by the Grace of God
Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada
To the Beloved Clergy and Right-Believing Christians,
Peace and Holy Joy from our Lord Jesus Christ,
And from us Hierarchal Blessings.
Most Reverend Fathers,
God has granted us to conclude one year of our mission in the United States and Canada, a mission begun with much fervor and desire to fulfill the Lord's work. But this work, both divine and human, requires effort, patience and perseverance in order to be fruitful. The Feast of the Lord's Nativity is a blessed moment to reflect upon our mission and to receive new power to accomplish it. For two thousand years the foundation of this mission has been the proclamation of God's coming down to humanity in order to bring it an understanding of its purpose and the meaning of the Universe. The Troparion of the Lord's Nativity speaks to us of the Light brought by the Son of God through the Incarnation:"Your Birth, O Christ our God,
Has dawn upon the world with the Light of knowledge,
For by a star those who worshiped the stars
were taught to worship You, the Sun of Justice,
And to come to know You, the Dayspring from on High.
O Lord, glory to You!"
On the first day of Creation the Lord said: "'Let there be light.' And there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness." (Genesis 1:3-4) God established light in the world that he created. Light means order, a ordering of things according to the Creator's plan, but also the power to understand this ordering. Through physical light a person's eye discovers the creation and has the capacity, through spiritual light, as well as the reason and the conscious to grasp the ordering of the world and to become included in it. But this understanding cannot be achieved by the human person alone, who has hardly had his eyes opened to the world, rather it presupposes a relationship between man and the uncreated light, coming from the Creator.
God Himself separated light from darkness, the order that conforms to Creation, from that which is opposed to it and in disorder. To be in the light means from the first moment of creation to fulfill God's will, and to be in the darkness is to be opposed to this Divine will.
Darkness overcame Adam who sought the light, but was deceived by the Devil: "for God knows that when you eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5) -- deceitful words that speak of the knowledge of good and evil and of being like God. For the way in which these were to be acquired was contrary to the will of God, who did not create the human being blind, but gave us to freedom to come to complete knowledge growing in the love of God. The Tempter tempts Adam with being like God without God. He who listened and desired the false light has lost the true light and has fallen into the darkness.
The history of humanity after Adam is the search for light. In sacrificing their animals, humans offered something of their own in order to regain the true light, that is the true life which is communion with God. The sacrifice of the lamb according to the Law showed humanity's hope to come once again to life. And in this sense the sacrifice was light heralding the true light, the Incarnation of the Son of God.
The Troparion of the Feast announces the light brought by Christ. Christ Himself reveals Himself as light: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).
The light of life is that which we received from the Creator, but which we darkened through sin. It is the existential light that shows us the image of God. For God is love, He created man out of love and He sent His Son to save him on account of this love. Christ "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15), he has recovered for us the true "image of God" as light, that is as the love of the Father which is poured out on the world, for humanity and the whole creation. This "image of God" turned toward the world has once again given the human image the brilliance that was lost to it. For "The Word, as Son of God, loves the Father and the Holy Spirit, and as such, is able to show this love and goodness to humanity", says Fr. Stăniloae. The love and goodness brought by Christ radiates from His image thus revealing Himself as true God and true man. And in this way, the love and goodness of a person shows on his face as light, for he is open to others, for he offers himself to them. This light as a reflection of love is the revelation of our true nature recreated in Christ.
As we sing in the Troparion, the whole creation rejoices at this recreation. The order established at the beginning has been restored and the stars proclaim the glory of God and the light returned to the world. The Wise men knew to read these signs of a new world and to worship the King of Heaven who took on human flesh. What this means is that even from the Incarnation the world witnessed to the change brought on by the Son of God. The light broke through the darkness of the old world and the whole creation rediscovers hope. This is why the Lord's Birth is eternally a sign of hope renewing the reality that God is with us and the light of His countenance is the source of the light of the world.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
This light of the Incarnation of the Word is for us a source of power and wisdom in completing the mission which the King of Heaven has ordained for us. God has blessed our efforts of these many months and just within the last few days we have come into possession of a new Archdiocesan Center known to all. What this means is that we now have a great chance to begin a new mission, but it is also a great responsibility. This new Center will offer us possibilities. Let us fervently pray to God that He grant us inspiration in our mission, a prayer that will unfold daily in the Church of this Center, now become the Cathedral of Ss. Constantine and Helen. It will be possible to organize the administration of the Archdiocese more effectively in this Center, given the space that it offers, but especially with the personnel that will work in this space. Conferences, spiritual retreats, Pan-orthodox and ecumenical meetings all will be organized at this new Center. All of this represents a commitment that we take on at this moment to show how diligently we work in the Lord's vineyard. But this commitment is also accompanied by a financial responsibility that is by no means easy, a responsibility for which I am asking your help. No so long ago this project to have an Archdiocesan Center seemed almost impossible. Through your effort and sacrifice we dared to start down this path and I am sure that we together, the priests and faithful of the Archdiocese, can carry this project forward to its completion.
On this Great Feast day I wish all of you and your loved ones a blessed holiday, with health, peace, joy and light from the light of Christ born in a manger. I will pray to our Good Lord, He who looked upon our weakness and sent His Son "to be born, to grow, and to save us," as the carol says, to look into the souls of each one of us and to reward the love and every gift for the well-being of the Church of the Only Begotten.
May the New Year be for us an occasion of hope and joy for the mission of our parishes and of our Archdiocese.
Your brother and intercessor before God,
The Feast of the Lord's Nativity, 2003