Nativity Encyclical of the Serbian True Orthodox Church
Serbian True Orthodox Church
Nativity Encyclical 2022
From the Hierarchichal Council of the STOC
Under the chairmanship of His Grace Bishop Akakije of Uteshiteljevo
To all clergy. monastics, and spiritual children of our holy Church: We wish you grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, in our joyful Christmas greeting:
God’s Peace be with you - Christ is Born!
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, and good will among men.” (Luke 2:14)
Dear brothers and sisters,
Behold, God comes in the body of a man! This is the greatest mystery of our holy Christian faith - “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim 3:16). This mystery is above all human understanding, which is why we place faith above reason. We cannot perceive the fullness of the mystery of the bodily birth of the Son of God without understanding His pre-eternal birth from God the Father. To better understand the pre-eternal birth, as much as our limited intellect can, the Gospel wisely calls the Son of God “Logos” (the Word) so that we, hearing about the Son, would not think of a passionate, bodily birth. The Gospel calls Him “Logos” (the Word) to tell us He was Born dispassionately from the Father, as a word is dispassionately born from the mind. Thus, God the Word who was pre-eternally born from the Father without a mother and without passion, is born dispassionately today without a father from His mother, the immaculate Virgin Mary.
The evangelist John the Theologian reveals to us the mystery of the pre-eternal birth of the Son of God with the most lofty contemplation of the eternal being, He who now “ in these later days” (Heb 1:2) became man, but “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God'' (Jn 1:1). Meanwhile the other evangelists bring us the good news through the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ and His birth from the most pure Virgin Mary in time and space. In this way they reveal to us the great mystery of piety, that the one Son of God became the Son of Man. Remaining the One who was before time, he became the One who was not, perfect God and perfect man - the God-man.
The misfortune and misery of the human race was that the heavenly kingdom was unattainable for the souls of men, but with the birth of Christ we “obtain salvation” (1 Thes 5:9). Only He, the God-man, could open to us the gate of the heavenly kingdom. For this reason we confess Him to be our Saviour and as the Sun of righteousness which “ shone on the people which sat in the darkness and shadow of death” (Matt. 4:16).
Heaven and earth rejoice in the coming of the Savior. Representing Earth, wise men travel from the east carrying gifts to venerate the long awaited keeper of heaven and earth. From heaven the angels sing the hymn, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Lk 2:14)
The peace the angels proclaim to us in the song of Bethlehem was brought to us by the new-born God-child. This is not the peace of the world and those in the world, whose peace is useless and most often fatal. Rather it is the peace of God established between God and man, out of which flows peace among men and makes them “one body in Christ, made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).
In the world, which rejects the peace of God, wars and unrest are raging, but the scriptures tell us to not fear because these are the days of vengeance which must come to pass through which all will be fulfilled that was written (Lk 21:9-22). Truly these are the days of judgment on the Christian nations who have abandoned God and set out on the path of service to the devil. For that reason we will not here mention the wars waged by the godless who kill the body and about whom we hear news every day. Rather, we would say a word about the war which “destroys the soul in hell”(Mat. 10:28). This is the great and terrible war about which no one says a word. This is the war for immortal human souls. In this great war the devil is fighting against God, and the field of battle is every human heart. This terrible and soul-destroying war not only continues when there is a pause in earthly wars, rather it is then especially inflamed, every day devouring countless souls in its gaping abyss. The killing fields of this war are godless government institutions, godless legislation, godless science, godless education, godless art and culture, godless ethics, that is, the pan-atheist paradigm.
How can we Christians preserve our hearts from all the godless offensives upon us? We will do so by arming ourselves with the invincible weapons of God - love for God and love for neighbor. The God of love commands us to love Him and to love one another with all our hearts: “ thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind… Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:30-31).
Our whole faith and complete spiritual law rest on these commandments; God comes into our hearts through keeping them. One condition of God’s dwelling in our hearts is separation from the godless, for it is said: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?...for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). In contrast, sinful people do not care for the commandment of God but prefer the works of the Devil and “ in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,” (Acts 7:39). The return to Egypt here signifies the rejection of the salvation offered by God and the conscious choice to remain in slavery to sin. This willing rejection of God and conscious alignment with “ the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” (1 John 2:16), that is, with the love of the pleasure, love of money, and love of glory is what godless call “freedom.” In fact, on the contrary, this is the most overt slavery to sin, serving the devil and battling against God. Out of love for sin, they have allowed their hearts, which should belong to God, to be seized by the devil, enemy of God and man. Here we must make an important distinction. The Gospel defines people as “sons of God and sons of the devil” (Jn.3:10) according to their way of life. The children of God are Orthodox Christians who strive to live by the commandments of God. This includes those who sin from weakness, but return to God in repentance when they realize their fall. They "do not sin unto death" because repentance allows them to be cleansed, and that alone saves them from inexorable spiritual death. On the other hand, the sons of the Devil are those who "sin unto death". These are hardened sinners who, without conscience, do not follow God and His commandments. Even worse, they try to promote sin as virtue and make it the generally binding social and ethical norm. The Gospel tells us we should not even pray for these people. (1 John 5:16)
We know that since time began, it is decadence that gives birth to wars, suffering and catastrophes. It is exactly when the devil takes over the territory of people’s hearts that they progress from spiritual to physical war. All of these horrors are allowed by God as a result of rejection of God and alignment with "the whole world which lieth in sin" (1 John 5:19). This alliance replaces service to God with serving one's bodily passions.
Therefore, let us cease the spiritual war that we are waging against God, make peace with Him, and renounce our devotion to the world, for “friendship of the world is enmity with God.” (James 4:4). Let us love with all our hearts He who has redeemed us and freed us from slavery to sin, the devil and death. Let us give ourselves without reservation to Him who was born of the Most Pure Virgin, for through Him “we have recieved atonement” (Romans 5:11). If we love the new-born Divine Child with our whole hearts, the peace of God of which the Bethlehem angels sang will come to dwell in them. Then the good will that grants us to “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21) will shine forth in us.
We pray to the new-born infant Christ that in the upcoming year there will be less worldly peace and more divine peace, and that “the Lord of peace Himself give you peace by all means” (2 Thess. 3:16).
The peace of God be with you! Christ is born!
A blessed 2023!
Uteshiteljevo, Nativity 2022
Your Intercessors before Bethlehem’s Divine Child
+Akakije, Bishop of Uteshiteljevo
+Nektarije, Bishop of Shumadia