Nativity Epistle 2011/2012: Bp Stefan of Trenton (RTOC)

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Nativity Epistle 2011/2012: Bp Stefan of Trenton (RTOC)

By God’s mercy we have once again obtained the opportunity to renew our glorification of the King of Glory for His great condescension, for His incarnation “for the sake of us people and for the sake of our salvation”.  The King of the heavenly hosts, the King of the archangels and angels, becomes the Son of a Virgin.  The Uncontainable God; Whom nothing limits, contains, is limited by the womb of the Virgin, “and takes upon Himself the image of a servant”,  and this Blessed Infant is born in a wretched, earthly cave and is placed in the manger.
We, who have become accustomed to a life of material well-being, do not value, do not realize the grandeur of this joyous, triumphant solemnity.  In order that we should duly comprehend the significance of  this event and give glory to Christ God for His good will toward us, sinners, let us imagine the opposite:  what would it have been, had Christ not been born on this blessed night?  One must remind oneself, that God was not obligated to become incarnate for the sake of our salvation.  But, because of His Great goodness, God willed to become incarnate, and in the form of a human to be the redemptive sacrifice for us. 

Let us imagine, for example, that we live in Old Testament times:  In what a woeful state are we all living!  We do not offer up any bloodless sacrifice (liturgy), and Holy Communion does not exist for us.  Our feasts are crowned with the bloody slaughter of innocent (pure) lambs. Our prayers consist mostly of the reading of the Psalms.  We cannot turn to the saints, asking for their help and intercession, nor can we call upon our most reliable intercessor, the Holy Theotokos.  The words:  “Most Holy Theotokos, save us” do not exist!  We do not make the sign of the cross over ourselves in our warfare against the devil.  The “Cross” as a sign of victory and salvation, exists only prefiguratively as the “serpent lifted up in the wilderness” (John 3:14,15).  Our Pascha is the remembrance of the by-passing of the angel of death (Passover), and through this, the deliverance from Egyptian slavery, which is merely a prefiguration of the salvific Pascha of the resurrected Christ Life-Giver. Such a life is sorrowful and difficult for us, but we do not lose hope that the time will come, when all will change for the better.  We have studied the Holy Scriptures and the prophecies and we know, that God had yet in Paradise laid the foundation for our salvation.  We know that “God who many times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.” (Heb.1:1), heralding to us the coming of the Messiah – Redeemer.

Let us also imagine, that our great grandfather, lying on his deathbed, called everyone together and with profound faith and hope said:  “My children, do not lose hope – even if now it seems to you that I am merely repeating to you the same thing concerning the Redeemer that my great grandfather told me.  There is a new prophesy that He will indeed come soon.  I will not see Him, but my heart rejoices knowing that you and your generation will see the Glory of God.  There are rumors circulating  that there is a pious elder in Jerusalem by the name of Simeon, “and it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (Luke 2:26).

That which was long awaited has come to pass!  During the night in the small town of Bethlehem the heavens opened up and man for the first time heard the wondrous words:  “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:10,11).  For the first time man heard the Angelic song glorifying God and the news of joy.  Until then mankind did not know at all what true joy was.  This joy is the joy “in the Lord and in Christ” – and no longer will anyone be able to take that joy away from us.  We have nothing more to despond over, and no longer should anything make us afraid, for God is with us !

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace:  good will among men!

†Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America
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