Archpastors and brethren, most honorable fathers,
and all Orthodox children of the Russian Diaspora,
beloved in the Lord!
Each year the feast of the Nativity of Christ enters into our hearts with ineffable spiritual joy—the joy that came to earth when the angel of the Lord announced the birth of Christ the Savior to the simple shepherds of Bethlehem. The feast of the Nativity also fills us with radiant joy through the profound content of its divine services, which illumine our souls: the deeply edifying and divinely inspired hymnody of the Nativity and the readings taken from the prophecies.
Hieromartyr Hilarion (Troitsky) wrote thus of the miracle of the birth of the divine Infant: "The heavens proclaimed the birth of God on earth, yet this proclamation was magnificent and silent, because the stars were the heavens' mouth. This event, which the whole Christian world now celebrates, at the time passed almost completely unnoticed." And this was probably because everything that is great takes place in stillness and mystery.
In the night of the Nativity, near the city of Bethlehem, in a humble cave which shepherds used for penning their flocks, was born Him Whose name has become close to millions of people in our land. For Jesus, the divine Infant, Who was born of the Virgin Mary, came to proclaim to us the glad tidings of our salvation—the Gospel of joy and light, the good news of new life." The Son of God became man so that man might become the son of God," the Holy Hieromartyr Irenaeus of Lyon wrote of Christ the Savior. In the divine Infant our salvation became visible. In God, Who for our sake became man, we all sense ourselves beloved and cherished in the eyes of the creator.
Rejoicing with the angelic hosts that unceasingly glorify God in the heavens, with them we sing the wondrous hymn of the angels: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men!" This joy is transmitted to all men, from age to age, from generation to generation. During the difficult 20th century this joy gave to our people the strength to endure persecution at the hands of their neighbors and kin, wars, invasion by foreign foes, estrangements.
And today, when things are still unsettled in the world, when we are threatened by the economic disorders to which the unrestrained striving for wealth and profits, and the abandonment of moral principles have brought us, let us not be daunted by the stormy waves of the sea of life, for we are not alone in this world. In the hymnody of the Nativity of Christ we sing: "God is with us! Understand, ye nations, and submit yourselves, for God is with us!" If with all our mind, all our heart, all our life we will strive to be with God, then no difficulty or trial will discourage us. And no one will be able to deprive us of the joy that comes to us from on high, and which the Gospel tells us no one can take from us (John. 16:22).
This past year there took place in the life of the reunited Russian Orthodox Church an event long awaited by the faithful in the homeland: the all-pure Mother of God, in her miraculous image—the Kursk-Root Icon of the Sign—visited Russia and its native precincts in the Kursk-Root Hermitage. It was a joyful thing to behold the faith and zeal of the tens of thousands of believers who came to venerate the Directress of the Russian Diaspora. One may rightly say that this event brought them together spiritually and united them. All of this gives one hope that, with God's help, in the year 2010 also the good traditions of that spiritual life of prayer, the beginnings of which were laid by the ever-memorable Patriarch Alexy and Metropolitan Laurus, will develop further and become the surety of the spiritual unity of our Holy Church.
The year 2010 will mark the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Russian Church Abroad. Thus, we would like to thank the hierarchs and pastors who carry out their tasks with diligence and zeal, the staff members of the departments of the Synod, the Church-affiliated social organizations, the parish schools, the sisterhoods, and all who help strengthen the Church throughout the Russian Diaspora, and to call upon them to work toward the fulfillment of the goals which lie before our Church in the field of spiritual, educational and missionary service.
With "Christ is born! Glorify Him!" the Holy Church addresses us during these radiant festal days. Let us follow this summons and glorify Him in our prayers, acts, words and thoughts.
The day of the Nativity of Christ is a feast of peace, hope and the love of God. Let each of us strive to translate this day into deeds pleasing to God—let us give alms and help our neighbors, treat each person with goodness and love, become better and, most important, closer to God. With all my soul I wish that you will greet and celebrate the radiant feast of the Nativity of Christ in the joy of the Lord Who came into the world "for our sake and for our salvation." Let the joy of the radiant Nativity of Christ enter into each home, each family, and warm our hearts with the fervor of divine Love.
May your souls be filled with splendor and joy, like the cave of Bethlehem, where the divine Infant, the Savior of the world, was born. May God bless our homes and families with peace, happiness and prosperity during the coming year and all the days of our life. May the star of Bethlehem guide you on the path to salvation.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has now been born of the Ever-virgin Mary, remain with all of you.
Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad