Archpastoral Letter for the Nativity 2006
Prot. N. 180
To the Very Reverend Protopresbyters, the Very
Reverend and Reverend Fathers, and the Beloved Faithful of this God-saved
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Christos Raždajetsja! Slavite Jeho!
And while they were there, the time came for
her to be delivered (Luke 2:6)
Dear Fathers and Faithful:
We greet each other today with the greatest and
deepest of words: "Christ is Born!". And we respond with "Glorify Him!". It is
the only possible response that wells up from the hearts of those who can hear
the glory of the angels and the peace that God has given to earth.
It is meet and right, today, on this bright
morning, to be overwhelmed by the light of the Bethlehem Star. That light is
the joy of hearing the news that should always surprise, that should always be
new and unexpected. We should never grow over-familiar with the Gospel of the
Nativity. It should always come as news almost too good to be true. We should
always rub our eyes and wonder if it's all a dream when we hear that God has
become flesh and has made His dwelling with us on the earth of His Own making.
"And while they were there, the time came for
her to be delivered". Where were they, this couple Joseph and Mary, and why
were they there? Caesar Augustus had issued the order for a census of the
civilized world. There was only one capital in this world - Rome. There was only one official language -
Latin. There was only one ruler - Caesar. To every governor the order went out:
every Roman subject must be registered in his own city. On the edge of the
Empire in the village
of Nazareth, soldiers
nailed on the walls the edict for all citizens to register in the towns of
their family origins. Joseph was obliged to register in Bethlehem. It was no matter that his wife was
about to give birth. The order had gone out and it had to be obeyed. And so off
they went to Bethlehem, the city of Joseph's family. That's
where this couple was on the night that time stood still and began again.
Where would Mary deliver her child? Joseph may
not have been very concerned because he felt he would have no difficulty in
finding lodging, especially because of Mary in her condition. How he must have
been stunned when door after door was closed to them, with the words "We have
no room". Even the innkeeper at the village inn turned them away. There was no
home for the Creator in His Own creation. There was no room for Him Who came to
be the Inn of every homeless heart in the
world. While others that night slept comfortably, the Son of God came into the
world in a cold, windswept stable-cave where Joseph quickly arranged a layette
in the stable animals' manger. There was no room in the inn, but there was room
in the stable.
Ponder this: God has become flesh, and God is
with us! All of the universe and all of time aimed for this moment when the
Birth-giver of God in a cave lit by mystical fire delivered her son, the Son of
God. "In the fullness of time", St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, "God sent
forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were
under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (4:4-5).
Ponder this: the great hidden hope of the
Prophets, the Kings of Israel and the righteous wise men of the ages was
revealed in a Manger. St. Maximos the Confessor writes that "Christ is the
great hidden mystery, the blessed goal, the purpose for which everything was
created...the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word contains in itself the whole
meaning of the riddles and symbols of Scriptures, and the whole reason for the
visible and invisible Creation".
Ponder this: there, for the adoration of a
humble, young Jewish girl, and for the veneration of a pious, elderly
Israelite, was born the Infant God-man, wrapped in swaddling clothes. There God
born in the flesh was found and worshipped by unlettered shepherds and academic
wise men - the simple and the learned - those who knew that they knew nothing
and those who knew that they did not know everything. The One they found was
the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, Only-begotten of the Father, Who
assumed the One Human nature in the womb of the Theotokos. He, the Person of
the Word, united without confusion the divine and human natures.
Ponder this: in His Person, human nature is
brought into contact with the divine nature, and thus humanity is restored. St.
Gregory of Nyssa taught that man was separated from God by the fallenness of
nature, sin and death. By His Nativity, human nature has now been restored; and
now Jesus Christ in the Gospel is set to overcome sin by the Cross, and death
by the Resurrection. The Incarnation is thus the meaning, the goal, and the
salvation of man.
Ponder this: Without Christmas, there would be
no salvation, no Church, no sacraments, no life. The world would have ended if
the Virgin Mary would have refused, if the Child would not have come. God and
humanity both freely chose to enter into a relationship of love and free will,
so that eternity might be filled with joy.
With Christmas, there is much to ponder. The
Mother of God thought much about the meaning of the Manger and the Cave, the
Angels, the Shepherds and the Wise Men. St. Luke said that "Mary kept all these
things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).
Dear faithful: I suggest to you that in this
glad Season of the Nativity, we do the same! Ponder. Consider. Be surprised by
joy. Be happy and glad. Be generous with your thanksgiving and gladheartedness.
Sing in your heart. Wake up to the unexpected call of God upon your life. He
wants to set your heart and your home alight with the Bethlehem Star of the
Ponder Christ on Christmas Day. Adore Him with
Assuring you of my joyful Archpastoral Blessing
this Christmas Season, I remain
yours in the Light of the Star,