Christ is born! Glorify Him!
To our beloved hierarchs, clergy, monastics and laity:
“Do not change that which is in season for that which is out of season; nor the Time for the times.” (Ephraim Homily 11-20)
We are fully aware that we are well into the season of winter, as we are blanketed in the cold and starkness of its embrace. The days are grey and bleak, and darkness comes too soon in the afternoon and lingers too long in the morning. Though we may murmur about the inconveniences of wearing more clothing, slippery travel and snow removal, winter can sometimes bring calm to our lives. With a heavy snowstorm comes a welcomed lack of activity and perhaps even an unexpected Sabbath from our ordinary routine.
The characteristics of winter can also be reflected in the spirit that is sometimes present in our lives. Coldness, distance, self centeredness and, I dare say, even a sense of boredom with all that is can pervade our being with numbness. Thus it is an opportune time to reflect and join in the prayer of the prophet Daniel: “Bless the Lord, frost and cold, praise and glorify him forever. Bless the Lord, ice and snow, praise and glorify him forever.” (Daniel 3:68-70)
We can never forget that it is into our cold world of winters that the Father sent his Son to be our Redeemer. The conditions of the Bethlehem cave were bleak and stark. The world was dark and cold because of sin, brokenness and incompleteness. To this Christ brought the light of redemption, the warmth of love, and the hope of an eternal springtime.
“Christ, the son of Mary, brings to light all things new. Catch the scent of this fresh breeze, and at once burst into new life. Stand erect … for Christ has overtaken you.” (Romanos – On the Nativity II)
As we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, there are areas of our lives that need continual redemption. Our hearts, grown cold and indifferent, need the love of Jesus. Our minds – troubled by memories, dreams unfulfilled, evil, envious or negative thoughts – need the light of Christ. Our hands, filled with so many material things not able to grasp that which cannot be held, need to be supported by faith. Without Jesus Christ and the warmth of the Gospel message, we remain wells without water, winters without Christmas, wanderers without a destination.
Let us celebrate the birth of Jesus with joyous gratitude for all he is and for all he does for us. Jesus is always in season and always the Time around which our lives revolve. We ask Mary, the Theotokos, to help us ever be aware of his light, ever present in the season and time we call our lives.
I extend to each of you my episcopal blessing, and I wish you and your loved ones a prayerful Christmas and a holy New Year.
In the name of the Lord!
Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh