Nativity Epistle of Bishop ENOCH of Apshawa to the Philippines

Liturgical references are pre-schism Western Ritual. –NFTU

To the Clergy and Laity of the Orthodox Western Rite Deanery of the Philippines,

The reverend and honourable Fathers, Priests and Deacons, to the reverend Sub-Deacons, Acolytes, minor clergy, and all the God-beloved laity, 

“Today the Christ is Born; today hath a Saviour appeared; today on Earth Angels are singing; Archangels rejoicing; today the righteous exult and say: ‘Glory to God in the Highest,’ Alleluia.” [Processional Antiphon for Nativity Mass] 

As this short missive reaches you, we are all nearing the conclusion of the Nativity Fast and beginning the Vigil for the Celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ. God Himself, having taken Manhood and united it to His Person, 9 months prior on the Annunciation, truly thus became Man, so that He might make men the adopted sons of God by grace; and 9 months later, He is Born in the Flesh from the Virgin. God Himself truly made the Blessed and Ever-Virgin Mary, Our Supreme Lady, the true Mother of God; she who remained and remains a Virgin before, during, and after Child-Bearing, is exalted above all the Heavenly Powers as our intercessor. 

“O Blessed Infancy, through Whom the life of our race is repaired. O most pleasing and delightful outcries, by which eternal cryings-out we have been set free. O happy garments, with which we have wiped off the filth of sin. O splendid manger, in which layeth not only the hay of animals, but in which is found the Food of the Angels.” [Processional Antiphon for Nativity Mass] 

Thus does the Church sing on the Feast of the Nativity, among a great many other exalted hymns and chants. The Incarnate God, Who became Poor for our sakes, deigns to be Born on Earth in lowly circumstances. Not in the houses of kings, emperors, and the rich, but, in the Manger, the Cave, in Bethlehem; making it truly the House of Bread, for Jesus Christ Our Lord is the True Bread Which gives life. 

I will not detain you for long in this short missive; but, it is important that our Clergy and Faithful be admonished and warned to maintain the purity of the Orthodox Confession of Faith, since, at all times and in all places, it seems, the Church of God comes under assault by pernicious heresies. Some are clearly recognizable as deriving from forces so alien to the Church, that many easily repudiate them; others cloak themselves in veils of pious sounds and words, deceiving the minds of many even within the household of God, before they are discovered. We today recognize the heresies of Ecumenism, and Modernism, and clearly repudiate these blasphemies. But, also of importance is to be on guard against other heresies, which seek to distort the proper honour given to the sacred; among these is the recent and pernicious heresy of the so-called “Name-worshippers” or “Imiaslavists”, who say that the name or names of God are themselves Uncreated God, and thus distort the true honour and reverence to the holy names of God. The Church in 1912 and 1913 in councils in Moscow and Constantinople, and Mt. Athos, before the fall of these bodies to apostasy, condemned this “Imiaslavist” heresy. Our Holy Metropolia in 2014 Anathematized all those who say that the name of God is either the Essence of God or the Energies of God. This may sound to many not too studied in this matter to be an exceedingly difficult thing to grasp, but, it must be known that the revival of defeated heresies serves no good in the Church, but rather for the detriment of those who do this. In thankful praise to God, our Metropolia has not tolerated this heresy nor will it do so; and the clergy and faithful of the Philippines, as they continue to celebrate divine services, pray, do good works, support the work of the Gospel, build sacred temples and even beginnings for monasteries, must ever guard themselves. 

Guard yourselves, brethren, from all false teachings, and have no communion or concord with such. Your nation, which, though not Orthodox, has so far been able to resist in greater strength than others the many immoralities and evils which seek to spread themselves to your lands, under the guise of ‘freedom’, should stand guard. And you, the clergy and laity, should serve as watchmen to bring your neighbors to salvation in the Orthodox Faith, and concurrently resist and rebuke these godless powers, those powers led in an earthly sense by those ancient apostates who align themselves with the demons, that seek to impose on your nation, and on all nations, the evils of homosexuality, ‘women’s liberation’, the destruction of marriage and the family, euthanasia, and, that greatest of evils we see around us, abortion, the murder of the most defenseless and innocent. These evils must be resisted at every turn, and suppressed by legitimate civil power. With such demonic forces there can be no alliance; they who desist not to tempt in their haughtiness, making wars and evils all over the Earth, seeking that they might establish the destruction of nations and the rise of Antichrist. 

The sick and dying world draws closer and closer to its end; by its own powers it cannot survive, and it has suffered a slow and lingering death since the Fall of Adam over 7500 years ago. Yet, into this hopeless world, a mass of death and decay, where the unnaturalness of death was introduced with the Fall of Adam, not only into the human world, but into the animal world, we see the greatest and most unexpected of Hopes fulfilled; God did not see it sufficient just to send Prophets and holy men, which he has done since ancient times, but, He came to Earth Himself, and, after 9 months in the Most Holy Womb of the Ever-Virgin, He was Born from the Theotokos in a truly Miraculous way. The Son of God, the True Light Which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, was Born. The powers of this fallen world, who held it in captivity, raged all they could against Him, but, they could not overcome Him. 

The most terrible disasters that have been witnessed in your native land are not unknown to us and many of our clergy and laity and others abroad; the earth itself shakes under your feet; buildings collapse; roofs fall; fires blaze; both parent and child are alike seized with terror over this seeming uncertainty. The earth convulses, possessed itself by the disease of Adam’s Fall, which has turned not just the animals in opposition to man, but even the ground itself operates in ways destructive of our physical life. Yet, for what reason has God so allowed these terrible tragedies to transpire? We can surely recall what Our Lord said in the Gospel: “Nay, but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” [Luke 13:3-5] 

And, seeing such needs of our brethren who are afflicted by these disasters, we are reminded of the obligation to give, when the Holy Apostle John says: “But whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” [1st John 3:17-19] For, he who “shuts his earts to the cry of the poor, he too shall cry out and receive no answer.” [Prov. 21:3] 

In the midst of all these tragedies, curses, and blows, that fall upon us, we still, nevertheless, hear the most exalted words of the Church in her Priests: 

“Gaze back upon us, O God of Mercy, and now that the Christ is Born, graciously make Thou known the Light of Supreme Truth unto our mortal minds…” [Prayer of Bowed Heads for Nativity Mass] 

and, 

“O God, Thou Who didst bring recovery with a new antidote, when the stars could not contain Thee, Thou didst dwell in the Virgin’s womb, bless Thy people with unending blessing..That by zealous piety there may be in Thee the Salvation of Mankind, for whom Thou, the Creator of the Angels and the Redeemer of souls from eternal punishments, wast Made Man.” [Final Blessings for the Nativity Mass] 

We hear the cantors sing: 

“Today it is ours to sing of the Child, Whom His Father Begat Ineffably before all time, and the Same to Whom His Glorious Mother gave Birth in time. Who is This Child, Whose Dignity ye proclaim in announcements so grand? Tell it unto us that we might praise Him with you. Here indeed is He Whom the chosen and prophetical hymnist of God knew long before to be Come to Earth, and thus predicted: Behold, He is present, Whom the Prophets foretold, saying, Unto us a Child is Born.” [Officium Versicles and Introit for Nativity Mass] 

And with simple hearts we heart the Priest sing the Collect: 

“Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we who are held captive by ancient bondage, under the yoke of sin, may be mercifully delivered by the new Birth of Thine-Only Begotten Son in the Flesh.” 

Praying for you all, and extending our blessings, 

In Christ, 

Enoch, Vicar-Bishop of Apshawa [Assistant to the Metropolitan for the Philippines]