Nativity 2020 / 2021
To all faithful devotees of the Russian True Orthodox Church
in the Fatherland and in the Diaspora
Dear in the Lord fellow archpastors, most reverent shepherds,
the monks and monastic faithful who are so diligent in their exploits,
God-loving flock of the Russian True Orthodox Church!
“For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness,
and shew unto you that eternal life,
which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us”
(I John 1:2)
Greetings to you on this great day of the Nativity of Christ, with God’s great condescension toward us sinners, with this manifestation of Divine love! Christ is born, coming to raise up the fallen image.
The Messenger, the Messiah, had long been awaited by all believing Jews, as well as by the wisest of the Gentiles of the Old Testament. They had hoped that the Messiah would make it easier for every man to live a good life and bring justice to the earth, so that sinners would no longer have dominion over the righteous, nor Gentiles over right-believing Jews, but the Son of God Himself would be the victorious King, bringing universal joy, and a new and blessed life to the earth. Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is now born in Bethlehem, revealing the great mystery of piety, brought new life and called Himself the Life of all, as He Himself said in the last days of His earthly life: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Almighty God came down as a miraculous Child to mankind suffering and wearied in sins, according to His inexpressible love, in order to make us children of God. Heaven and earth rejoice at this extraordinary miracle. The angels sing a song of praise, the shepherds rush to worship, the wise men travel following the star. For our sake, the Child is born, the Eternal God.
Listening to the Gospel account, remembering the Nativity of Christ, and being penetrated by the heartwarming hymns of the Church, our hearts are filled with unspeakable joy. And the soul longs for the manger of Christ, for the holy Bethlehem, where, as a meek child, the Creator of the universe and Savior of mankind now dwells in the squalid cave. There, in childlike simplicity, together with the shepherds, she would have fallen down at the manger of the newborn Child, would have poured out all her burdens and sorrows before the pure Lamb, would have washed away her wretchedness with abundant tears and begged Him for comfort and salvation with bright hope. I see a strange and glorious mystery: the nativity has become heaven, the Blessed Virgin has become the throne of the cherubim, and the manger has become the chamber of the incomprehensible God. So come to His manger, all you believers! This is why the manger of Bethlehem is so dear to us all, because the Infant God who wept in it, who willingly took the form of a slave, is near to us all. We do not need to travel like the Magi for this – Bethlehem is not far from us: here, in the temple, on the altar at the Liturgy, in the manger the Lamb of God is laid and buried. He is here with us, for it is written: where two or three are gathered together in His name, there He is among them. It is convenient to worship Him here, having arranged our souls and hearts in the manger by communing with the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Let the children go to Him first of all. He loves them, and says powerfully, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). Let the children look at the young God-Man, who has become like them, let them worship Him and sing of His Nativity.
Come to him whoever is in need of comfort, those who suffer in want, sorrow, trouble and sickness… Come, all you who are suffering and burdened, who with tears from lack of bread greet this feast today. Do not mourn, poor man: your King and Savior is near to your grief; he himself, who had no rest and no refuge, knows what you need. He has come down to earth to save you, to lift up your soul to its first bliss. Let your body grieve, starve, be sick with sorrows – you are going His way: “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Carry in His name your cross that He has given you – tribulation, hardship, sickness. Speak as He did: “Thy will be done.” He came to be with us beggars to beg, with us weepers to weep, with us poor to be poor. He came to take on the sorrow of the world – the sins of the world – and to be like us in everything but sin. Do not be embarrassed by the voluntary humility of the Son of God, by it He has drawn all to Himself. God Most-high has descended to earth, so that He may raise us up to heaven. And those who have embraced His life, followed in His footsteps and united with Him, have indeed ceased to experience the discontent with life that has languished and continues to languish those who do not know Christ.
Today, when the sea of life seems especially dangerous and impassable, ready to swallow up all mankind in its whirlpool, when the forces of hell are more and more hardened in their ferocity and clever in their deceit, it is especially important always to remember this truth. We must know firmly that the Lord will certainly turn everything we encounter on our way in life to salvation for those who love Him – just come, kneel before this miraculous manger of the Divine Child, worship and sing of His unspeakable favor for us sinners. Not one single teardrop, not one part of any drop will be hidden from the Savior who is now born, always at the doors of our hearts, always ready to turn our sorrow into joy. All Scripture, all the Prophets, the Apostles, the Holy Fathers, and all the Saints of the Orthodox Church encourage us in this. Whatever waves may rise up against us, let us not be afraid, let us not be drawn away by those who sow fear and panic in the world today, but rather let us more than ever study the lives of the saints, who for the sake of Christ and the future blessed life have emerged from their mournful earthly path as victors. Let us firmly remember: from now on, the forces of evil are powerless, from now on they are doomed – Christ is born, God is with us!
For the sake of Christ Who is born, people who are wealthy should have compassion and help a neighbor in need who is in sorrow. Do you want to get closer to the Newborn? Bring Him a gift, clothe Him, shelter Him from the cold – and you can always do this. Over there, at the door of the church, maybe your brother is standing there, for whose salvation the Lord came, standing and crying, exhausted under the weight of his cross of life, with only the hope of a miracle… Show him mercy! Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, comfort the sorrowful, so that Christ will draw near to you, accept your mercy, and reward you with mercy, according to His word: “as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Christ is one for all, He came for all, we are all brethren in Christ.
The incarnate God-Man Jesus Christ is the Head of His Church today, and until the end of the age. From Him, as from an inexhaustible and life-giving spring, life-giving grace flows throughout the body of the Church, reviving, cleansing, and renewing the faithful. In His Holy Church are all the Holy Sacraments and holy virtues, by which we are saved into new life, eternal life. And the joys we experience in the Church during these wondrous days of Nativity are greater than earthly sorrow, loss, betrayal, and adversity! And so let us now, Christians, rejoice in the great mystery of God’s incarnation, and share this joy and love with our neighbors, singing a song of praise with the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men!”
To all of you, faithful members of the True Church of Christ, my warmest congratulations on the Nativity of the God-Man Jesus Christ!
Nativity of Christ 2020 / 2021
† Humble Tikhon
By the grace of God, Archbishop of Omsk and Siberia,
First Hierarch of the Russian True Orthodox Church