Eminent Brother-Archpastors, Reverend Fathers, Beloved in the Lord, Brothers and Sisters:
It is with feelings of humble gratitude, love, and joy in the Lord that I greet everyone on this great and most joyous celebration of the Nativity of Christ—the arrival on earth of the incarnate Son of God born to the Most-Blessed Virgin Mary. May the saving grace of God, appearing now in a humble Bethlehem cave and shining upon the waters of the Jordan River, be poured forth upon us all, visiting our homes, parishes, and monasteries with unearthly light and peace!
We pray also that the Holy Land, which quenched the Savior’s thirst with its waters and fed with its bread Him Who is for us even Himself our food and drink, be sated with the peace heralded by the angelic choir over the city of Bethlehem! May the Lord strengthen the clergymen and monastics of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, who are enduring difficult times as they preserve and protect our holy sites. Their courageous podvig, in the words of St John the Wonderworker, who was glorified 30 years ago, “evokes a feeling of tenderness and is worthy of reverence,” and it is our holy duty to send them our support in these sacred days.
As we continue to endure a burdensome time of enmity, division and apostasy from the Faith, let us not forget that GOD IS WITH US (Isaiah 8:10). And if, as we sing during these days, it is “Him we will fear,” that is, if we are pious before Him, striving towards Him and seeking to manifest in our lives the adherence to His commandments, then we will find that we “fear not His terror, neither are we troubled.” We must, in this spirit, strengthen our prayer for those who violate Christian peace between nations, and in society, and in our interrelationships with other people. This is not only a commandment of Christ (cf. Matthew 5:44), but counsel given as a means of reconciliation with our neighbors; for such prayer, which evokes God’s mercy, works positively both upon one’s enemies and upon the one who prays.
Bending the knee of our hearts before the God-Child Christ and His Most-Pure Mother, I beseech for the Orthodox peoples of the world, for the Holy Churches of God, unity and well-being; for the persecuted, freedom; for the suffering hearts of people, consolation; and for each one of you the fulfillment of God’s goodwill and the receipt of His all-powerful aid. May the Lord bless you all, and I express hope that our combined efforts in serving God and mankind will result in the year 2024 becoming “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:19). Amen.
Beseeching your holy prayers, I remain with love in the Newborn Christ,
Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Nativity of Christ 2023/2024