The Nativity Epistle of The Most Reverend Agafangel, Bishop of Taurida and Odessa and ROCA PSEA Chairman

Most Honorable Bishops and Clergy, dear brothers and sisters!

We all know that the Nativity of Christ divided time into two periods: that which occurred before this event, and that which occurs afterwards. So too does the Nativity of Christ, celebrated in the yearly cycle of services, seem to subtract the year just past from all time, apportioning it to that which has already transpired, while remaining a part of the living Prophesy of the Church.

In the year past, we became yet fewer in number. Whether what has transpired will benefit the Church of Christ, is not for us to judge, but for God. We are accustomed to hearing half-truths, compromises, and outright lies from all quarters. We are accustomed to love our Church Abroad, because we heard in its words and deeds the voice of Truth, that is, the voice of Christ, as it was written about in the Gospel: "...the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice." (John 10:3-4). These lines from the Gospel always symbolized the Church Abroad for me. We are accustomed to seeing the light of the world in our Church. And when a part of us joined those from whom only veiled half-truths and open falsehoods could be expected, and moreover, joined and allowed in that which we had guarded our flock against, then such an event can only bring misfortune and disillusionment. As the Lord proclaims about the sheep of Christ, "A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." (John 10:5) Why did many of us stop hearing the voice of our pastors and followed the call of strangers? Each one of us should look into his soul and conscience and try to answer that question.

We are told that for the sake of the unity of the Church, such a step had to be taken. But what step should have been taken for the sake of unity with Christ? Were we not with Him? Will we now hear the voice of Truth from a place from whence it was not heard before? Time will tell, but God will decide.

Let us remember that the Kingdom shall be inherited not by those of whom there are more in number, but by those who remain steadfast in Truth. May our longing for Truth remain with us and strengthen us for all the days of our lives. We are free with Christ and only He brought this freedom into the world. No one may obtain it from the rulers of this world, or those who are wealthy with material riches. Freedom is not bartered for through concessions and compromises. It is bequeathed by our Savior, who freed us from the slavery of sin and death. It is obtained easily, but just as easily lost forever. Our lot in life, like the Church of Christ, is to guard and keep this invaluable gift - the gift of man's freedom in God, which the Divine Infant, born in Bethlehem, bestowed upon all mankind.

I congratulate with the Nativity of Christ all Christians who received the gifts brought to us by the Savior and who carefully safeguard them in their souls!

+ Agafangel

Bishop of Taurida and Odessa

ROCA PSEA Chairman

Odessa, Nativity of Christ, 2007