Nativity Epistle 2011/2012: Metr Agafangel (ROCOR-A)

Dear Fellow Archpastors, most honorable pastors, God-loving monastics and laypeople!

Since ancient times, the lives of communities have been interwoven with various historical periods, rises and falls that have their beginnings, their everyday life and continuation.  Some gather to form nations, confess various faiths, live according to different calendars and ways to denote the passing of the years and have different spiritual destinies.  For some, life is wrapped up in ongoing activities and busy concerns, while others believe in the existence of other worlds and an other life.  For some, the entire world that surrounds them is limited to the frame of life and death, while others contemplate the infinite nature of life and existence.  In this realm marked by enormous  diversity of people’s lives and their understanding of creation, we Christians are also included.  We are few in relation to the total number of people on earth (especially if out of those who call themselves Christians you only consider the Orthodox who live by the “old” Julian calendar and the teachings of the holy forefathers), and Christianity itself no longer determines the trajectory of human development.  There was a time when Christianity subdued and vanquished paganism, but now we live in an opposite time, when paganism in its many forms is foremost in people’s minds.  We constantly see proof of more divergences from Christ, but these divergences are not the result of people acquiring new knowledge and are not characterized by a new, higher plane of spiritual development.  Just the opposite, these divergences are proof of the loss of faith and the debasing of mankind to the level of being driven by its instincts.

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) is not a rhetorical question, but constitutes a fact of what will occur and what is already occurring.  All those on earth commonly believe that Christianity certainly cannot pretend to be more dominant above all other faiths.  Just the opposite, Christianity as a whole surrenders its principles and attempts to strengthen its place in society with the desperation of a drowning person by, on the one hand, promoting the ecumenist movement among Christians and on the other hand, by the deadly policy of eliminating differences with other religions.  Unfortunately, as a result we now have so-called “World Orthodoxy,” which has not been Orthodoxy for a long time already, and the “modernized” Christianity, where Christ does not exist.  Globalism, which has overcome all of mankind, does not provide and cannot provide a different ideal other than the traditional humanistic ideal, that is, mankind itself, temporal and helpless before even the simplest of cataclysms of nature.  The foundation of globalism includes one common keystone that distinguishes its essence – unbelief.  That is why it is inevitably doomed, because it leads to a dead-end and cannot lead to anywhere else.  Unfortunate are those who succumbed to the spirit of the modern world and do not trust in God in this life!
In this circumstance, it is faith that distinguishes us Christians – faith in Christ.  Faith that God became incarnate and came to this world, bore witness of Himself through many miracles and His Holy teachings, died, resurrected and promised eternal life to all those who believe in Him.  All the many different societies and worlds are bound up in one Figure, in Christ, and these words will remain real for us for eternity, “I believe and confess, Lord, that You are truly the Christ, Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners.”  Only those who confess Christ will live on for eternity.  The entire point of creation is bound up in this belief.  Our lives, really our own, do not begin when we appeared on earth, but when we consciously utter the words, “I believe!”  Therefore let us always hold on to the faith of the Holy Fathers, which is the beginning and essential condition of our entire lives!
I congratulate everyone with the Nativity of Christ and wish for all of us to grow and strengthen in the faith, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

The Most Reverend

Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
Odessa, Nativity of Christ, 2011