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Friday, January 05, 2007

Nativity Epistle

Here is the Nativity Epistle from His Eminence Metropolitan LAURUS, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad:

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

"Today doth Bethlehem receive Him,
Who sitteth with the Father for ever."
(Sticheron, tone 6.)

On this winter night, our Lord Jesus Christ descended to the earth—to one of the smallest specks of His creation. He came to show us how to live, and in order to enter into and abide in those who follow His example.

In his very Birth, the God-child showed love for poverty, meekness and humility. The Master of the world was born of the Most-pure Virgin in one of the lowliest places on earth, in a cold cave where the shepherds of Bethlehem sheltered their flocks from bad weather. He was swaddled and laid in a manger for cattle, warmed by the breath of mute animals.

From His very childhood, Christ knew the sorrow of need, of human cruelty and persecution—together with Righteous Joseph and his Most-Pure Mother, He was forced to flee the sword of Herod beyond the boundaries of His homeland.

For three years, the Holy Family lived abroad, and as He grew, He laboured as a tradesman, earning his bread by the sweat of his brow, and during his three years of preaching, He did not have a place "to lay His head" (Matthew 8:20).

With the fullness of his earthly life, the Lord taught us to patiently endure need and suffering, to live simply, with restraint, applying the greatest efforts to the one thing needful.

The Lord said: 'The rich man shall hardly enter into the Kingdom of Heaven,' but He did not say that it was impossible, only difficult, for bound together with wealth are many cares and worldly goods; likewise it is hard for the famous of the world, for they bear the burden of their egos.

Thus the Lord is close to the simple, the poor and the wretched. In the words of the Apostle, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world… and… the weak things of the world… and things which are not"
(I Corinthians 1:26-28).

Within the souls of the wealthy are the cares of this world, they are burdened with fuss and earthly bonds; for him, as was the case with the inns of Bethlehem, there is no vacancy, everyone is occupied with all sorts of earthly "values."

The Lord finds shelter in the hearts of those who love him, who are prepared at his call to leave their homeland and their occupations, as the wealthy and famous but also spiritually-meek Wise Men did, or as the simple fishermen-Apostles who did the same.

In his Sermon on the Mount, the Lord calls these people blessed: 'Blessed are the meek in spirit.' True human blessedness consists of despising all that separates us from God. Only by humbling oneself, by impoverishing one's spirit, only by placing the one thing needful at the forefront, can we achieve eternal blessedness.

The Lord says: 'I stand at the door (of your hearts) and knock.' But amidst the noise of today's world, burgeoning fuss, entertainment and useless information, it is hard to hear this knock. The Lord does not force us, does not impose himself upon us; He merely summons us.

And in order to hear His call, we must find time every day for quietude and prayer.

We are surrounded by eternal values, which we sense like the wind, but, burdened with our daily cares, we do not notice them, or try not to notice them, stifling the voice of conscience within us.

The Lord also blesses those who thirst and hunger for the truth, "for they shall be filled." Only Christ, the Sun of Truth, can satisfy our spiritual hunger, for He is the true nourishment and the true drink.

The Lord was born in Bethlehem, which means "House of Bread," He has become for us the living Bread from the heavens, and each who righteously partakes of this Bread, by His word, will live eternally, and each who drinks of His wellspring shall never thirst.

The great, incomparable Gift was granted to mankind from its Creator on the day of the Nativity of Christ. Let us not leave this Gift abandoned, let us bring the Lord the fruits of repentance, for only this sacrifice is acceptable to God.

Dear archpastors, pastors, monastics, brothers and sisters, I express my heartfelt greetings on the day of the Nativity of Christ!

+Metropolitan Laurus

The Nativity of Christ, 2006/2007

2 comments:

Margi said...

I didn't know 'Bethlehem' means 'house of bread', what a lovely concept.

Michael Astley said...

It is rather lovely, isn't it?

There's a hymn that is a translation of a French poem and which was set to music in the 1970s. Sadly, the tune is very much of its era and it is painful to sing but the words are truly lovely and very apt for the season:

The Bakerwoman in her humble lodge
received a grain of wheat from God.
For nine whole months the grain she stored,
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord."
Make us the bread, Mary, Mary,
Make us the bread, we need to be fed.

The Bakerwoman took the road which led
to Bethlehem, the house of bread.
To knead the bread she laboured through the night,
and brought it forth about midnight.
Bake us the bread, Mary, Mary,
Bake us the bread, we need to be fed.

She baked the bread for thirty years
by the fire of her love and the salt of her tears,
by the warmth of her heart so tender and bright,
and the bread was golden brown and white.
Bring us the bread, Mary, Mary,
Bring us the bread, we need to be fed.

After thirty years the bread was done.
It was taken to the town by her only son;
the soft white bread to be given free
to the hungry people of Galilee.
Give us the bread, Mary, Mary,
Give us the bread, we need to be fed.

For thirty coins the bread was sold,
and a thousand teeth so cold, so cold
tore it to pieces on a Friday at noon
when the sun turned black and red the moon.
Break us the bread, Mary, Mary,
Break us the bread, we need to be fed.

And when she saw the bread so white,
the living bread she had made at night,
devoured as wolves might devour a sheep,
the bakerwoman began to weep.
Weep for the bread, Mary, Mary,
Weep for the bread, we need to be fed.

But the bakerwoman's only son
appeared to his friends when three days had run
on the road which to Emmaus led, and there she knew him in the breaking of bread.
Lift up your head, Mary, Mary,
Lift up your head for now we've been fed.