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.
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace, good will towards men." (Lk. 2:14)
Most Reverend Fathers,
Together with the angels we bring praise to God again this year because He has blessed us to celebrate together the Lord's Birth, the feast of hope and of joy, the feast of the family and of monastics, the feast of God's coming down to earth. And this descent is a fountain of unspeakable joy, for God is with us.
On the morning of Christmas, at Matins we proclaim this joy:
"Christ is born, glorify Him!
Christ from heaven, go to meet Him!
Christ is upon earth, be exalted!
Sing to the Lord all the earth
And all you peoples raise the hymn with joy, for He has been glorified!"
The first verse of the song is in the present tense, a liturgical present which makes us contemporaries of the event of the Nativity. Together with the angels, the shepherds, and the magi we are witnesses of the Incarnation of the Word, we are witnesses of the good news that God has not forgotten us but has sent us a Redeemer. And this news is not past history; it does not refer to the birth of some wise person, of which have been many on earth, but it brings each of us the hope of salvation: Christ is born "for us and for our salvation", the Son of God takes on flesh in order to make us children of God, in the words of the Holy Fathers. Christ is born in the soul of each of us, granting us that which is most precious on earth, faith and hope in the power of His redemption.
In the same present tense, the song speaks to us further regarding our preparation to receive and understand the mystery of the Incarnation. "You are my son, today I have begotten you", one of the psalms has foretold (Ps. 2:7). And the angel heralds the fulfillment of this prophecy: "Behold" to you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:10-11). The Kontakion of the Nativity announces the same present of the Savior's Nativity: "Today the Virgin gives birth to the transcendent One". Today is the time of the eternal God. Today the Son of God from heaven descends to earth and it is fitting that we should to go meet Him. We too are invited to enter into this present of the eternity of God. We cannot comprehend with our minds the mystery of the Incarnation, but we can receive it in faith, desiring to be partakers in it. That which takes place through the descent of the Son of God is a revelation, a divine unveiling. This unveiling has a claim on us, it draws us toward heaven, it raises us up to divine things, in keeping with the words of the next verse of the song: Christ is upon earth, be exalted!
God's descent has a precise purpose, which is to raise man up out of sin to the stature of a creature of God called to completeness and perfection. The Mystery of the Incarnation is linked to the Mystery of Creation, to the words of God the Father: "Let us make man after our image and likeness" (Gen. 1:27). St. Basil the Great explains these words, responding to the question regarding to whom they were addressed: "Who else, if not the One Who is the brilliance of His Glory, the Image of the Unseen God. It is His own living Image", the Son who is eternally God together with the Father. The image of God in man is the image of the eternal Son of God. Therefore the Son and not the Father or the Holy Spirit descends into the world to raise up the image which had fallen. This is the "mystery which was hidden from everlasting and was unknown to the angels", and it is the reason why it is fitting and right that at the Lord's Nativity the whole earth should sing and all the peoples should joyfully praise Him, "for He has been glorified".
The first verse of the Canon of Matins of the Nativity speaks to us of the joy of the Incarnation of the Son of God, of His humility in taking on human form, of His descent to earth in order to raise up mankind and through that, His exaltation. Thus this song shows another mystery of God revealed in Creation: the humility which exalts. The one who humbles himself imitates God Himself and becomes a dwelling place for His descent, thus becoming a child of God through grace. The Mystery of the Incarnation is the mystery of our re-creation in the image of the Son of God.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
At this glorious feast it is fitting that we too, the clergy and faithful of our Archdiocese, should rejoice, because of God's benevolence poured out upon us. A year has passed since we purchased the new Eparchial Center in Chicago, and we can joyfully point out already many fulfilled desires regarding our new mission and the new organization of our Archdiocese, begun from this Center. The first Congress hosted here was a welcome occasion for many of you to join us in this desire to bring praise to God for His grace. Our joy and gratitude to God are justified also by the mission of our parishes, many of them being on the road to maturity and being able to accomplish their plans and projects, as is the case with the All Saints Parish in Toronto, which now has a new church. Again we thank God for the love and dedication of many of our clergy and faithful, which have made these accomplishments possible. We give thanks for the presence of the children and youth of our parishes, the sign of hope and of responsibility for the future of our parishes.
On this day of joy we wish you all Happy Holidays, with health, peace, and fulfillment for your families and all your loved ones. We pray the Heavenly Father to bless you all with His grace, and to grant you the good will heralded by the angels, and the joy of the shepherds and the magi who were witnesses of the Lord's Birth.
May the New Year be an occasion for renewed hope and faith in the work of God in this world and in each one of us.
Your brother and intercessor before God,
The Feast of the Lord's Nativity, 2004