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13355Nativity Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus

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  • Rev Fr Mark Gilstrap
    Jan 6, 2005

      Nativity Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch
      of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

      "Today in Bethlehem is Christ born of the Virgin; today He Who is
      without beginning beginneth to be and the Word becometh flesh..."
      (Stichiron on the Praises)

      On this day, for us men and for our salvation, the Creator of all
      that is visible and invisible came down to earth and became the Son
      of man, that He might make us children of God; He was born of the
      All-Holy Virgin Theotokos in a wretched cave in Bethlehem not to be
      ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for
      many (Mark 10:45).

      But how did humanity respond to the love of its Creator? "He came
      unto His own, and His own received Him not" (John 1:12). On this
      sinful earth He found no place of welcome for His divine incar-
      nation other than a wretched cave amid irrational flocks, as says
      the Prophet Isaiah: "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his
      master's crib; but Israel doth not know Me" (Isaiah, 1:3).

      Human harshness of heart and ingratitude persecuted the Lord during
      His life on earth. Shortly after His birth, He was forced to flee
      into Egypt with His family to escape persecution. More than once was
      He driven from cities and villages. He often had no place to lay His
      head. They tried to stone Him to death, to cast Him down from a
      precipice; they did not believe His words of life; they reviled,
      slandered, betrayed, spat upon, beat, and finally put Him to death.

      Thus did mankind welcome its Redeemer, Who had come into the world!

      We sometimes console ourselves with the notion that, had we been
      among the contemporaries of Christ, we would not be found amidst the
      mob of those who rejected Him--this is probably how most of us feel.
      But is this really so? Let us look at our consciences. The Lord did
      not only come once. He comes to us repeatedly. And even now He is
      among us, invisibly continuing His earthly preaching; He is
      constantly knocking on the hearts of all men, desiring to enter into
      our inner cave and find room for Himself therein.

      Yet what does He encounter more often than not? The same cold,
      hardhearted lack of understanding; the same excuse of being too busy
      with our life, with vanity, which is betrayal; the same Pharisaical
      hypocrisy and man-pleasing that He found among His contemporaries;
      the same perse-cution, at times revilement and abuse, instead of
      love in return and the following of Him to the Cross. We are all
      guilty in His sight, as King David says: "They are all gone astray,
      they are altogether rendered useless, there is none that does good,
      no not one" (Psalm 13).

      But the Lord is full of loving kindness and will not disdain our
      uselessness if only He sees sincere fruits of repentance, a sincere
      desire to be corrected and to be justified in the sight of Love
      incarnate. The Lord will forgive us if we humbly repent of our
      ingratitude toward Him, if we do not make our-selves like stiff-
      necked Israel which did not recognize the manger of its Lord.

      Brethren and sisters, let us hasten toward Him with the divinely-
      wise Magi, who left a people which knew not the Lord, forsaking
      homeland and loved ones, for though unafraid that they would be dis-
      appointed in their hopes, undaunted by the perils of the journey and
      the cruelty of Herod, they fol-lowed the guiding star and found in
      the poor manger of Bethlehem the incarnate Son of God, Who for their
      gift of faith, love and hope gave them the gift of life everlasting.

      In the mystery of His becoming man, His earthly and redemptive
      death, our Lord has shown us an example of true love for God and
      neighbor, the boundless love of One Who is ready to lay down His
      life for His friends.

      Let us therefore follow His example, let us have nothing higher than
      love for our Creator and Deliverer; let us offer Him as a gift our
      souls, washed clean and spotless by tears of repentance: for only by
      such gifts is God well pleased.

      Dear archpastors, pastors, and our beloved flock: I greet you all
      with the joyous feast of the Nativity of Christ!


      + Metropolitan Laurus
      Nativity of Christ, 2004
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