Nativity Epistle

PrintNativity Epistle of the Permanent Conference

of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine
2017-18

To the beloved Clergy and Faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
beyond the Borders of Ukraine and on her native soil,

CHRIST IS BORN!

By the grace of God, again this year we can celebrate the great mystery of our faith – the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who “for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.” (the Nicene Creed). All creation was waiting for the arrival of the Saviour to redeem the human race from sin and death and to reconcile man with God.

Today, humanity, which was in the dark and dwelled in the kingdom of sin, death, and despair, is filled with a new joy “which had not existed until now.”

Today, the prophecies of the prophets of the Old Testament about the Saviour and the Messiah are fulfilled: “Behold the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Immanuel” which is translated, “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). The Lord sends redemption to His people (Psalm 110:9). The salvation of the human race cannot be achieved by human forces and for this reason it is necessary for God to come into the world.

Today, the heart of all of us is filled with great joy because the Saviour, who came into the world to give Himself up for us, is born.

Today, in Bethlehem of Judea, the only One who is able to grant salvation to all mankind, to cleanse us from our sins and to defeat death, is born.

Today, He is born in a lowly manger because there is no room for Him among His people.

Today, the eternal God, born as a small Child, enters the world to grant us salvation.

Today, the Saviour is born of the Virgin Mary to bring us the unearthly spiritual joy of the Incarnation. The Lord becomes like one of us; He becomes like us but without sin.

God eternal is born today!
From heaven comes the One,
Who shall save humanity
And for this, rejoice!

Today, the Son of God becomes the Son of man, receives human flesh through the Incarnation in the person of the Newborn Christ. Divine and human nature are united unconfusedly, inconvertibly, indivisibly, inseparably.

Today, God is humbled in the person of the Newborn Christ, the Saviour. As the Apostle Paul writes: “He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of man” (Philippians 2:7).

Today, God descends to earth to give us the opportunity to be deified so that our bodies can become the temples of the Holy Spirit through His grace.

Today, God lowers Himself so that we can raise-up ourselves to become children of God through His grace.

Today, the star of Bethlehem illuminates the whole world with the light of God’s great grace.

Today, heaven and earth sing the Angelic song: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will among men.”

Today, heaven makes peace with the earth and God makes peace with man through the birth of the Son of God.

Today, as the angels rejoice in the heavens and the darkness of night that covers the earth is illuminated by the light of the Bethlehem star, let us turn our hearts and prayers to the Cave in Bethlehem so that we can receive the blessing from the Newborn Christ, the Saviour.

Let us open our heart to the Newborn Saviour so that He can be born in our heart and live within us.

Let the young child Jesus bless you and fill you with grace, calm, hope, and spiritual joy. Let Him strengthen you spiritually and physically and give you abundant strength to bear your earthly cross. Let us understand that from today we are not alone; we are not abandoned; we are not orphans. God is with us!

Once again, we greet you on the Great Feast of the Nativity of Christ and prayerfully wish that the Lord grants you a new year, 2018, filled with peace and blessings from Him.

CHRIST IS BORN!       LET US GLORIFY HIM!

With Archpastoral Blessings,

☦ YURIJ, Metropolitan
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

☦ ANTONY, Metropolitan
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora

☦ JEREMIAH, Archbishop
Ukrainian Orthodox Church, South America Eparchy

☦ DANIEL, Archbishop
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora

☦ ILARION, Bishop
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

☦ANDRIY, Bishop
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

St. Philip’s Nativity Fast

Source (UOC)

To the Venerable and Christ-loving clergy and laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, South America, the United States of America and in Ukraine.

May the Grace of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!

We are currently living through the Pre-Nativity Fast – also known as Philip’s Fast because it begins on 15/28 November, the day following the Feast of the Holy Apostle Philip and known in the Western Church as Advent.  This fast continues to the Great Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ – the Incarnation – God becoming one of us for no other reason than to prove the depth of His Love for us.

This is a period, which is often not the focus of contemporary Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians, secularized and smothered in the over-commercialization of the “Xmas” season.  The fast is, according to the Church Fathers, a time of mercy, kindness, compassion, self-examination – a time, which challenges us to personal renewal in the Light of Christ’s Gospel.  It is a sacred season, during which we are called to make a spiritual journey from wherever we are in the world – from the “now” in our parish churches, which we all too often have difficulty seeing beyond – to the City of Bread – Beth-lehem and into a cave, the “Holy of Holies”, and to a manager, pre-figuring the Chalice of the Eucharist, in order to bring the gift of ourselves to the Jesus Christ, Who is the Bread of Life.

In ways that we may never fully comprehend, we make this journey like the Magi, like the shepherds.  We each bring our gifts and we dedicate them to Christ.  These are gifts willingly given for the good of others – the gold, frankincense and myrrh of our parenting, teaching, healing, friendship and compassion – in other words, our Love for one another.

We must live through this fast period and each day of our lives in a prayerful attitude of openness to the empowering and unending Presence of the Loving and Living God.  Living an Orthodox Christian life makes heavy demands on us.  But, God gives us His strength.  The Power, the Love and the Grace of God are always with us – in our “community work”, the Liturgy and all other Divine Services, in our private prayer life, in all creation and every single one of His human creatures!  That living Presence makes all things new!

Such an attitude of openness, of awe and wonder and joyful expectancy is what it takes to receive the strength to fulfill our life’s purpose.  Our God is the God of Life and He never stops with a sense of self-satisfaction to say:  “We’ve got it!”  It is always a movement on into the future.  It is always His Presence with us now, doing some new thing.  We may be in the depths of despair and we may feel ourselves caving in, but that is precisely when He moves in and the Light breaks through and the hope and the power and the healing come.

Simply put, our goal during this Pre-Nativity Fast is to mature in Christ, to attain to spiritual quality and excellence in our profession of the Orthodox Christian Faith, to invite Christ Jesus into our very being, to proclaim to an increasingly nominal and apathetic Christian society that, which it would rather not hear:  “I bring you tidings of great joy…a Savior is born…He is Christ the Lord!” and He can be found in the hearts and homes of those who proclaim Him by their willingness to “let our light so shine before men, that they might see our good works and give glory to our Father Who is in Heaven” [Matthew 5:16].

We call you all, as our spiritual children, to pray fervently during this season for the leaders of the world we live in today.  It is a secularized world full of strife, economic weakness and political instability.  Evil often manifests itself in the cleverest of ways during such times.  Pray for the maturity of those who lead all our nations and most especially those who lead in Ukraine, that their heart’s desire will always be to build a strong nation based on a system of law, peace and justice.  Pray that our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church unites and returns to its historical role as the moral conscience of the nation.

May He, Who so loved the world that He sent His Only-Begotten Son to be our Lord and Savior, assist us in our resolve to mature and be nourished by the word of Truth and Life-giving mysteries. May we grow and mature in Faith as Ukrainian Orthodox Christians so that others, having witnessed the Faith manifested in our personal lives and in our parish communities, will be drawn to Christ and like the shepherds of Bethlehem, will glorify and praise God for all that they had seen and heard through us.

Assuring you of our prayers and love and requesting yours, we remain your servants in the Lord,

 

+ Yurij
Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+ Antony
Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora

+ Jeremiah
Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, South America Eparchy

+ Daniel
Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA

+ Ilarion
Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+ Andrij
Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

Council of Bishops of the UOC of the USA: Blessed Thanksgiving!

Source (UOC):

THANKSGIVING 2017

Beloved in the Lord!

As 2017 year of our Lord draws to a close, and the sacred Season of St. Philip’s (Pre-Nativity) Fast about to begin, we in the U.S. come again to a peculiar weekend. Our national day of Thanksgiving is perhaps the only remaining civic holiday with an overtly religious purpose: the entire nation is meant to pause and thank God for the blessings bestowed upon it. Of course, many will spend this day without any thought of God whatsoever; since they don’t think of God at other times, why should this day be any different? This is a day for the people of God to delight in, however. We are a Eucharistic people; thanksgiving is our way of life. We are never more truly ourselves than when we are conscious of our dependence upon God, and God’s loving providence at work in our lives.

The Greek word, Eucharist, means ‘thanksgiving’. Each time, as we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we, your hierarchs, offer our gratitude to Almighty God for His love and mercy. We thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the blessings received through the ministry of our forefathers, both clergy and laity, ensuring the blessed present for all of us. However, we are most thankful for you, the clergy and the faithful of our Metropolia – our extended family, as our most important blessing.

Of course, God’s gifts are never given merely for our own enjoyment, but to equip us and empower us to do God’s work in the world. Looking at our world, especially in this time of war in our ancestral homeland Ukraine and in other parts of the world, may we offer even more profound thanks, give more generously, and serve more effectively.

When we celebrate Thanksgiving Day this year, let us do so in the spirit of our ancestors. Let us make it more than a day to enjoy family fellowship, fine food and football, by taking time to count our blessings as individuals, as families, and as a nation. Let us begin the day properly, by attending the liturgical service – hopefully at least a Moleben – in all our parish churches to worship and thank our God.

Let us offer special gratitude for our religious freedom and remember in prayer all who have ever helped us in a time of need. Finally, as “one nation under God”, we cannot forget those who have less or nothing at all. Let us reach out to those in need – for example, through the Ukrainian Orthodox League’s Thanksgiving Tithe Event – to share our bounty, however humble, with them. The very best way to give thanks to God for His abundant blessings upon us is to imitate Him by providing blessings to others.

We know well that God is good; may we be helped to tell of God’s mercy and loving kindness to all we meet in this sacred holiday season. May the peace of Christ dwell with you abundantly.

With thankful hearts in prayer, we are those who pray for you unceasingly,

+ Antony, Metropolitan

+ Daniel, Archbishop