Nativity epistle of His Eminence, Archbishop Gabriel. 2019

3 January 2019

The Most Reverend Archbishop Gabriel
of Montreal and Canada

To the clergy and God-saved flock of the Diocese of Canada
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ!

“Christ is born – glorify Him!” – the Orthodox Church sings, and we, Its children, start singing together with It forty days before the Feast of the Nativity of Christ: “Christ is on earth – lift up your hearts!” Yet the world, full of enmity, envy and malice among men even in the day when God and Infant Christ was born, seemed not prepared to Christ’s coming on earth. Only a small flock was deemed worthy to receive Him: His Most Holy Mother, Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, humble shepherds of Bethlehem, the wise men from the East, who enquired about the star of the King of the Jews in Jerusalem, and came to worship Him, bringing precious gifts.
And yet, despite their wielding temporal power, their perfidy and cunning, those who “sought the young Child’s life” (Mt 2:20) could not alter God’s will for the Salvation of mankind. The prince of this world’s fight against Christ keeps on going before our very eyes. Last year we remembered one hundred years since the new herodian massacre of the innocents – the murder of the Imperial Family, of their innocent children. This evil deed brought about countless woes, not only for Russia, but for the whole world, including those who, directly or indirectly, were involved in this terrible crime.
One could say that the salvific event of Christ’s Nativity was accompanied by intermingling of joyous and sad feelings and premonitions. Hence the sign of a scroll that was given to the prophet, with “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” written within it, but that scroll was as sweet as honey in prophet’s mouth (Ez 2:10 and 3:2). And this goes on even today. Thus now we are witnessing attempts of the servants of the prince of this world, who follow in Herod’s footsteps, to vanquish the Church of Christ in the ancient land of Kievan Rus. Yet let us recall the words of one of the great predecessors of His Beatitude Onuphry, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine – His Beatitude Anthony, Metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia, Abba of the Russian Church Abroad: “Believe me, my beloved, that this very poverty and want which may be throwing your souls into despair, in the future (especially for those whom God would grant to live to see the days of joy) will become a source of comforting reminiscences and a cause of kind feelings towards each other”.
In the days of Christmas, the Orthodox Christians, giving glory to Him who became a cornerstone for these great events, try to bring joys to each other, no matter how small. These joys remind people of the great spiritual joy of God’s grace that was sent down to us from the manger at Bethlehem. That is why the Church, in the hymns of the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, reminds us of the meaning of the greatest event in the salvation of mankind – God coming down to earth as a Babe: “A strange and most wonderful mystery do I see: the cave is heaven; the Virgin the throne of the cherubim; the manger a room, in which Christ, the God whom nothing can contain, is laid. Him do we praise and magnify”.

Archbishop of Montreal & Canada
Nativity of Christ, 2019