Nativity epistle of His Eminence, Archbishop Gabriel

03:21 PM

To the Clergy & the Whole Divinely Saved Flock of the Diocese of Montréal & Canada
Beloved brethren and sisters,

Again we have been accounted worthy to live to see the great feast of the Nativity of Christ. The Lord came to us through the immaculate Virgin, He “appeared on earth and dwelt among men,” as the Prophet Baruch foretold (3:38); and after him the Prophet Haggai revealed to the people that He Whom all nations were awaiting would come to the temple of Jerusalem (2: 7).

The events of the Nativity took place more than twenty centuries ago, yet every year throughout these sacred days is repeated the clear experience of this joy, of that yearning of men’s souls for heaven which the witnesses of the events of Bethlehem—the all-holy Virgin Mary, the righteous Joseph, the shepherds and the magi—felt.

Yet what should we today, in our times, do to join the jubilant witnesses of the Nativity of Christ who cry out to us over two millennia: “Come, let us rejoice in the Lord!”? To this we find the answer in a sermon of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), the founder of the Russian Church Abroad: “Two groups of ordinary people were vouchsafed to worship Him and receive the grace of His coming, and we are fully able to imitate them, if only by acquiring the joy of sharing in their compunctionate homage before the manger, the dwelling-place of Christ. The shepherds kept watch through the cold night, carrying out their duties; but they forsook their customary tasks, for after the revelation of the angel “they came with haste” (Lk. 2: 16) to Bethlehem, where there awaited them not the sight of scepters and thrones, but, as we read in the canon of the Nativity, “utter poverty. What is more base than the cave? What is more lowly that the swaddling-bands wherein the richness of Thy divinity shone forth?” (Nativity Canon).

And His Beatitude exclaims: “Brethren, let us also tear ourselves away from our concerns, if only on this sacred and grace-filled day, that we may worship the Newborn with faith!”

“… Even if sin has brought you down into bestial passions and lusts, even if you are compelled by your conscience to apply to yourself the prophet’s rebuke: ‘ Man, being in honor, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them ‘ (Ps. 48: 13), even then you must not despair of the condescension of your Savior, Who, not having disdained to lie in a manger, does not disdain to rest in the manger of your soul in His grace and his peace,” Saint Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, once said.

Thus, beloved brethren and sisters, the Nativity of Christ is a feast of great joy, but also of the great humility that the divine Infant, the Lord Himself, shows us. Let us be mindful of this during these festive days, for Christ Who is now born has promised His disciples—that is, you and me: ” I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (Jn. 16: 22).


Archbishop of Montreal & Canada

Nativity of Christ, 2012