Pious Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,
My Beloved Brethren and Blessed Children in the Lord,
It is my joy and privilege to greet all of you on the radiant feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. In some 700 communities large and small sprinkled across the North American continent, from Canada, to the United States and Mexico, we gather together to celebrate the wonder of God’s entry into human history. For many in our society this message is still as foolish as it was in the first century. But we continue to stand with the saints beside the manger, the Cross and the empty tomb to proclaim God’s sacrificial love for us and for His Creation. As we sing on Christmas Day:
I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will make all Thy wonders known
In the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord!
They are studied by all who have pleasure in them!
His work is glory and beauty, and His righteousness endures forever.
--Christmas Day, 1st Antiphon (Psalm 111:1-3)
Truly, “Great are the works of the Lord!”
He sees a world filled with suffering and He Himself voluntarily suffers to make a path to healing.
He sees a world dying and He Himself dies to bring resurrection and unending life.
He sees a world in darkness and He Himself enters that darkness to bring a divine light that can never be extinguished.
He sees a world in bondage to the forces of evil and He submits Himself to that evil in order to destroy it forever.
The God Who is “ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible and eternally the same” empties Himself of power and divine privilege. He becomes a weak, fragile human being in order to share fully in our broken existence and in so doing offers the possibility of a life in communion with Him, with each other, and with all creation.
May our Lord bless each of you, your communities and your families as you celebrate His Nativity and serve Him.
With love in the New-Born Christ,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
Fr. Terence's Message for the Nativity of Christ 2015
Greetings in the name of Our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ! Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
We come to that busy time of year, once again, when we prepare to celebrate the Nativity of Christ.
As Orthodox Christians, we may be tempted to envy all the glamor of this season: the pretty lights & displays, the air waves filled with carols, one movie after another trying to tell us to be jolly & nice and even in the local streets, the visual impact cannot be ignored! I would never want to begrudge seeing the resulting smiles on children’s faces but we must realize that the Orthodox Christian understanding of the Nativity goes much deeper. Further, in comparison to many of the commercial messages forced upon us ours is the very opposite!
The story of the Nativity from the scriptures & our liturgical services is clear: the Virgin Mary, with the protection of her husband, Joseph, search for an inn & settle for a cave with the shepherds, the angels & the wise men to witness the birth of the child Jesus. The beauty of the story embraces heaven & earth as well as all people of “good will” with a promise of great hope & salvation. Even so, this story has another side. There was no time to wait around & celebrate, because the participants had to break apart as quickly as they came together, when they were told in dreams about the hateful intentions of King Herod. He ultimately vented his apprehension of the news on the innocent children of the local district by slaughtering them.
Beyond this story, God’s revelation has given us a background & context to it that the Orthodox liturgical services strongly bring out showing that the event has immense implications. To show how this is the case, let us examine the beginning of the scriptures.
The story of creation in the Book of Genesis compares the state of Adam & Eve before and after they fell from grace by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Before the fall, God saw that creation was very good (Gen. 1:4, 11, 13, 18, 21, 24 & 32). God created Adam & Eve in his image & likeness (Gen. 1:27), and they were created to be more spiritual than flesh, for the Lord God blew into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). Our fore-parents were on close talking terms with God (Gen. 1:26-28). They were given responsibilities such as tilling the earth & caring for it (Gen. 3:7), naming creation and reporting to God about their work (Gen. 2:19), being caring stewards of the cosmos and having dominion or being custodians over it (Gen. 1:28).
After their fall from grace however, they saw their nakedness (Gen. 3:7), their bodies became flesh-like or denser (Gen. 3:7), they became subject to the ravages of nature (Gen. 3:17) and they were driven out of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23-24). Thus, they lost their home and were separated from God. The Orthodox Church also believes that their very makeup was affected. In regard to their being in the image of God, they could still seek him and his goodness but it was much more difficult to be close to him. Worse still, their relationship to God as being in created in his likeness was damaged beyond repair. The effect of this change was that their appetites, such as eating and drinking, became insatiable passions, with greed often taking over (Gen. 4:1-16; Cain & Able). There was a tendency to seek created images instead of their Creator. Creation also fell because it was dependent on us (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:20), and it rebelled and was no longer benign & fruitful. We have to work hard for it to be fruitful (Gen. 3:17-19).
When we look at the birth of Jesus, we note that it is with the smelly shepherds & animals, in a manger, in a cave. In his life, Jesus is often seen in the context of his creation: going to the hills to pray, out on a lake where he calms the waters, going to the desert with the wild animals and the plants. In his teachings & parables, he spoke of himself as a shepherd (Mt. 25:32; 26:31; Mk. 6:34; 14:27; Jn. 10:1-16); he talked about the mustard seed full of nesting birds (Mk.4:31-32); rescuing an animal on the Sabbath (Mt. 12:11); him loving Jerusalem like the love that a hen has for her chickens (Mt. 23:37; Lk. 12:34); the sparrows are remembered by God (Lk. 12:6). At the end of his life, he used a donkey to enter Jerusalem and the earth shook & the rocks split (Mt. 27: 51-53). Thus, he was never far from his creation! Thus, there is a great deal to celebrate, not just for us but for the whole of creation!
For St. Paul, this creation & our salvation become one in Christ. Christ is the new Adam (Rom. 5:12-31; 1 Cor. 15:45), a new creation (Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:4) and a new man (Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Col. 3:10) and this was planned since the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) as a mystery hidden for ages in God (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:10). Thus, the second creation is the culmination of salvation history, restoring creation and bringing it to a higher plain. Thus, not only is creation good (1 Cor. 7:31; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 13:14; 1 Pet. 2:11; cf. also 1 Jn. 2:17) but something in which we can faithfully partake (1 Cor. 10:26; 1 Tim. 4:4; cf. Tit. 1:15; Rom. 14:14 & 20; 1 Cor. 3:21f.) through our life in Christ (Jn. 5:26; 6:48; 14:6; 1 Jn. 1:2; 1 Jn. 5:11).
This will be fully accomplished at the second coming of Christ but his nativity not only heralds all of the above implications but we are called in our own lives in Christ to strive to live in the way that God intended for Adam & Eve: caring for creation and offering it back to Christ through our baptism and priesthood. It is part of the reason we pray, fast and give alms in preparation prior to the celebration. Nor can we ignore the backdrop of those “elemental forces of this world” (Gal. 4:3) that war against it. It manifested itself in Herod’s hatred towards those innocents he slaughtered and we see many instances of hatred and destruction in these current times.
The same holds for those who because of greed, want to abuse and pollute this earth, causing chemical contamination in our food produce, health & water management issues for many societies, the destruction of forests & species, as well as the threatening melting polar ice caps that could cause sea levels to rise. We are called to respond by praying, interceding and doing all we can to make society respect and protect all aspects of God’s creation just as he called Adam & Eve to from the very beginning.
Thus, this season is much more than an interesting story with nice cultural trimmings. It profoundly affects our lives, all those whom we pray for, our whole community & nation, in fact, the whole universe!
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
Welcome to Our Parish!
Glory to Jesus Christ!
The Christmas schedule is as follows -
DECEMBER 24…………..THURSDAY 9:00 AM Divine Liturgy *
4:00 PM Vespers *
DECEMBER 25………….. FRIDAY 9:00 AM Divine Liturgy
* Fr. Terry will hear confessions at the conclusion of each of these services.