CHRISTMAS PASTORAL LETTER FOR 2006 OF HIS EMINENCE, METROPOLITAN MYKHAYIL
Dec. 25, 2006/Jan. 7, 2007
TO THE CLERGY, RELIGIOUS AND FAITHFUL OF THE UKRAINIAN AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE AMERICAS & THE DIASPORA, PEACE, HEALTH AND SALVATION AT THIS GREAT FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD, WITH MY ARCHPASTORAL BLESSING!
KHRYSTOS NARODIVSYA! SLAVITE YOHO!
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
CRISTO HA NACIDO! GLORIFICELO!
In the middle the forest
There's a clearing by a stream
Where a mother holds her newborn
And the child begins to dream
And he dreams of hopes unspoken
When the tears of man will cease
And his mother holds him closer
For he is the Prince of Peace . . .
Let the bells ring out these tidings
Let it echo across the land
That a king is born in Bethlehem
And his kingdom is at hand
Let the world rejoice together
As it looks upon the stars
Knowing every man's our brother
And that every child is ours
(Trans Siberian Orchestra - "The Prince of Peace" - from "Christmas Eve & Other Stories" - 1996)
Throughout the world, an estimated two billion Christians pause to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. With this figure in mind, it is easy to imagine the many different ways in which Christmas is celebrated throughout the world. No matter what the particular customs might be, the message of the Nativity remains the same - God's great gift to the world of a savior, in the person of his own Son, who would define the path of salvation to all people.
On the Sunday before Christmas, we read at the Divine Liturgy, the Gospel account from St. Matthew, relating the "genealogy of Christ." The names of many persons of the Old Testament are mentioned, from the patriarch Abraham up until the time of Jesus. Matthew had specific reasons for mentioning all of these names, in order to show that, in accordance with prophesies from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Messiah would descend from the tribe of David. All of these people of long ago pointed the way to Christ, and played a significant role in the person that he would be in salvation history.
>From a reading of the Gospels as a whole, we are familiar with the teaching and preaching of Jesus about the Kingdom of God. According to these, Jesus came to usher in the Reign of God and to begin a "new time" when God's people could directly participate in God's purpose for humanity - to live with liberty, to serve each other with justice and to be at peace with each other and God. Therefore, during the Christmas season, we look to Jesus as the "Prince of Peace" and one who came to deliver his people from the bondage of injustice, caused by human sin, into a new and more natural situation of freedom.
Following God's purpose and will for our lives and living according to the liberating principals of Jesus' teaching, we can experience that peace for which the Son of God was sent into this world. The quote with which I began this letter describes the child Jesus in a way that we see most all small children - full of hopes and dreams for a life filled with peace and happiness and void of tears and suffering. Certainly, the young infant of Christmas, in his own consciousness, dreamed of the peaceful solitude of the Reign of God which he would later preach. It is our obligation as followers of the child of Bethlehem, to share these dreams and to arrange our lives so that they reflect the principles of hope, justice, freedom and peace that they express.
As those in the genealogy of Christ, like the apostles and saints throughout Christian history, let us make this Christmas season one in which our lives "point to Christ." To find out how we can better achieve this, we must only "look to Christ" whose dreams of peace and dignity for all humankind we must share and fulfill. It is my prayer that all of us will make this a season of peace, not just on the day of Christmas, but throughout the coming time when we celebrate many other important events in the life of Jesus, including his Baptism and his Presentation in the Temple.
Christmas day does not end the "holiday season" but rather, only begins it. For those of us who consider ourselves followers of the Christ, the challenges and dreams of Christmas must continue each and every day of the year. Perhaps by recalling the hopes of Jesus, keeping in mind that God's Kingdom is indeed active in our world and that every other human being is our sister or brother, we can make the part of the world that God has given us to be stewards of, a place where there is increased justice, liberty and peace. If we accomplish this, in whatever way big or small, by "looking to Christ," our lives will be be ones which "point to Christ.
During this important time of the festivals of the arrival of the new year, Jesus' nativity and the commemoration of Christ's baptism by John in the Jordan River, I take this opportunity to greet our Predstoyatel, the worldwide primate of our Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, His Beatitude, Metropolitan MEFODIY, of Kyiv & All Ukraine. On behalf of the entire People of God of our Metropolia, I assure His Beatitude and all of our church in Ukraine, of our continued love, loyalty and prayerful devotion.
In like manner, I am privileged and pleased to extend the Fatherly blessing of our beloved Predstoyatel to all of our faithful throughout South and North America and the Diaspora. Metropolitan MEFODIY, as our father in Christ and visible head of the UAOC has also been one who, through his great loving kindness, gentleness and example of humility and spirituality, has "pointed the way to Christ" for us. For this we thank him and ask God to grant him many more blessed years of leadership service to our church.
In conclusion, as always during these sacred festivities, I pledge to all of you my own continued love, support and prayers. I assure you of a special remembrance of all of the intentions of your hearts during my holyday Divine Liturgies and services. I thank you for your faithfulness to God and our church and ask you to pray fervently for myself, that my service to you all as your Metropolitan may "point the way to Christ," and to remember in your intercessions and good works, the ministry of our church throughout the world.
Faithfully Yours in the New-Born Christ,
Archbishop of New York
Metropolitan of All America & the Diaspora
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church