Wednesday, December 21, 2016
When the Lord Jesus was born of the holy Virgin,
the whole universe was enlightened.
For Shepherds were abiding in the fields,
Magi worshipping, Angels singing in praise.
(Idiomelon, Great Vespers of the Nativity)
To the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of Parish Councils, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Members of Philanthropic Organizations, the Youth and Youth Workers, and the entire Orthodox Christian Family of the United States of America.
Beloved Faithful in Christ,
For over a month now we have longed to celebrate Christmas. Indeed, the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a most beloved feast for all Christians, especially for young children. By now, homes have been wreathed with lights; Christmas trees have been decorated with ornaments; and storefronts and public streets have been adorned with Christmas themes.
On this most blessed day of Christ’s Nativity, we are encouraged to direct our hearts and minds not only to the spectacle of lights, the sounds of carols, and the tastes of savory food, but to the horror of darkness, the chaos of war, and the sound of grumbling stomachs of our brothers and sisters. This occurs overseas but also in our own backyard. Overseas, we vividly witness millions of refugees and displaced men, women and children in the Middle East. On the same sacred ground upon which our Lord and His Apostles walked, today families experience unprecedented suffering. Even Egypt, the land that once received Jesus and offered Him refuge shortly after His birth, longs for an end to darkness. In our own nation, millions of our neighbors remain homeless, hungry, with very little dignity remaining.
Solutions to this and other humanitarian crises still evade us. In spite of countless efforts to end conflicts and to provide aid to the suffering, we still hear the sirens of war and the cries of despair. The birth of the Son of God, therefore, is received with great joy and nostalgia for peace. Christmas offers us hope that the light of God will never be eclipsed by darkness. The Nativity reminds us of our own imperfections and encourages us to remain patient with others. The birth of Christ exemplifies humility and calls us to become more generous and to serve the needs of others.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, now that we have heard, that we have seen with our eyes, that we have looked at and touched with our hands (1 John 1: 1) our Lord Jesus Christ, it is important that our lives reflect this reality. Having heard, seen, and touched the Lord, we are called to pray for, remember, and assist those in prisons, those who are held captives, those who are sick, those who are hungry, downtrodden and forgotten. We must find ways to share with them the joy of the Incarnation through prayer and acts of charity.
For years, the Agencies of the Assembly of Bishops, together with the pious people of God, have served as God’s instruments of mercy and compassion. By your support of IOCC you have helped respond to domestic and international humanitarian crises; through your stewardship, you have enabled OCMC to bring the good news of Christ to all corners of the world; through your compassion, you provide the means to help OCPM care for our brethren in prisons; through your vision, you enhance OCN’s ability to introduce people to Orthodoxy through digital media; and through your thoughtful giving to OCF you embrace and reassure thousands of our college students. I invite you to learn more about our Assembly Agencies and consider how you may further support their work.
During this blessed period, I extend to you the blessings of all brother Hierarchs of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States. We wholeheartedly pray that the compassion and mercy of our Lord may be bestowed upon you and your families.
With love in Christ, the incarnate God
+Archbishop Demetrios of America