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And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth
A Pastoral Letter on the Occasion of the Third Christian Millennium
The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ in the Year of our Salvation 2000
The Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas
To all of the faithful clergy and laity of the Holy Orthodox Church throughout the Americas,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. The commemoration of the 2000th anniversary of the birth of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ is an occasion for celebration and joy for all Christians. It offers an opportunity to reflect upon God's love for us. "For it was neither an angel nor an ambassador," who came to us, "but the Lord Himself, made flesh."(1) God entered human history in the flesh, and history was and continues to be dramatically and irrevocably changed by the encounter.
2. The direct entrance of God into human history is one indication of His care for us and for the world He created. The Millennium celebrates the event that shows us history has a purpose. History has a beginning and an end, an Alpha and an Omega.
3. People long to know God. The search for meaning is as critical for human existence as are air and water. Creation itself, as the handiwork of God points to Him. Yet, before the coming of Christ, the meaning of the world and our place in it remained difficult to understand. People created stories to help themselves explain the great mystery of their own existence, the world around them, and the One who was responsible for bringing them into being. Yet, knowledge of the true God eluded them. The Holy Scriptures speak of this lack of knowledge as darkness. "So God sent messengers to speak for Him, holy men and women through whom He worked wonders, prophets to announce the coming salvation."(2) Finally, God sent His own Son, Jesus Christ. When He came, the very one who had created the world was now clearly made known to the world, giving light to those who had been sitting in darkness.(3)
4. If lack of true knowledge is darkness, then the darkness that had enveloped our ancestors in many ways still surrounds us. It takes a different form in our day. People have developed more sophisticated ways of avoiding God's call, while at the same time never being able to satisfy their deep desire to know Him. The existence of para-religious philosophies and movements, cults and sects, not to mention rampant materialism and secularism that seek to supplant religion, are indications that people's longing for God has not diminished. However, the cacophony of voices often times make it difficult to hear and discern the true call.
5. As Bishops of the Church, we have been entrusted with the responsibility to teach the Word of God and to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. Therefore, on this great occasion of the dawn of the Third Christian Millennium, we address you, the faithful Orthodox Christians living in North America. We offer to you words of encouragement and hope. Our intention is to make the Gospel of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ known and embraced by more and more people in this land to which God has called us.
6. We also invite all people of good will to listen to the Good News of salvation. Orthodox Christianity has a distinctive understanding of the Christian message that speaks profoundly to the need that people of our time have for knowledge of the true God. Because the Orthodox Church reaches back to the very foundations of Christianity, she has an experience of the spiritual life that is deep and nuanced. Because the Orthodox Church is composed of millions of believers who struggle with the cares and responsibilities of life, she also knows of the particular challenges we face everyday.
7. In what follows, we want to re-tell for you the Good News of God's love for us, the people that He created, and the world that He made. It is a message that has changed the lives of countless millions. But mostly, it is a message that can change our lives, if we believe and live in Him and the Son He sent to save us.