from His Eminence LEONID,
Metropolitan of Klin, Patriarchal Exarch of Africa,
to the Clergy, Monastics and Laypeople of the Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa
and the Diocese of Yerevan and Armenia of the Russian Orthodox Church
Dear in the Lord Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,
With all my heart I greet you on the great feast of the Nativity of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Today the Orthodox Church is celebrating, glorifying this sacred advent. The salvific mystery of God revealing Himself in the flesh has been accomplished, and the great and true light – Christ our God – has shone on the universe. The world learned of the incarnate Divine Infant, for on Christmas night the Angel of God heralded to the shepherds of Bethlehem 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, which is Christ the Lord (Lk 2:10-11). By having taken upon Himself human nature the Lord restores our communion with the Heavenly Father. People, who lost their connection with God because of their sins, now again receive the adoption of sons and manifold gifts of the Divine grace in the Holy Sacraments and prayers of the Church as the life-giving and inexhaustible spring which waters all those thirsting for the Divine truth and striving to follow the path leading to spiritual growth and eternal life.
There were prophets who, inspired by God, heralded the birth of Christ the Divine Infant and foretold that the born Messiah would be the Saviour of the world. Salvation meant that people would be forgiven for refusing to obey the will of their Creator and receive the knowledge of the true way leading to the fullness of life. Salvation meant that the order of life as it was ordained by God would be restored. People were unable to accomplish this sacred mission on their own, since evil became a part of their nature. At the same time, God – the Almighty Creator – could not save people against their will or without their consent, since it would have violated the freedom that the Lord Himself implanted in our human nature so that it may be a reflection of His image.
The Nativity of Christ, the Incarnation of the Son of God, was the act of the infinite Divine love. Having made the law of love the cornerstone of life, God fulfils it, for the life of Jesus Christ was a vivid manifestation of love that knows neither bounds nor limits. On Christmas night God entered into the life of human beings as a new-born Infant, fragile and defenceless, born not in regal chambers, but in a poor cave for cattle. This Nativity scene contains the great truth: it is not the wealth or strength or power that will save the world, but the Divine love, which in its defencelessness and fragility surpasses all human force.
The Gospel tells us about the magi – the wise men from the East who came to Bethlehem to venerate the Infant Jesus. And just like those ancient magi who went on a long journey to find the new-born Christ, we too should tread the path of truth and life leading to the born Divine Infant. Out of the night and darkness of our own soul we should come into the light of the Star of Bethlehem, out of the cold and spiritual scantiness – into the warmth and joy of the Divine love.
During the Christmas divine services we hear, just like the shepherds of Bethlehem, the words of the angelic salutation, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Lk 2:14). This ineffable joy abides in our heart, helping us to go through all earthly trials and tribulations and reminding us that both in sorrow and in joy the Lord’s help is close at hand, for God is with us (Is 8:10).
Today I send my Christmas greetings to all of you, my dear friends in the Lord, and prayerfully wish you radiant spiritual joy, unceasing help from God in the ordeals of your Christian life, as well as strength, peace and longevity.
LEONID, Metropolitan of Klin,
Patriarchal Exarch of Africa