Nativity Epistle of the Most Reverend Sofroniy, Bishop of St. Petersburg and Northern Russia

 

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,

and we saw His glory (John 1:14)

Let us be joyful brethren, the Lord God has come and dwells within us; within our weak, sinful, frail bodies. So that mankind may be released from its earthly demise, He became one of us in every way except for being with sin.

In there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. And, lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sorely afraid. And the Angel said unto them; Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (Luke 2:8-10)

The shepherds were the first to receive the sacred word of the Infant Christ's birth. They, who were not of high station, who did not dress in finery and did not dwell in palaces. What was it about them, to cause God to consider them? Firstly, the difficult task of being a shepherd, always ready to defend your sheep from wolves, to always be alert; this is a condition of never thinking of yourself. A person obeys the primary commandment to love they neighbor, acquiring self-denial and patience. Denial of self, caring for others, going without sleep at night; it is easier to fulfill other challenges than these. This was the spiritual condition of those who first heard and then saw the Infant Jesus. They are an example to us of asceticism. They received the joyful news from the Angel, but it is framed in abstinence, acesticism, and suffering.

May we also prepare our souls to meet God through fasting and abstinence. Let us sacrifice ourselves for others. Let us be vigilant over our souls, that we may give account of our lives to God at any moment.

I congratulate all the honorable pastors, brothers and sisters of our diocese with this glorious feast day. May God through the rays of that star of Bethlehem touch our hearts and strengthen our souls in these difficult times for our Church.

+ Sofroniy

Bishop of St. Petersburg and Northern Russia

25/12/07, Bogoyavlenskiy Monastery, Naverzhye