On February 6th, 2024, a longstanding parishioner of Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church of Sacramento, Nicholas Storm, reposed in the Lord. Having been born in Yugoslavia on May 11, 1920, the newly-departed servant of God Nicholas lived a full and rich life of over 103 years.
His maternal grandfather was an archpriest in Saint Petersburg. And, his mother would recall how Saint John of Kronstadt had been in her father’s home when she was a little girl. Nicholas’ father was a white army officer who sustained wounds during one battle and eventually succumbed to them. Details of Nicholas’ immediate ancestry may be found in a biography about his mother entitled “Valentina.”
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the easat to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Mat. 2:1-2).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in our New-Born Christ Jesus, our Beloved Lord and Savior!
The wise men, as priests and seers from among the pagan worshippers of the sun and other stars, were investigators of the heavenly bodies not in order to predict the future but to trace the ways of divine Providence. And, though foreign to the Hebraic tradition, they were closer and more perceptive to the Truth than many of the sons of Israel. Following the extraordinary star, that was unlike any other of the heavenly luminaries they had ever observed – shining more brightly, moving contrary to the natural orbits, and descending and standing directly “over where the young child was” (Mat. 2:9) – the Magi forsook all previous knowledge and experience founded on the worship of stars for the adoration of the Sun of righteousness, even while they were on their way.
In juxtaposition, the arrival of the Magi to the capitol of Judaea caused an uneasy stir, as it is written: “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mat. 2:3). King Herod, who was not Jewish, was enraged at the report of the birth of the “King of the Jews” as he was unworthy to sit on that throne. And predictably, because of their love of power and wealth, and in general, because of their moral corruption, the citizens of Jerusalem, in their folly, were unhappy and distressed at the prospects of their esteemed temporal securities being upturned by a New King.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill toward men. (Luke 2:14)
Your Graces, Reverend Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!
It is with the Incarnation of the Word that man can realize God’s infinite and boundless love for His creation. Out of love for us did the Son of God humble Himself to become man, in order to heal the relationship between God and man. Before the humble birth of Christ, in the Bethlehem cave, St. Gregory the Dialogist writes in his Dialogues, “With sin we were so distant from God that the angels, God’s citizens, eliminated us from their company.” The rift created by the Fall between God and man was so great that it reverberated to every aspect of Creation and tore asunder the bond of love that tied the Heavens to the earth. “It was not until the King of the Heavens took upon our flesh’, St. Gregory further writes, ‘that the Angels restored peace with us (humanity)… and once again considered us their companions.” It is for that reason that the angelic choir appeared to the shepherds singing, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14).
Eminent Brother-Archpastors, Reverend Fathers, Beloved in the Lord, Brothers and Sisters:
It is with feelings of humble gratitude, love, and joy in the Lord that I greet everyone on this great and most joyous celebration of the Nativity of Christ—the arrival on earth of the incarnate Son of God born to the Most-Blessed Virgin Mary. May the saving grace of God, appearing now in a humble Bethlehem cave and shining upon the waters of the Jordan River, be poured forth upon us all, visiting our homes, parishes, and monasteries with unearthly light and peace!
We pray also that the Holy Land, which quenched the Savior’s thirst with its waters and fed with its bread Him Who is for us even Himself our food and drink, be sated with the peace heralded by the angelic choir over the city of Bethlehem! May the Lord strengthen the clergymen and monastics of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, who are enduring difficult times as they preserve and protect our holy sites. Their courageous podvig, in the words of St John the Wonderworker, who was glorified 30 years ago, “evokes a feeling of tenderness and is worthy of reverence,” and it is our holy duty to send them our support in these sacred days.
from Patriarch KIRILL of Moscow and All Rus’
to the Archpastors, Pastors, Deacons, Monastics
and All Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church
Beloved in the Lord archpastors, all-honourable presbyters and deacons,
God-loving monks and nuns, dear brothers and sisters,
The unutterable love of God has gathered us today so that in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3) we may celebrate one of the most solemn and at the same time mysterious feasts of the Church – the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Glorifying our Saviour’s coming into the world, I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all of you, my beloved, on the joyful event, which opened a new era in the relationship between God and humanity.