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 of the United States of America.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we gather in our communities to celebrate the Great Feasts of the Nativity and Theophany, we offer praise, honor and worship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who has rendered us worthy once again to rejoice with the Shepherds, pay homage with the Magi, and to exclaim with the Angelic Powers, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all!
During this time, each of us looks forward to experiencing our local customs and traditions, which we have received from our ancestors. We adorn our homes and our churches with lights, garland and tinsel; we sing carols together and exchange gifts with each other; and we crown our celebration by receiving the Holy Eucharist.
Beloved faithful, indeed, we have received an abundance of God’s blessings, and we are especially thankful for being able to announce the Incarnation of God in our homes, in our churches, and in the public square. This is, however, not the case for all people, most especially our brothers and sisters around the world who patiently endure unspeakable persecution because they are Christian. In Syria, Iraq and the broader Middle East, Christians are still pressured to abandon their ancestral homelands, renounce their faith, or face the sword. During this season, it is important to intensify our prayers for Metropolitan Paul and Archbishop John of Aleppo, whose fate still eludes us, and for Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, who remains wrongfully imprisoned, suffering continuous human rights violations. At the sight of these and other atrocities, we raise our voices, lamenting the loss of life and the abuse of human dignity.
Certainly, the Incarnation of God gladdens our hearts, and we shall not be overcome by fear and darkness. During this season of giving and receiving, let us turn to the Lord and ask that the afflicted receive the soothing comfort of His Spirit; let us call upon His name and ask that His heavenly peace restore our broken world; let us bend our knees and ask that His boundless love soften the frigid hearts of those embittered. And in turn, let us offer to Him who nourishes the universe our greatest gift—a life of virtue.
On the occasion of the blessed Feasts of the Nativity and Theophany, I offer to each of you my paternal love and prayers for a joyful season of incarnate worship and God-revealing fellowship.
+Archbishop Demetrios of America
Chairman, Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America