Category Archives: Encyclical

Nativity Epistle 2016

(click here for PDF format)

Nativity Epistle
from Trenton, New Jersey

 We greet you with the holiday of Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. May our Lord grant you spiritual joy on this blessed day of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Once again, by the mercy of God, we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The holiday of our Lord’s Nativity, also known as Christmas, has always been a time of spiritual joy and continues to bring fond memories of childhood, a time when we – through our naiveté, saw an affinity of ourselves with the Infant lying in the manger.

With time, however, especially with the onset of these difficult times of apostasy, many have fallen into apathy. It is as if spiritual joy is no longer as abundant as it once was. Why is this? Could it be because those who we thought were truly faithful Orthodox and our brothers & sisters in Christ have now departed, and so much has changed that we are left with the foreboding that we no longer have the fullness of grace we once had when saints – such as Saint Metropolitan Philaret and St. John – walked amongst us??

Perhaps some sort of despondency has befallen us, and we no longer see a reason to rejoice. Is this distress our fault?? Actually, it is! Because we have fallen for the allure of the Deceiver telling us that our Church is not as good as it once was. We must equate this with agnosticism. God has not left us! “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalm 33:20)

Was Apostle Paul’s life ‘better’ than ours? Let us read what he writes in regards to his concerns:”Thrice I was beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen… in perils among false brethren.” (II Cor.11:25-26)

Have we gone through tribulations such as these? Hardly! Be that as it may, Apostle Paul was not despondent, and neither will we be, because God is with us, understand, O ye nations, and submit yourselves: for God is with us!

I greet all the faithful Friends and Flock on the feast of the Nativity of Christ!

+Bishop Stefan
December 25, 2015/January 7, 2016

 

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Paschal Encyclical 2015

PASCHAL ENCYCLICAL TO THE GOD-LOVING FLOCK OF THE DIOCESE OF NORTH AMERICA

Christ is Risen!

Once again, the most-merciful God has vouchsafed us to arrive at the feast of Pascha. The Church calls upon all of us to “enjoy this fine and bright festival, those who had labored, and those who had been slothful, those who had fasted, and those who had not fasted.” (Paschal Encyclical of St. John Chrysostom)

“The beatifically honorable Lord will accept the last even as the first… He shows mercy upon the last and gratifies the first… and He both accepts the deeds and welcomes the intention and honors the acts and praises the offering.” With these words Saint John Chrysostom reveals to us the benevolence of God and calls upon each believer to enter without distress into the joy of our risen Lord and Savior.

And this joy is not earthly, but spiritual, mystical and therefore is not subject to psychological analysis or testing and is indescribable in any human language. This joy, as the Holy Hierarch John so vividly construes, is not given in accordance with our accomplishments. This is God’s gift abundantly bestowed on this chosen and holy day. What a comfort! “And your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you.” (John,16:22)

May God grant all of you, from the first to the last, this Paschal joy, this comfort in our Lord and Savior.

Your humble +Bishop Stefan                                                 Pascha, 2015
of Trenton and North America

(A Russian version is available on our Russian-language website.  Click here.)

Nativity Epistle 2015

NATIVITY EPISTLE
of Bishop Stefan of Trenton and North America

By God’s mercy we have again acquired the opportunity to renew our glorification of the King of Glory for His great condescension toward us sinners.  The King of the Archangels and Angels, the Creator of heaven and earth descends from the heavens and becomes the Son of Man.  The uncontainable God becomes contained in the womb of the Virgin.  The Word of God takes on the image of a servant, becomes incarnate for the sake of our salvation.  The King of Glory comes down from the heavens in order to raise us up to heaven!

On this blessed night the heavens united with the earth for the first time.  The heavens opened up and man for the first time heard the wondrous announcement from the Heavenly Angels:  “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Lk.2:10,11).  And here, for the first time, man heard the Angelic singing “Glory to God in the highest, good will toward men”!

 To our great sorrow, we observe that on the earth there is no peace, but one should not be surprised by this:  this was foretold and “this is meant to be”.  But it is particularly sad that among Orthodox church people we see less and less frequently “good will in men”!

The primordial enemy of our salvation conquered for himself the Church Abroad not only with assaults from “without”, but from within he strives with great effort to overcome each soul, to destroy everyone, down to the last person!  His goal is to sew doubt in the holiness of the Church and indifference toward Christ’s Truth, to distance the soul from the grace of the Holy Spirit Who guides man toward every Truth.  The Light of Christ is extinguished in such a person and his soul becomes darkened and instead of peace, there appear indignation, wrath and even malice toward yesterday’s friends.

Frequently and often in the history of the Christian Church the faithful were subjected to persecution, enticement and assaults from heretics and apostates.  They managed to draw away many of “these little ones” to follow them, often even members of their own families would cross over to the side of the heretics.  But nevertheless, the faithful did not become wrathful and did not chide them, but prayed for these betrayers, keeping in remembrance that “God wishes for all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”.

May the Lord grant a prosperous and peaceful life and love not so much for our own but also for those who hate and offend us.  Whoever prays for his enemies and wishes them well, in him the grace-filled peace of God comes to dwell, a love which is not hypocritical, but replete with “good will toward men”.

I greet all the faithful Friends and Flock on the feast of the Nativity of Christ!

+Bishop Stefan
December 25, 2014/January 7, 2015