Nativity Epistle
Of the Most Reverend Sofroniy,

Archbishop of St. Petersburg and Northern Russia

For every one shall be salted with fire,and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
Salt is good:
but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it?
Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

(Mark 9:49-50)

In our troubled times, these words are applicable as never before.  The Lord came into the world, bringing us salt, and we can, thus salted, be saved if we have peace among us.  St Theophanes tells us that every man who wants to be saved must be salted with fire, to undergo a fiery cleansing of their sins.  Often we fight for the truth without respite, but do not achieve the desired result and deem it a failure.  Forgetting, thereby, the need to first have peace among ourselves, and then preach it to others.  St. Philaret of New York commanded us that everyone in their lives can save their Christian souls, if they see their lives and their affairs as service to the Lord God,fulfilling His commandments, and keeping faith, purity and love in their hearts.  Their lives must justify the coming of the Lord in the world.  Alas, we often approach prayer and the services in a ritualistic manner, as if God is in need of our prayers.  We turn our prayers into some sort of commercial agreement; I will put a candle in your honor Lord, I will read the Psalter, while you give me what I want.  As if the Lord was born into this world only to accept our repentance. All of us forget it is not the Lord who is in need of prayer, and it is not He who needs to wait for us to begin to pray, but it is we that are in need of it and we that must rush to converse with the Incarnate Living God. We must remember that the Lord has come for us to change, to be reborn and turn away from sin, and to love only Him.  As the Holy Fathers teach us, prayer is the staff,upon which we lean to achieve the Heavenly Kingdom.  Bearing in mind the teachings of St. Theophanes, we must always be ready for any kind of sacrifice and self-denial, in order to stay on the good path.  All of us, according to the law of creation, must sacrifice ourselves to God, but most of us are unclean.  We must, therefore,purify ourselves, to make ourselves a sacrifice favorable to the Living God.  But when we begin to purify ourselves and rip out passions from our soul, it will be painful, as if burned from a fire.  This is the process of internal self-purification.  That is why it is essential for all of us to be salted with fire, similar to how in the Old Testament, every sacrifice was salted before being brought to be consumed by fire.  Salt is a good thing.  And only having been cleansed, having attained peace, can we profess it to others around us.  And the newborn God Child, upon His return in the Second Coming to judge all of creation, will not seek sin in us, for which he can condemn us and sentence us to eternal fire, but will seek in us that which can be lauded and worthy of salvation, for He is a loving Father, born today and come to save and not destroy His creation.

God-loving presbyters, deacons, honorable monks, novices and sisters, pious Orthodox laity- the faithful children of the Church!  I thank the Lord with all my heart for the opportunity to share with you this great and joyful day of the arrival in Bethlehem of the God Child in the world!

+Sofroniy
Archbishop of St. Petersburg and Northern Russia,

Ruling Bishop of the Ishimsk-Siberian Diocese
St. Petersburg
Nativity of Christ, 2009