Dear in Christ, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!
As we make ready our hearts for the Feast of the Nativity of our Saviour, entering into the Nativity Fast with spirits of sobriety and anticipation, I greet you all with joy and encouragement for this spiritual period of preparation.
We are blessed to be the children of our Mother Church, which provides us with these times of spiritual formation, in order to renew our zeal for the faith and our love for God. Knowing that we are weak, especially in these latter days, the Church calls us to embrace the tools of fasting, almsgiving and prayer to strengthen our weakened hearts, that they might become capable of bearing the full joy of the Lord’s Holy Incarnation. There is always a temptation to take these opportunities lightly, to carry on with our days in our usual ways; but if we will embrace the gift of this fast, if we will apply ourselves to it with strictness and with love, it will open our hearts to the experience of the Lord’s birth with a degree of joy and exaltation that nothing else can provide.
We are richly blessed, my brothers and sisters, to be the faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, with her long heritage of seeking strictness rather than laxity, fervour rather than lukewarmness, and a fierce clinging to the traditions of our Fathers that lead us like sure guides into the fullness of Life. While our Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland has always been small, it has also always been profoundly strengthened by its fervent ties to its ROCOR heritage, and in these days of spiritual peril and temptation, it is our steadfast clinging to those roots, to our history and heritage as a Diocese of the Church Abroad — which will always be central to our unique identity — that comforts and encourages us in our spiritual and ascetical lives. I commend all of you to the tireless care of this heritage, to embrace and cherish and live it fully, that our lives may be strengthened and our love of Christ deepened.
May this period of the Nativity Fast bring spiritual benefits to all of you, that together we may soon welcome the Saviour of the world, Who comes into our midst as brother and yet as God, and opens to us the doors of Paradise. May God bless you!
Administrator of the Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia The Bishop of Sacramento