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Sunday, December 25, 2005

All Our Humanity


Christ is Born. Glorify Him! Posted by Picasa

At this holy feast the Church rejoices with one voice:-
"Christ is born; Glorify Him."

Note that … "Christ IS born … " present tense.

The Nativity is a present reality for us Orthodox Christians. It’s not just that we celebrate a past event now; there’s more to it than that. Christ is eternally born for all generations in the same way that he is both referred to in the Scriptures as "slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8] and also eternally risen and alive in the Cosmos. He is slain so that we might know that he dies for us. He is risen so that we might taste the fruit of his victory over death. But, how is he born for us, for such is our confession on the feast of his Nativity?

St. Gregory of Nazianzen, one of the 4th century Cappadocian fathers and my patron wrote a letter to a certain priest Cledonius. In that letter we read these crucial words concerning the Incarnation …

"For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved."

And there we have it. He is born for us because our humanity … ALL our humanity must be saved, restored, healed. God took upon himself our WHOLE humanity, entire and complete from the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Theotokos in order to return it back to us WHOLE, in one piece, restored to its primal beauty … and more, glorified in the resurrection.

This means that there is NOTHING in our humanity that we cannot not now find in God; ALL is there, all our faculties, body, mind and spirit … all our relationships, all our fears, hopes, joys and dreads … ALL is present in the Christ and, today, this night the Eve of Christ – Mass, our childhood, that most precious thing that should endure until our death if we are to live fully and enter the Kingdom of God … as a child.

It is not necessary, indeed it is entirely wrong and dangerous, for us to lay aside anything of our humanity in receiving Christ, yet there are Christian traditions that demand precisely that. These hold that one must lay aside pleasure or art or laughter or sexuality or questionings or all manner of normal natural things to be spiritual. Such joyless, depressing damaging ideas take flight as Christmas time for now we affirm that God indeed has come in the flesh and made holy all that is human.

The question of what is not holy gets re-defined. It is a life lived unmindful of God, ungrateful and hateful … in short a denial of our very humanity. That is why the Incarnation is good news because for the very first time we hear the liberating message that God IS intimately concerned with our human condition and potential because He has taken this to Himself in the coming of our Lord and his birth, not only once for all in Bethlehem but also right here and now in our hearts. And so we close with words from a 17th century Christian mystic, not himself Orthodox but expressing himself in a very Orthodox manner, Angelus Silesius.

"Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, But not within thyself, thy soul shall be forlorn."

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Father, you are right pointing that matter is not inherently unholy and opposite to holiness. You are also right pointing that to be Spiritual, that is led by the Holy Spirit, our God, one does not have to abandon joy; rather one has to open oneself to Him.

I still don't understand though what it means for Christ to be slain from the foundation of the world. I'm sorry, but I just don't get your explanations. I am trying to find that out though.

BTW, Rev. 13.8: and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain (ESV)

Father Gregory said...

Most translations (including the King James Version and that of the Orthodox Holy Apostles Convent in the US) have "from the foundation of the world" refer to the sacrifice of Christ, not the writing down of the righteous.

Ian said...

Interesting: thank you Fr. I'd always read it as 'anonymous' did.


Wishing you, your loved ones, and your parish a blessed and joyous Christmas and 2006. Christ is born!

Catrina said...

Thank God for Jesus!
Truly Immanuel!
One for the jehovah's witnesses - If Jesus is not God, who has saved us?
They also quote Acts 20 verse 20 to justify their door knocking "house to house" - but WRONG! They take it out of context yet again. The previous verses tell the reader that Paul was visiting and teaching the believers NOT THE UNbelievers.
Blessed 2006 to all who visit Fr. Greg's site. XXX

Catrina said...

Thank God for Jesus!
Truly Immanuel!
One for the jehovah's witnesses - If Jesus is not God, who has saved us?
They also quote Acts 20 verse 20 to justify their door knocking "house to house" - but WRONG! They take it out of context yet again. The previous verses tell the reader that Paul was visiting and teaching the believers NOT THE UNbelievers.
Blessed 2006 to all who visit Fr. Greg's site. XXX

Anonymous said...

We orthodox christians must glorify and testify this Holy Gift of The birth of our Savior. We have to recsue the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and so we will be victorious in this intention by our acting in front of the whle world. May our churches proclaim the holy greatness of this feast. Let all glorify The Savior, The Holy Child!

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