December 16, 2011
Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord 2011
December 25, 2011
The Nativity of Christ
What shall we offer You, O Christ,
Who for our sakes has appeared on earth as man?
(Vespers of the Feast)
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
When we hear and contemplate the beautiful story of our Lord’s Nativity, our hearts are filled with tremendous joy. In this marvelous event of God becoming man, He revealed His great love for us and the divine plan to restore our communion with Him. Through His Incarnation, Christ offered Himself for our total renewal and completed this gift of grace in the Cross and Resurrection. Through His birth, our Lord entered into our humanity, giving us a deeper understanding of our relationship with our Creator and offering us a greater experience of life and being. The Son of God who became human being for our sakes, the One in our midst who knows our pains and struggles, offers to each of us life and peace.
The Feast of the Nativity is a celebration of all that Christ has offered and continues to offer to us. It is also a Feast that challenges us with the question, “What shall we offer Him?” In the Holy Gospel, this question was answered by those who participate by their presence in the glorious Nativity. The Virgin Mary offered herself in obedience to God’s will, conceiving and carrying Jesus in her womb and giving birth to Him (Luke 1:26-38). Joseph followed the commandment of the Lord and provided for the Theotokos and the Christ child (Matthew 1:24-25). In response to the announcement of the angels and upon seeing the infant, the shepherds offered a witness of the wonderful things they had seen and heard (Luke 2:8-20). Following the star in the East, the wise men came to Jesus offering Him their worship and their gifts (Matthew 2:1-12).
These offerings to Christ show us how we should celebrate this great Feast and how we should offer to Him. In response to His love we are called to give ourselves completely to Christ, our heart, mind, body and soul. With the words of the Theotokos we express our obedience and our complete faith in Him saying, Let it be to me according to Your word (Luke 1:38). In seeing the magnitude of what God has done for humankind, we come to Christ in haste, just as the shepherds, and we go out into the world glorifying and praising God for all that we hear and see. As the wise men came and offered in great joy, we never cease to worship Him and to offer our gifts for His glory and always in the service of His eternal kingdom.
On this Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, may we seriously consider the question “What shall we offer Him?” In our worship and fellowship on this Feast, let us prayerfully examine our lives and seek the guidance of our Lord in our response to such a question. May you and your families have a blessed and joyful Nativity, filled with the love of God and the true life which He offers to us. And may the Incarnate God grant to all the dawning New Year 2012 filled with health and blessings.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America