Tuesday, December 24, 2013
To the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of Parish Councils, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Members of Philanthropic Organizations, the Youth and Youth Workers, and the entire Orthodox Christian Family in North and Central America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is a great joy to gather with family and friends to celebrate the Feasts of Christmas and Theophany. During this time, however, it is important for us to maintain the authentic message of these holy days, recalling that the gift which we receive is not fashioned by hands and cannot be purchased in any store.
In the Feast of the Nativity the Word of God becomes flesh and invites man to become God (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation), and in the Theophany our minds and hearts are illumined and the world is sanctified. Through the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ, therefore, we have received the gifts of adoption and sanctification, and we are now called to respond accordingly.
During this season of giving and receiving each of us is asked to make offerings in the form of fasting, vigilance, and prayer for the welfare of our brothers and sisters in need. Therefore, let us remember those Christians who endure persecution because of their faith in Christ the Incarnate God, and include in our prayers the imprisoned Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, the abducted hierarchs, Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi and Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both of Aleppo, and the abducted nuns and orphans of the Saint Thekla Monastery in Maaloula, Syria.
On the blessed and holy Feasts of the Nativity and Theophany, we offer to each of you our best wishes for a joyful season of worship and fellowship. May your hearts be filled with assurance, joy and hope, and may the peace and mercy of our Lord be with you in the New Year.
The Members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops
of North and Central America