December 25, 2016/January 7, 2017
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ Heaven and earth are glad today, as the prophets said, and angels and men keep spiritual festival, for God, born of the Virgin hath appeared in the flesh to those who sit in darkness and shadow: the cave and manger have received Him; the shepherds proclaim the wonder; the magi from the East bring gifts to Bethlehem; and with our unworthy lips we offer Him the praise of the angels: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace! For the expectation of the nations hath come, and coming hath saved us from slavery to the enemy. (Litya Stichera of the Nativity of the Lord)
Dear Clergy, Monastics, Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
As we hear the beautiful words written above sung in the Holy Church during the All Night Vigil for the feast of our Lord’s Nativity we cannot but contemplate the great mercy of our Lord as He, the Creator of all, humbled Himself and became incarnate for our salvation. The Divine Services are a wellspring of Orthodox theology, and I commend you not just to their beauty, but to their content. Listen carefully to all that you hear in the Divine Services and drink of this source of truth often – not just during the festal period – but as often as you are able attend the Divine Services for the good of your soul – a soul which the newborn Christ child came to redeem ...from slavery to the enemy.
This is my first Nativity Epistle as the ruling hierarch of our Chicago & Mid-America diocese. All of us – all the believing children of our diocese – must remember Vladyka Archbishop Alypy, who did so much for our diocese. In June of 2016 Vladyka was granted retirement due to the state of his health. We have asked for your material assistance in his care - we now ask you to remember him in your prayers.
The year 2017 marks several important anniversaries. The most obvious of these is the 100 year anniversary of the revolutions in Russia, both the February and the October uprisings that brought fratricide and regicide to the Russian land on a scale never before seen in history. There will be a special appeal from our Synod of Bishops in this regard later in the year. Also in this year we mark a joyful anniversary: 10 years since the restoration of liturgical unity within the Russian Church. Let this anniversary be not simply a cause for celebration, but also a call to action: to make the reconciliation real and dynamic. Let us too reach out to those who left the Church at the time of the reconciliation and welcome them back into Her fold in the spirit of true Christian Love.
May the Light of the Divinity which shines forth from the Bethlehem cave today enlighten you all throughout the coming year!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
With Love in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Peter, Archbishop of Chicago & Mid-America