Archpastoral Letter for the Nativity 2003
Prot. N. 158
To the Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers, Monastics, Clergy and Pious Faithful of this God-Saved Diocese:
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Dear Fathers and Faithful,
And she gave birth to her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2: 7)
In the beginning, God created the world, the universe, and all that is therein. From the dust of the earth, He formed the body of the first man Adam and breathed life into him. From Adam's side, He extracted a rib and formed with it the body of his helpmate Eve. Together Adam and Eve lived in peace. harmony, purity, and sinlessness But then Satan caused them to sin, and the first couple fell from grace and were cast out of Paradise due to their pride and disobedience. Mankind became brutish and beast like. Disease, corruption, and death entered into the world. But even from that very moment, God had already made His promise of salvation to His children.
On this blessed Feast of Christmas, we see the initiation of this great plan of salvation in the birth of the promised Messiah Who would bring us to life once again. This message is outlined for us in many passages of Sacred Scripture, but most poignantly by the Holy Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:
"And you He made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, WHO IS RICH IN MERCY OUT OF THE GREAT LOVE WITH WHICH HE LOVED US, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ..." (2:1 5).
The prince of this world who once ruled is conquered and overcome by the Prince of Peace Who now reigns on earth the Son of God Who entered into this world, into time, into history, in human flesh.
But when He came, no one expected Him! No one was there to announce His arrival or to welcome Him among us! In fact, there was not even room for Him in the inn of Bethlehem! Certainly there was no room for Him in the mindset of this fallen world into which He was born. Even the Jews themselves did not expect a Messiah of His type.
Why was there no room for Him in the inn? The answer lies in the significance and meaning of the inn An inn was a lodging place where the activities of the world flourished. Politics of the day were discussed and argued, gossip was exchanged, revelry and carousing were the norm, robbery and deceit abounded quite often in such places: these inns were seldom safe abodes. So this worldly atmosphere rejected this infant Saviour Whose principles were opposite of those that transpired there. The infant Christ was forced out of this world by greed, hatred, deceit, depravity, perversity, abuse, and sins of all types. In this light, then, is it not a good and positive decision that our Lord chose not to be born there?
Instead, He was born among the beasts in a stable constructed in the hill caves of Judea. Blessed Jerome says "He found no room in the Holy of Holies that shone with gold, precious stones, pure silk, and silver. He is not born in the midst of gold or riches, but in the midst of dung, in a stable where our sins were filthier than the dung. He is born on a dunghill in order to lift up those who come from it..." Elsewhere, he says "He found no room among men. He found no room in Plato, none in Aristotle, but in a manger. among beasts of burden and brute animals, and among the simple. too, and the innocent." Thus it is that He is born among the animals because we had become more brutish and beastly than their own nature dictated. It is here in this stable that He healed our corrupt nature. He was laid in manger, a food trough for the animals. and, Oh! the wonder! He Himself becomes food for all mankind, the Living Bread Which has come down from heaven! St. Cyril of Alexandria writes: "He found humanity reduced to the level of the beasts. Therefore, He is placed like feed in a manger, that we, having left behind our carnal desires, might rise up to that degree of intelligence which befits human nature. Whereas we were brutish in soul, by now approaching the manger, yes, His table, we find no longer feed. but the Bread from heaven, which is the Body of life."
My beloved, even Christians have often closed the doors to Him. Sometimes, He cannot find any room in the inn of our hearts and souls, not even on His very own birthday! How often do our preparations, parties and dinners, shopping sprees, decorating, baking, gift giving, and the like, crowd Him out of His own special day? Imagine how you would feel if people used your birthday to celebrate it without you! Yet so often we do exactly that! We leave Him out of His own birthday! We need to change this attitude and correct this situation! Place Christ at the very center of your celebration of His Nativity, and all of those other activities will fall into proper perspective. Bow down and worship Him in His manger, unite yourself with Him by receiving Him in the Holy Eucharist, having prepared yourself with Holy Confession, prayer, and fasting, love Him with your whole heart, and live by the principles which He himself taught us. These will demonstrate proper respect and give focus to this festive season. By so doing, you will open the door of the inn of your heart and soul, and He will enter in and reign in you.
Assuring you of remembrance in prayer at the Divine Liturgies of the Nativity and Theophany season, with warm regards, and imparting my hierarchical blessing upon you and yours, I remain
Most sincerely yours in our newborn Saviour,
+ METROPOLITAN NICHOLAS