PATRIARCH ALEXY II
OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA
by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy
II of Moscow and All Russia
to archpastors, pastors, the
monastics and all children
of the Russian Orthodox Church
All the angels rejoice in heaven and today men exult,
all creation of the Lord and Saviour Who was born
in Bethlehem leaps for joy,
for all beguilement of the idols has ceased
and Christ reigns forever.
(Stanza for the Litiya on the Eve of the Feast)
Beloved in the Lord my brothers your graces the bishops, honourable
pastors and all the clergy of the Church, esteemed monks and nuns and laity
beloved of God - children of our Holy Mother the Russian Orthodox Church!
It is to you, my dear ones living in the Land of Russia, in the countries
of the near and far abroad, in the many states of the world on all the
continents, that I turn with a word of congratulations on the great and
saving feast of the Nativity of Christ.
This day carries us back two thousand years to that sacred and all-joyous
event of the Coming into the world of our Lord Jesus Christ and invisibly
places us before the cave in Bethlehem. We become witnesses of the wondrous
appearance of the Angel of God to the Bethlehem shepherds and with our
minds we can together with them harken to the singing of the multitudinous
heavenly host: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill
to all men' (Lk 2:14). With our inner gaze we see the Wise Men of the East
led by a strange star bowing down before the Divine Child and stretching
forth to Him their hands with precious gifts of gold, frankincense and
sweet-smelling myrrh (Mt 2:1-2, 10-11). And reverently keeping this image
in our souls, we 'with one mouth and one heart' praise the Lord and Saviour
born in Bethlehem and the Most Pure Mother of God, the Most Blessed Virgin
Mary, who had aided the great Mystery of the Incarnation of God.
On the feast of the Nativity of Christ our churches are filled with
the wonderful sounds of elevated and lofty hymns and ineffable joy fills
on this day the hearts of all Orthodox Christians!
Our Saviour has assumed human flesh and blood (Heb 2:14). He was not
ashamed to call us His brothers (Heb 2:11), and therefore it is our duty
to be worthy of the grace of kinship with of God.
We are to be filled with the deepest amazement at the miracle that has
now been accomplished, says St. John Chrysostom: 'that which the forefathers
so much strove for, that which the prophets foretold and the righteous
desired to see has today come true - God has appeared on earth in the flesh
and has abided in people'. St. Philaret of Moscow, as though continuing
the words of St. John Chrysostom, remarks: 'this is why our infirmity will
be filled with the power of God, our untruth will be eradicated by the
truth of God, our darkness will be illumined by the light of God, our death
will be abolished by the life of God'.
Beloved in the Lord brothers and sisters! The past year will remain
in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church as a year of great accomplishments.
Undoubtedly the central event was the Jubilee Bishops' Council which took
place in the reborn Christ the Saviour Church. The main act of the Bishops'
Council was the glorification of the host of New Martyrs and Confessors
of Russia, among whom the Imperial Passion-Bearers stand before the Throne
of God and pray to Him for their earthly Fatherland. This decision was
adopted unanimously by all the bishops participating in the Council. Truly,
as the Psalmist says, 'the Lord foresaketh not his saints' (Ps 36:28) and
'let the saints be joyful in glory' (Ps 149:5).
Moreover, the Jubilee Bishops' Council examined the tasks that confront
our Holy Church at the turn of the century and adopted documents defining
the relationship of the Church towards the many important problems of Church
and state interaction as well as towards non-Orthodox Christians. A new
version of the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church was adopted too.
The fine Church Assembly Hall and the beauty and magnificence of the
reborn Christ the Saviour Church in no small way contributed to the gathering
of the church bishops becoming an unforgettable, truly historical event
of the past year.
The high point of the jubilee celebrations was the great consecration
of the Christ the Saviour Church, dedicated to the Nativity of Christ.
Many Primates and delegations of all the Local Orthodox Churches came for
this event, with brotherly love responding to the invitation to share our
joy. The consecration of this magnificent church, the symbol of a renascent
Orthodox Russia on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the
great jubilee year of the 2000th anniversary of the Coming into the world
of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a clear sign of the grace of God that has
not abandoned our Church and our much-suffering people. And although in
the past year our people have had to endure many hardships, the Lord has
given us the strength to bear all the difficulties with hope in His ineffable
mercy, He has strengthened us in the burden of carrying our cross.
A sign of the great mercies of God was the bringing to the land of the
Russian Orthodox Church the venerable head of the great martyr and healer
Panteleimon. The relics of the glorious martyr and good warrior of the
Heavenly King visited not only the primatial city of Moscow but also the
place from which it received baptism - the blessed city of Kiev - as well
as the northern capital of Russia - the city of St. Peter. As in 1996,
the event was accompanied by many miraculous cures which took place through
the prayers of the hundreds of thousands of people who came to the holy
In the past year the Lord has visited us through many hardships and
sorrows. The Church shares the pain of society as a whole and of each individual
suffering from a chaotic life, poverty, illness, inter-ethnic strife, manifestations
of terrorism and extremism. The Church has always been and always will
be with her people throughout all the hardships which the Lord will see
fit to sent us so that we may come to our senses and repent. The Church
will henceforth seek to unite the efforts of the those in power and the
many citizens sincerely working for the good of the people, for the building
up of a better life in Russia, the countries of the Commonwealth of Indpendent
States, Europe and the world, for the attainment of prosperity, the well-being
of society on the whole and of every individual.
My dear ones! With faith and hope let us look to the future in the expectation
that what we have accomplished in the jubilee year will become the firm
foundation upon which our Holy Church will be established and our Fatherland
will be reborn in the twenty-first century; that the glorification of the
New Martyrs and Confessors for faith in Christ will become a turning point
in our history in aiding the people to repent of the sin of apostasy; that
the prayers of the newly glorified heroes of faith will help us to stand
firm against evil, sin, vice and human frailty.
My beloved! Again and again I congratulate you from the bottom of my
heart on the great feast of the Incarnation of God the Word which saves
the entire world, as well as on the forthcoming New Year, on the beginning
of the twenty-first century and the advent of the third millenium since
the Nativity of Christ!
'Rejoice, be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace;
and the God of love and peace shall be with you ' (2 Cor 13:11).
PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA