ARCHPASTORAL NATIVITY GREETING - 2022
CHRIST IS BORN, GLORIFY HIM!
Dearest Beloved Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). It is with these words that the angels joyfully praised the coming to earth of the Son of God on the Holy Eve of Christmas two thousand and twenty two years ago. The human race had long awaited the Savior of the world, and the shepherds of Bethlehem, pure of heart and filled with sincere faith, were the first to receive the message of the Birth of Christ. “I bring you good tidings of great joy,” the angel told them, “which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
The Apostle Paul calls this event “great mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). “He Who being the brightness of His glory” (Heb. 1:3) has become “the Son of man” (Luke 7:34). He has a brought low the heavens, as the hymnist poetically describes the Birth of Christ, and has descended to earth. “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a Woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5).
It was out of love that the Son of God came down to Earth and gave us reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19), the word of life (Phil. 2:16), that He might lift us up to Heaven (Phil.3:20).
It is this Gospel message of Christ that the Apostles spread to all the peoples of the world so those who believed could become members of the Church of Christ and the children of God through the Mystery of Holy Baptism (1 John 3:1). Through the labors of the Apostles in preaching the Gospel, local Churches appeared in all parts of the world, as oases in the desert, and these Churches in turn comprise the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose Head is Christ.
Church history tells us that at the moment when the people of Kiev were being baptized in the waters of the Dnieper river, the Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir prayed: “O God, look down from heaven, and behold, and visit, bless and nourish this our vineyard, which You have planted with Your right hand.”
Through his labors, the Faith of Christ was spread, along with education and culture, throughout the lands of Kievan Rus after the year of the Lord 988, until 2022. At the same time, many holy temples were constructed in which our Lord was praised and glorified.
And now, when we have entered upon the second millennium of the existence of the Faith in Christ in the Ukrainian and Russian lands, where the beloved faithful of the wonderful Orthodox Churches continue to praise our Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, we have become eyewitnesses of an international tactical situation that has turned into a fratricidal war.
My Dearly Beloved in the newborn Lord: we in our Bulgarian Orthodox Diocese are all members of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, Orthodox Church of Christ like all Orthodox Ukrainians and Russians. We are recipients of the spiritual legacy and ecclesiastical traditions of our pious forefathers. Just as the branch cannot bring forth fruit if it does not remain on the vine (John15:4), so too we cannot embody in our lives the spiritual legacy of our ancestors if we do not remain one with our spiritual Mother – the Orthodox Church of Christ. My warm request to all of you now is: Please, let us pray to the newborn God-Child for peace in Ukraine, Russia and in the entire world.
It is through the Holy Mysteries that we partake of the never ending wellspring of Goodness, and it is through pious living that we deepen our roots in the soil of the Church. Just as a seed, which has fallen on fertile soil, brings forth a rich harvest, so too we, who have been grafted to the Church of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism and who remain within the holy enclosure of the Orthodox Church, are to bring forth a rich harvest through the example of our lives.
Dearly Beloved in the Lord, fathers, brothers and sisters! I sincerely greet you with this day of great joy – the Feast of the Birth of Christ. May the grace of the God-Child born to us today remain with each of you, bringing you continually spiritual joy, renewal and blessed Orthodox Christian life.
During these holy days, let each one of us bring forth his or her pure and steadfast faith as a gift to the newborn Christ and likewise give witness to this faith with works of love and mercy.
Let us continually “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).
Have a happy and blessed New 2023 year!
With love in the newborn God-Child,
+ (S) Metropolitan JOSEPH