NATIVITY OF CHRIST
7 January 1990
Metropolitan Anthony Sourozh
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
We are keeping a Feast which is the decisive point in the history not only of mankind but of the whole Cosmos. God, the Living God has taken flesh, thereby becoming a man among men, and yet, revealing to us all the greatness, all the immensity of what man is; but at the same time uniting Himself to a human body that stands as an image of all things created. He has become akin to all the materiality of this world: everything, beginning with the smallest atom and ending with the greatest galaxy can now recognise itself fulfilled, revealed in glory in the Body of Incarnation.
But we must also ask ourselves questions about ourselves. Because God has called us to enter into this mystery of communion with God; God has called us to understand the way in which we can become partakers of the divine nature, to use the words of Saint Peter in one of his Epistles. Let us therefore cast a glance at the people involved in this glorious, mysterious night of the Incarnation:
The Mother of God, perfectly surrendered, perfectly given to God in all Her purity and in all Her humility; a Living Offering capable of uniting Herself to God in such a way that He became flesh. One day in history, a maiden of Israel proved capable of bowing down before the greatness of God, and receiving what cannot be received otherwise than in humility and obedience. She was able to pronounce the Name of God in worship with all Her mind, and heart, and flesh – and God became man in Her.
And we all are called to open ourselves to God, we all are called to let God enter into our lives, fill each of us – and this happens incipiently, almost imperceptibly when we receive Communion. We become partakers of His humanity and the dwelling place of His divinity. If we only could with greater depth, greater faith, and indeed greater faithfulness keep the gift of this Communion…
And then, there is Joseph; Joseph who is bewildered both by the message of the Angel and by what is happening; bewildered – at time in wonder, and at time in doubt. Isn’t this an image of many of us? But how did he face his doubt and still remain in wonder? Because he believed; because he accepted the fact that there are many things which cannot be understood with the intellect, but can be perceived, which can be experienced. And he did, indeed, experienced what was going on: he saw. He saw the Virgin birth, he saw the presence of the God Who have become man.
And what is our way, how can we find our way towards God? Let us think of the Magi and of the shepherds.
The Magi were people of knowledge, people of science; but it is not science that gave them wisdom; it its the contemplation of the created world and their gradual, ever-deepening wonder before what they saw; and the more they knew, the humbler they were, the more they knew, the more open they were to all that God would reveal to them about the depth, the mystery, the beauty, and the terrifying depths of the created. And because they were full of wonder, because they were open to the discovery of the unknown, of the unthinkable, they were brought to that place, where the unthinkable has taken place: the incarnation of God.
And then, there were the shepherds, men without knowledge, but they had purity of heart; they had simplicity; they were capable of listening to the message which the Angels brought not only with their ears, but with their inmost self; they recognised the truth of the message because it gave them life, joy, hope – and they found Christ.
And what is the Incarnation about if it is not about the love of God? And it is revealed to us in a way in which all love can reveal itself to us: surrendered, frail, totally within our power to destroy and to hurt; this Babe of Bethlehem is the perfect image of love, given, but perhaps, received by the ones – and indeed, as we know, rejected by the others.
And so is the love of God. God created us in order that we might be loved by Him with all His being; and in this, He accepted beforehand the Crucifixion, because He gave us power to reject His love. We see that now exemplified in Christ, in the Incarnation, in God becoming Man. The Gospel speaks of it: the few responded to the love of God, the many passed Him by, and many shouted, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!’, because the message of love, of that love which is God’s love, the total gift of self was too much: it had to be erased in favour of selfish, limited love – if that can be called love.
Let us therefore try to learn from the people who were there: from the Mother of God and Her perfect freedom to give Herself, and Her perfect generosity in doing so; Her perfect ability to believe, to trust God at any cost, at all risks. Let us think of Joseph between wonder and doubt; and when we are in the same position, let us not only concentrate on our doubt, but look with wonder at the impossible, unthinkable that is God’s way in our midst.
And then, let us learn, when we face the world that surround us, dark and mysterious, so deep, so frightening, so entrancing also, – let us learn to look at it with wonder: not to pass judgments, but look, look so deeply as to see its depth and the meaning of things. And this we can do ultimately only if we learn to have a pure heart, to cleanse ourselves from selfishness, from hatred, from everything that is darkness in our souls and in our lives.
And than we also, sooner or later, or rather from time to time, will find ourselves face to face with the love of God, offering itself to us frail, vulnerable, awaiting from us a response: let us then give this response.
But this response is to be given not only to God Whom we do not see, but to everyone who surrounds us, because Christ has said to us, ‘Whatever you have done to one of these, you have done to Me’. It is by loving concretely, actively, generously, at a cost those whom God sends us, those whom we meet in life that we can learn that love, the love of God. Amen.
By Anatolios 2nd Tone.
What shall we offer you, O Christ, because you have appeared on earth as a man for our sakes? For each of the creatures made by you offers you its thanks: the Angels their hymn; the heavens the Star; the Shepherds their wonder; the Magi their gifts; the earth the Cave; the desert the Manger; but we a Virgin Mother. God before the ages, have mercy on us.