PATRIARCHAL AND SYNODAL NATIVITY ENCYCLICAL
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,
hath shined upon the world the light of knowledge
Troparion , mode 4
Beloved in the Lord children of our holy Church,
As always, on the threshold between the old and the New Year, one event from our sacred history fills us with such indescribably joy, and brings to our hearts and homes such warmth, as nothing else under the sun could give us. That unique event is the birth in the flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Every year on the day of His Birth we, the faithful members of His holy Church, are filled with joy and compunction at the memory of the Young Child from the cave in Bethlehem, of God who took our human nature and became the Son of Man, enabling us, in the words of the great St. Athanasius, to become sons of God.
For thousands of years that divine event has only been waited for. For thousands of years Israel has lived with faith and hope for the coming of the Messiah – the Savior of the world. And behold, at the night of His birth, the long-awaited event takes place. Behold, the Anointed One has already come, “for in God – as the holy evangelist Luke writes –not a single word will remain powerless” (Lk. 1:37) The prophecy of the holy prophet Isaiah which says: “Behold a virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they’ll call his name Emmanuel, which is to say: God is with us” (Is. 7:14) has been fulfilled. In this night the world meets its divine Savior. An unheard-of event has taken place in the human history, of which only the faithful children of the house of Israel had known until then, but of which all others will learn, because the news of Him will spread to all the ends of the earth and among all peoples (Mat. 28: 19). The great mystery of godliness has been revealed and “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). The mystery of divine knowledge has been revealed and this is witnessed by the Church in its worship and theology – a mystery, which it has openly proclaimed to the world more than 2000 years already, keeping even to this day the unblemished faith “which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude, 3).
But God is in our midst even now. Behold, today He is born in order to bring also to our world His peace and His love, so that in the abundance of His grace we may also walk the road to life and His eternal Kingdom. Our faith and unchanging love toward the Savior, who is born today in Bethlehem, remain the brightest witness of His personal presence in the world and in the life of each one of us. We are brought to this realization not only by the mysterious ambience of Christmas Eve, which is silent in the expectation of the young child, but also by the experience of the birth of Christ in the hearts of every one of us whenever we love Him, whenever we follow Him and keep His commandments to love one another (John 13: 34).
In this night we also remember the hymn of the angelic powers: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will among men! ( Lk.2: 14). In our days of continuing military conflicts and acts of the spiritual hosts of wickedness under the heaven (Eph. 6: 12) we realize more and more how much we need this good will. We realize how much we need the abundance of heavenly peace which has come into our world with the birth of the Son of God. That is why today is a special occasion, on which we are called to give not only “glory in the highest” but also to offer gratitude with true deeds to our Creator and heavenly Father, Who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3: 16).
Brothers and sisters,
The day of the Nativity of Christ is a day of unearthly joy and celebration! In, its festive Christmas service, the Church again sings how “angels with shepherds give glory and magi journey with a star. For our sake is born a Young Child, the Pre-eternal God” (Kontakion of Nativity, mode 3). On this day, in the city of David, more than 2000 years ago, was established the beginning of our salvation! Let us therefore open the doors of our homes and hearts to meet and give shelter therein to the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk: 2: 11) who is born on this holy night.
On the day of the Nativity of Christ we again send to all of you – clergy and laity of our mother Church within our homeland and far beyond it a warm arch pastoral blessing and a burning prayer to the Giver of all not to deprive our Christ-loving people of His mercy so that always strengthened by God’s hand we may prosper in love and piety to the glory of the newborn God-child!
May the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you!
+ Maxim, president of the Holy Synod, patriarch of Bulgaria and metropolitan of Sofia
and the diocesan metropolitansMetropolitan Joseph's Nativity Epistle