Shortly before Patriarch Alexey had reposed on December 5 he had prepared his Christmas message. Follows my translation of that epistle.
Christmas Message of Alexey II, Patriarch of all Russia to the Bishops, Priests, Monastics and All Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church
“Glory to God in the highest!”
is heard from the incorporeal ones in Bethlehem today,
addressed to Him Who was well pleased to become Peace on earth.
Stikhira from the Lity
on the Feast of the Nativity
Beloved in the Lord your Graces the archpastors, the honorable priesthood, the diaconate in Christ, God-loving monastics, and dear brothers and sisters-faithful children of the Church!
We hear again the angels joyfully proclaiming the hymn, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke 2:14) The Church greets on earth the pre-eternal God Who was born in Bethlehem from the Ever-virgin and who became man. According to the words of the Gospel, His arrival brings people living on earth supreme peace. The prophecy of the psalmist is fulfilled, “The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” (Psalms 28:11)
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) Peace, bestowed by God and in Him made flesh, destroys sinful passions and worldly cares. This peace has nothing in common with worldly complacency-which limits man’s soul within earthly interests-but lifts it up to the Kingdom of God which transcends this world, of which every true Christian can partake in even here on earth. St. Basil the Great called the peace given by God “the most perfect of blessings” and St. Seraphim of Sarov left for us truly golden, heavenly words, “acquire a spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved.”
God the Word become flesh brought peace to all who believe in Him and follow Him, taking up their cross. But why are there still around us many conflicts, strife, arguments, and offenses? Why does enmity remain between generations, political groups, the wealthy, and the poor? Why do parents split up leaving the children to suffer? Why do people, even Orthodox, rise up against one another?
We cannot directly and honestly answer this question unless we look into the depths of our own hearts: do we not often live according to our own will, forgetting the will of God and his commandments, relying only on human power, forgetting about the power of God? Do we not replace the striving for peace and truth with sinful vanity which only brings us to a disappointing emptiness?
Let us remember, my dear ones, that true peace is given only by the Lord. Only by walking by the Bethlehem star according to the path of Christ can we acquire a prosperous and peaceful life on earth and eternal peace in His Heavenly Kingdom.
Let us remember that the peace of Christ conquers the enmity of this age, that only after acquiring this peace in his heart can man resist all worldly tempests and bring reconciliation to those near and far, transforming life with faith, truth, purity, and love.
May the peace of Christ encircle all of us-His disciples and followers, people of different ages, nationalities, political views and social strata. May it spread also to people of other faiths and views with which we create life.
The world is again uneasy. In many places blood is being spilt and people are suffering. But we believe that the Lord will help us, Orthodox Christians, to awaken people to reconciliation, to wise and just solutions to all arguments and disagreements with our good example and actions.
Beloved archpastors, dear priests, brothers and sisters! By the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos and all the saints the Lord directs the Church on the path of salvation. Thanks to your many, many efforts in the past year, He preserved His people insuperable and “added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47) With the help of God I have also carried out my Patriarchal service. The chief pastor Christ strengthened me in my prayer before Him, gave me the joy of living interaction with many of you, bestowed wisdom in the conversations with the powers that be and with the representatives of various countries and people.
In Moscow in June 2008, there was an Archpastoral Council which canonized as universally recognized saints venerated by people as God-pleasers, developed the social teaching of our Church and made decisions about many existing issues of her life. We celebrated the 1020 anniversary of the Baptism of Rus at which time the Lord allowed me to visit ancient Kiev, the cradle our our Church and one of her spiritual capitals. With a large gathering of people I prayed at the Kievian holy sites, again feeling the strong unity of people baptised in one font. This unity, commanded by our holy predecessors, needs to be carefully preserved and passed on to the future generations.
In the previous year 90 years had passed since the day of the villainous murders of the Royal Passion Bearers. On the day of their memory tens of thousands of believers, while at the place of their suffering, asked them for help for our people’s spiritual rebirth, in the correction of their historical path. Let us be firm in the hope that the Lord will allow us to overcome all the consequences of the tragedies, strife, and crimes of the 20th century, raising Holy Rus from strength to strength.
May God grant that the words of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco which he spoke in that terrible year, 1938, be fulfilled, “Blessed are you Russian land, cleansed with the fire of suffering! You have passed through the water of baptism, now you are going through the fire of suffering, you will also enter into peace”.
All of you, my dears, I heartily congratulate on the feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior! May Christ the God-man, born in Bethlehem, bless all of you in the coming year with peace, health, and success in every good deed! May He bring into our homes, our lands, and our cities and villages joy to live in accord, love, and His truth. On this holy feast I address to you the words of the Apostle Paul, “Brethren…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) Amen.
+Alexey, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia
Nativity of Christ 2008/2009