"After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways .... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." St. Philaret of NY 1985

Tidings of Great Joy

Vol IV, No.6
January, 1984

Orthodox America

  Tidings of Great Joy

      Once long ago, nearly two thousand years in the past, at the dawn of Christianity, the pre-eminent Apostle Paul, one of the greatest preachers of the Christian Faith, wrote in his epistle to his beloved disciple Timothy: Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh (I Tim. 3:16).

    And the holy Gospel, relating to us how this, the greatest event in the history of humanity, the manifestation of God in the flesh, took place, says that the angel who announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds of Bethlehem told them: I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).

     Great Joy .... Behold, the Holy Church, solemnly celebrating the great and splendid feast of the Nativity of Christ, renews this great joy in our sight from year to year, reverently and joyously pondering and reminding us of the wondrous accomplishment of the merciful and co-suffering love of Him Who descended from the unapproachable and dread throne of His divine glory and appeared on our sinful earth, "for us men and for our salvation..."

     The saintly hierarch Theophanes the Recluse says that there can be no greater joy for the Christian soul than the joy which the angel proclaimed on the blessed night of the Nativity of Christ, and which he said would be a great joy for us, for all people.

    O Christian! Does your heart rejoice on this splendid feast day? Behold, before us is the world which surrounds us, which does not know the beauty and light of true Orthodoxy. The children of this world, for all appearances, also celebrate the Birth of Christ. But what is their "Merry Christmas!" which thousands and millions of their post-cards and greetings say? Having torn themselves away from the fundamental laws of the Church in their "New Calendar," having lost all connection in fact with ancient Christian piety, they have reduced the celebration of the great and splendid feast to greetings, gifts and brightly-colored lights. Yet there would be nothing foolish in all of this if it were warmed from within with the truth and joy of the great solemnity of our holy and saving Faith. But do we not see that their entire celebration is but decorative in character: on the outside it is elegant, but within there is spiritual emptiness... Nay, the joy of the Nativity of Christ lies not in gifts and greetings, but in the news that the Omnipotent Creator of all that exists appeared on earth, dwelt among men, gave them His marvelous evangelical law and the wondrous example of spiritual life in God and love for God and neighbor; by His redemptive and salvific sufferings He has freed us from sin, the curse and death, and has opened for as a path to His heavenly kingdom and to everlasting joy in God and with God.

      On the night of the Nativity of Christ, the holy angels chanted: Glory to God the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward me (Luke 2:14); And He Who was born On that night, bidding farewell to His beloved disciples on another night, the night of His redemptive sufferings, confirmed the angel's words, saving: Peace I leave with you. My Peace I give you--yet to this He added, not as the world giveth, give I to you (John 14:27).

     This is the holy peace of Christ, His precious gift to each soul which believes in Him, and it now overshadows all such faithful souls, despite all the bloody chaos and foolishness which ye see in the world today.  But do there not now come to mind other, dread words of the Lord, which He spoke through His prophet: Peace, peace; and where is peace? (Jer. 6:14).  Yea, there is no peace, nor will there be, all the pitiful attempts and efforts of contemporary "peace-makers" to bring about "peace in this world" notwithstanding.  For the awful threat of monstrous, fratricidal war hangs over this world, and the world will not escape this horror if it does not come to its senses and return to the path of Christ's truth.

 But will it?  Is not the fulfillment drawing nigh to us of the dread prophecy of the Apostle, who says that the ancient world was inundated with water (the universal deluge), and the present world will perish through fire, the earth also, and the works that are in it, shall be burned up," as we are told in the second Epistle of the holy Apostle Peter (3:10)...

     But enough of this. The radiant feast fast approaches! Let every Christian soul rejoice on these splendid days of festival. What awaits us in the future, the Lord alone knows. The elder Ambrose of Optina, that great righteous man of the Russian land, said: "What will be, will be; what will be, will be what God grants." And God does everything well...

I greet you all with the feast!
Christ is Born! Give Ye Glory!
Metropolitan Philaret
Chief Hierarch of the Russian Church Outside of Russia