ENGLISH VERSION: Nativity Epistle of Bishop Gregory (Lourie) of Petrograd and Gdov, Chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church
Angels, shepherd, and wise men – thus were those who became witnesses of the Nativity of Christ. The Nativity of Christ was revealed to the world on high, but hidden from the one below. It was revealed to only a few people on earth. These were the simple pastors, who were open to faith, and also the much-learned, but also open to faith, wise men.
At that time on earth there were many other much-learned people and even more simple people – but to none of them was revealed the Nativity of Christ. Neither simplicity nor learnedness gives one the comprehension of God’s mysteries. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth – that is, neither simply the curiosity seeker, nor the “runner,” that is, those seeking to know something on their own – but rather him to whom God sheweth mercy (Romans 9:16). He says: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (Romans 9:15). He says: to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word (Isaiah 66:2). God sees the one who does not interrupt Him with his chatter, but waits until he can hear His word.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (because it can not even be subject to it) (Romans 8:7). Therefore let us not be deceived by a noisy, worldly celebration of the Nativity of Christ. There is no Christ in the worldly celebration of the Nativity; indeed, He would only get in the way there. The more the Nativity of Christ is celebrated in worldly fashion, the more hidden its meaning becomes for the world – the fewer people who break through the celebration of this worldly “Nativity,” who today come to the birth of Christ along with the shepherds and the wise men.
Therefore, if we want to see the Nativity of Christ, let us estrange ourselves from the world by transporting our minds to Heaven, as an old and proven instruction (the Akathist) tell us. Our abundant holiday table should become the divine services and the Eucharist, as well as the inner solitude before God and silence. May our festive conversations be the prayerful invocation of the divine name of the One Who is Born.
This is where today’s divine service is drawing us, calling out:
Come let us rejoice in the Lord, saying the real mystery: “Come, let us rejoice before the Lord, explaining in words of prayer that mystery which is now opening before us.”
Bishop of Petrograd and Gdov
Nativity of Christ