Archbishop Sofroni’s Nativity Epistle

God became Man, so that man becomes God.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men.

By His coming, the Lord grants us liberation, liberation from ancestral sin, the sin that bound and separated us from God. And at the same time, the Lord says in the Gospel: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”.

Blessed Theophylact of Ohrid notes: “The sword, then, is the word of faith which severs our bond to our families and relatives when they hinder our piety towards God. For He does not tell us simply to separate ourselves from them, but only when they … hinder us in our faith. Christ brought truth to the earth. And truth, like light, separates people: some go to the light, while others prefer to remain in darkness. Therefore, the word “sword” cannot be taken literally. As the closest people can be separated by the power of a sword, so a disagreement in opinions of people divides, even quarrels them and brings them to bitterness. And such a disagreement in many families was due to the apostles preaching about the risen Christ».

But who separates us today? Of course, we ourselves, we have been given the free will to choose: to be with the Light or to walk the path of darkness. The Lord reveals Himself to those who keep vigil over their soul, as He revealed Himself to the shepherds who kept vigil over their flock. The Lord is born now not in lush chambers, but in a wretched shed, showing at the beginning of His coming to earth a humble nature, and He is looking for this nature among us, saying: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word” (Is. 66, 2).

This is an indispensable condition for staying with Christ, only in such temples of our hearts does He come to and prepares the supper, so that they reign with Him forever in marriage.

 As St. Athanasius of Alexandria teaches: “Such and so many are the Savior’s achievements that follow from His Incarnation, that to try to  number them is like gazing at the open sea and trying to count the waves. One can not see all the waves with one’s eyes, for when one tries to do so those that are following on baffle one’s senses. Even so, when one wants to take in all the achievements of Christ in the body, one cannot do so, even by reckoning them up, for the things that transcend one’s thought are always more  than those one thinks that one has grasped”.

I congratulate all the venerable shepherds, monastics, and laity of our diocese with Christ Born and prayerfully wish that Christ would find a heart ready to be a manger for Him in each of you.

+ Sofroni, Archbishop of St. Petersburg and North of Russia

St. Petersburg

Christmas 2019