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DIOCESE OF THE MIDWEST

Orthodox Church in America
927 N. LaSalle St. Chicago, IL 60610

Archpastoral Letter

Nativity Of Our Lord 2006
No. 211

To the Esteemed Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful in the Diocese of the Midwest:

Dearly Beloved in the Lord

Christ is born!

I greet you, my spiritual children, with the love, joy and hope available to us through the Incarnation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We have once again reached the fulfillment of the fast, the winter pascha, the Nativity of Our Lord. And we are once again assured that indeed God is With Us. The great gift of the way and the hope of salvation has been given to us. Now we are challenged as to how to respond properly to this offering, to the Incarnation of Christ for we know, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required" Luke 12:48

We have spent much time in preparation for our celebration of the coming of Christ. We have striven, hopefully, to uphold the Nativity fast, we have spent many hours in decorating our churches and our homes. Let us not tomorrow count the feast as past and move on to the next thing. Let us properly celebrate the feast of the coming of Our Lord by contemplating how it is we might respond to this tremendous gift, and identify what is required of us.

We are given a clue to these considerations from Vespers of the eve of the Nativity. It is there we sing:

What shall we offer You, O Christ,
Who for our sake have appeared on earth as man?
Every creature which You have made offers thanks.
The angels offer You a song.
The heavens, their star.
The wise men, their gifts.
The shepherds, their wonder.
The earth, its cave.
The wilderness, the manger.
And we offer You a Virgin Mother.
O pre-eternal, God have mercy on us!

Through this hymn we see that it is our task and our requirement as Orthodox Christians to take the life of the Holy Mother of God as our example. We see in the life of the Theotokos that it is man's work and activity that make the coming of Our Lord possible. The incarnation would not have occurred without the cooperation of man. And there can be no celebration of the incarnation, of the nativity, without the unity of the Church, without all members of the Body of Christ crying out together: Christ is Born! Let us Glorify Him!

The past year indeed has been a dark time for our Orthodox Church in America. But just as the darkness of the cave and the darkness of the tomb ultimately bore great light and salvation, so also, I believe, this dark period in our church's life will bear great light, a light to enlighten all. To borrow from the words of one of my diocesan clergy, "We have faced our demons and our failures and our sins and have taken them on directly in battle."

Most recently our Orthodox Church in America has taken great leaps to more closely live up to the synergistic example given us through the Mother of God. The Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council, meeting in unity, and striving for oneness of mind, have given us new hope that Christ now will indeed bless our actions.

At this Feast, my Brothers and Sisters, let us give thanks to God for the miracle of the Incarnation, but let us not forget that our thanks must be an active thanks, a thanks which builds up our Holy Church.

Invoking God's Blessing upon you, and with every good wish for a spiritually prosperous New Year, I remain

Faithfully yours in Christ,

JOB

Archbishop of Chicago and the Midwest