Today Christ is born!
These tidings, which frightened Herod and with him all Jerusalem (Mt. 2:3), have like a spiritual trumpet sounded forth from century to century, from region to region, from shore to shore; and today they have reached our hearts. Hearing these tidings the poor rejoice, the sinners are made glad, the blind can see, the sick are comforted, and the lame exalt. Having heard these tidings, the orators were stunned, for they have silenced the learned, put the philosophers to shame, and forbidden kings. At these tidings mothers rejoice, virgins sing, and infants dance.
Today Christ is Born! And the command from above that the Angels sang with joy, the shepherds proclaimed, the Virgin and Joseph heard, and the peoples repeated, have gone down through the ages like a hymn of peace made between man and God; and we hymn it also today.
Today the Lord has come to the world! And the star shining forth in the east that told of the miracle and called the three Magi to their path has carried across generations, cities, countless kingdoms, to numberless peoples; and we see it shining today in the vaults of the Church of Christ. Thus the miracle of the birth of Christ, the good tidings, the singing of Angels, and the shining of the star have gathered us together in church today, brethren, so that we may rejoice in the Lord and spiritually celebrate.
Today Herod rages, but the peoples rejoice. Jerusalem is troubled, but the ends of the universe leap for joy. The scribes of Israel doubt, but the tribes of the earth believe. <…> The sons deny Christ, but the slaves receive Him. The blasphemers condemn Him, but the faithful worship Him.
In vain does Herod rage and all Jerusalem with him—for today the Messiah was born. In vain do the chosen disdain Him—for the pagans receive Him. In vain does the bloody sword seek to kill Him—for the foreigners give him shelter.
The Jews gave Him a pitiful cave as to a stranger, but the pagans have dedicated to Him countless churches, richly adorned as for the Master of all. The Jews placed Him in the manger with hay, but the pagans received Him in their hearts. The Jews gave Him over to what they held most in contempt, but the pagans brought Him gold as to a King, incense and myrrh as to God and Man.
In vain does Herod rage, the sons of Israel are gone mad, and the children of Rachel are innocently slain by the sword—for today Christ is born, and all peoples glorify Him. Christ comes down from the heavens, and the peoples greet Him; Christ appears on earth, and all that has breath praises Him.
Today the fullness of time has come.
Today the joy of angels and people come together, heaven and earth have made peace, God has abased Himself and appeared plainly to people. Today the Old and New Testaments have met in Bethlehem. Today the prophets are made glad seeing the fulfillment of what they prophesied. Today Adam and Eve come with joy to worship the New Adam.
Let us go, brethren, to the cave in Bethlehem, guided by the star of faith, so that we may behold the miracle taking place. We will find there a small cave, we will see in it an incorrupt Virgin, we will see next to her the elderly and reverent face of righteous Joseph, we will see the manger with hay, and in it—O the wonder!—the Divine Infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes. We will hear the angels there singing, we will see the shepherds glorifying, and the magi bowing as they their open gifts…
Come all ye tribes of the earth, and let us meet the Bridegroom of the Church, robed in our clothing in order to deify us. Come today; let us meet the long-awaited Messiah. Come, ye virgins, to see the Virgin as she gives birth without corruption. Come, ye mothers, to see the Mother of God, and how she is not ashamed of childbirth. Come, ye faithful, so see how the Virgin holds in her arms the One Who hung the earth upon the waters. Come and see how maternal arms cradle the One Who touches the mountains and they smoke (Ps. 103:32). Come and behold: wrapped in swaddling clothes, Him Who clothes the heavens with clouds and the earth with grass. Come and see how He drinks milk, He Who fills the people with bread, and waters the earth with rain both early and late.
O the wonder! Christ is born, and Herod rages; Jesus is made Man out of love for mankind, and the sons of men bare their swords. The Heavenly King is made a servant, and the earthly kings hasten to take His life.
The Son of God comes to save us, and we slam shut the doors of our hearts before Him.
But the mystery carries on. Christ comes. The cave receives Him. The angels sing Him glory. The shepherds seek Him. The magi worship Him. The Pagans believe. The Church is established. The commandment of love is written. Salvation appears.
The elder Joseph personifies the Old Testament, while the Virgin Mary personifies the law of the New Testament. The swaddling clothes represent the holy vestments of the churches. The gold is the glorification of the Divinity, the incense is the prayers of the saints and faithful, and the myrrh is the adornment of the virtues. Finally, the star represents the Gospel of Christ—a shining, literally guiding torch to the whole world.
Thus, not in Bethlehem of Judah, but in the Church of Christ do we gather today, brethren, in order to glorify the Nativity of the Lord. Here is the cave of salvation, here the Divine manger. Here are the wise men of the pagans, here the shepherds of the New Israel. Here is the star, here is the light, here are the gifts of the Spirit. And most important, here is the Infant Christ—the Bridegroom of the Church.
Let us keep this day with joy near the manger of Jesus. We will not be the only travellers here, not the only worshippers, not the only heralds of the wonder. Around the holy throne we will see the holy Apostles of Christ, the honorable martyrs, the great monastic saints, and the hosts of the holy fathers. We will see here mothers awaiting consolation from the Mother, virgins asking help from the Virgin, infants receiving a blessing from the Infant, wayfarers seeking shelter from the One Who was persecuted by men, the offended praying for justice from the Judge. We will likewise see here sinners receiving forgiveness, the blind requesting light, the suffering waiting for healing, the hungry asking bread, the thirsty desirous of pure water.
But let us not be surprised that outside Jesus’s manger we will see a good many unbelievers who blaspheme the Creator, doubters who deny the miracle of the Nativity, heretics who try to rend the swaddling clothes of the Infant, sinners and rebels who bring trouble into the Church, divide people, and hate the light.
But we who are inside the Church, brethren, as in a ship, will not be afraid of Herod’s rage or the lips of this age’s heretics, for Christ is with us inside us, and outside is mammon. Within the Church is the unification of joy, outside it is the evil of division. Inside are the wise men, outside are the sorcerers; inside are the shepherds, outside are the hirelings. Inside is the light of the star, outside is the abyss of destruction. Here is the rock of the Orthodox Church, beyond is the quicksand of heresy. Inside are the manger and the Infant, outside are the empty cradles without children. Inside is the Virgin with Jesus in her arms, outside are the mothers with no babes at their bosoms. Inside is maternal joy, outside is the wailing of women infanticides. <…> Inside are the rough swaddling clothes, outside is the soft clothing. Inside the Church is the Bread, outside are the falling crumbs; inside is the pure spring, outside are muddy waters. Here is the singing of angels, outside are calls to fornication. Here is the Bridegroom’s chamber, there is the den of depravity. Here is the lily of the Virgin, there are the weeds of pleasure. <…> To say it briefly, in the Church is life, and outside of it is death. Here is truth, outside is a lie. Here is the way, outside is the chaos of various heresies.
But we, brethren, as those who partake of the same bread of love and drink from the same chalice of faith will not faint in spirit, but putting off all outer things will gather among the spiritual hosts around Jesus’s manger; and rejoicing today, we will all sing the angelic hymn: Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, goodwill to men (Lk. 2:14).
Let each give an answer in his conscience to this question; and upon the wings of joy in the feast, we will go on to the next question: Do we carry the glad tidings of the Nativity of Christ to our homes, to our children, relatives, brothers and sisters? Or do we out of laziness deny the mystery of the incarnation? Do we do what the wise men and shepherds did, or do we remain indifferent, as before?
If we have become hardened or have forgotten our Christian dignity somewhere in the past, we shall not be lazy henceforth. May each of us become a herald of the miracle in Bethlehem.
Return to your homes. Bring the joy of salvation wherever it has not been able to penetrate. Guard it in the houses of the poor. Interpret it at the tables of the needy. Repeat it at the bedsteads of the sick. Enter those places where we cannot enter. Knock at the hearts of those who have quarreled. Make peace between the separated, comfort the sorrowing, strengthen the doubting, warm the indifferent; ignite the lukewarm, bring the lost to Christ. Open today the doors of the hospitals, step across the doorways of the impoverished, listen to the singing of orphans, and bring to all the glad tidings with a little help from the abundance of your love, and tell all that today the Lord was born into the world. Amen.
Război întru Cuvânt
Translation by OrthoChristian.com