Christmas Message to Pastors, Deacons, Monks and All the Faithful Children of God and Parishioners the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate of AmericaJanuary 7, 2023
Dear and beloved fathers, brothers, and sisters in Christ, our Lord and Savior,
“I proclaim to you a great joy that will be to all men” (Luke 2:10) – with these words the Angel of the Lord brought the news of salvation to all humankind. No matter how much time has passed since “God appeared in the flesh,” this event always brings joy to us in a brand-new way. After all, the Star of Bethlehem, which starts shining in the sky on Christmas Eve, illuminates our souls with its light, strengthens our faith and lights the fire of love in our hearts. Therefore, the Church of Christ and each of us is in a hurry to share this joyful news with our loved ones, relatives, friends, and the whole world.
The great joy of the Nativity of Christ is shaded this year with a hint of sorrow because of the terrible fighting that is going on in Ukraine. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to our Earth to proclaim peace “far and near” (Eph. 2:17). Therefore, any war goes against the very essence of Christianity, since it is based on enmity, hatred, violence, and denial of love among people who were created in the image and likeness of God. I appeal to the clergy and laity to intensify their prayers for Christ Our Lord to stop the unjust and cruel war in Ukraine, the senseless deaths of thousands of people and send peace and justice for Thy people.
This year we will celebrate several memorable dates and anniversaries in the history of the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate. One of them is spiritually important and close to the hearts of each of us. This is the 25th anniversary of the acquisition of the holy relics of the Blessed St. Matrona of Moscow, our heavenly patroness for whom the main Cathedral of the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate is dedicated. Moreover, this is the only cathedral in America that is dedicated to this great Saint of God. Here in Miami some of the holy relics of St. Matrona are constantly kept in open display so that believers from Florida, other states, and the world may come to her with their prayers and requests. St. Matrona of Moscow was an old woman who lived relatively recently, but she was endowed by God with spiritual gifts similar to those of the ascetics of the Early Church and Ancient Rus’. One of them was St. Anthony of Kyiv-Caves, the 950th anniversary of whose repose we will celebrate this year. “The First Leader of all Russian monks” is how this ascetic has been called by the Church to honor the fact that he founded the nation’s first monasteries. Thus, he was the founder of monasticism in Rus’. At the beginning of the eleventh century, St. Anthony took monastic vows on Holy Mount Athos, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Athonite traditions of monasticism brought to Rus’ bore subsequently rich spiritual fruits in the form of a host of venerable monks and saints of the Kyiv Caves. Most of them shone as saints at the time when the Church in Rus’ was part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. In the same era, such great ascetics of faith and piety as SS. Sergius of Radonezh, Ignatius of Rostov, Job of Pochaev and many others became famous.
Natives of the lands of Ancient Rus’, we here in America serve in the Slavic Orthodox Vicariate under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Mother Church. By the grace of God, the Vicariate develops parishes, clerics come, and new communities grow in number. On this path of our spiritual growth, we all feel the prayers and fatherly guidance of His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America.
As we enter this blessed year of 2023 and glorify the newborn Christ, our Savior, we should thank Him for all His blessings for us, for the joy and sorrows, and for His boundless love for us sinners. We must take our path in truth, and everyone in their own way should work to multiply peace and love among people on earth, which the Lord Himself has commanded us and in which His almighty help will certainly dwell with us.
I wish you fathers, brothers and sisters from the newborn Christ the Savior a blessed New Year, peace and love in your hearts, in your families and in your life!
Archimandrite Alexander (Belya), Vicar
Slavic Orthodox Vicariate of America