The Fast of the Nativity is the Church's wise solace and aid to human infirmity. We are a forgetful people, but our forgetfulness is not unknown to God; and our hearts with all their misconceptions and weakened understandings are not unfamiliar to the Holy Spirit who guides and sustains this Church. We who fall far from God through the magnitude of our sin, are called nonetheless to be close to Him. We who run afar off are called to return. Through the fast that precedes the great Feast of the Incarnation -- which itself is the the heart and substance of our calling -- the Church helps draw us into the full mystery of what that call entails.
A talk given in the New-Tikhvin women's Monastery, Ekaterinburg, Russia, October, 2011, during the visit of the Cincture of the Mother of God to Russia.
Your Eminence, eminent bishops, honorable fathers, dear Mother Abbess, brothers and sisters! It is a great joy for me to be in your monastery once again. As you know, this time we have arrived with the holy Cincture of the Mother of God. This is a very special holy shrine — very precious from the spiritual point of view. By God's providence we have brought the relic to this city in order to sanctify the city, and of course, for the sake of the monastics who live here. We know how pleasing the monastic life, and in general the existence of monasteries is to the Mother of God. We know how many times in the history of the Church the Mother of God appeared to chaste and pure souls and said, "There is my icon, take it and build a monastery." The Holy Mountain is the only existing monastic republic, dedicated entirely to her. The Most Pure Virgin is the Protectress of Mt. Athos. She herself told St. Peter the Athonite to go and live on the Holy Mountain, and said that he and his co-strugglers will be under her direct Protection. "I myself will be your Protectress, Healer, and Nourisher," she said. Appearing to St. Athansius the Athonite, she said the same thing she had said to St. Peter, adding, "I will be your Economissa (steward) and I will take care of all of you; but I want only one thing from you—that you keep your monastic vows." And to this day we, the Athonites, delight in her patronage and special intercession.