A HOMILY FOR THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST
(Dec. 25/ Jan. 7)

About True Peace

          Brothers and sisters!

          On this great feast of the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Saviour, I greet you with the angelic proclamation which we have heard repeated many times during the services of the past few days:  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will towards men!1  May we all join the angels in glorifying God for His saving Incarnation, and may we all enjoy profound peace in consequence.

          The peace proclaimed by the multitude of the heavenly hosts on the day of the Nativity was not an ordinary earthly peace.  Such peace, whether it takes the form of peace between nations, or peace between factions of people, or peace between individuals, is always partial and incomplete; and if it lasts longer than usual, often ends in a tempest, as when an unusual stretch of beautiful weather terminates with a nasty storm.  Rather, the angelic hosts proclaimed a peace transcending every external human relationship, a peace dependent only upon the inner relationship of the believer to his Saviour, a relationship made possible by the events of this day:  by the preeternal Son of God descending to earth and becoming man in time.

          No matter how turbulent the sea may be, if one descends to a sufficient depth, he finds the water to be completely calm.  One might say the same thing about the sea of life.  However troubled and stormy it might be on the surface, if one descends deep enough, he finds tranquil waters.  This, dear Christians, is the art of arts and the science of sciences:  to know how to descend to the inner depths of faith and hope in God, to the depths of trust in providence and divine love.  In those depths, man finds himself freed from the instability of external circumstances and troubles.  When a person has learned this descent, then although he remains, like all other men, in the world, yet he is no longer of the world2 in his heart and mind.  Amid all superficial, external turmoil, he abides in a state of peace and spiritual well-being, as we see so clearly in the life of Saint Paul and the other great servants of God.

          In truth, there does exist a peace that cannot be disturbed by any earthly turmoil.  This is the inner peace of man with God and conscience, the repose of the sinner in the great feat of the œcomony of our salvation by the God-man, which restores us to the favor of Heaven lost because of sin and makes it possible for us to attain life eternal and the true deification, rather than the false and evil one with which the serpent tempted our first parents.  This peace, this repose, could never exist on earth until the coming in the flesh of the great Intercessor between God and man, the Reconciler of mankind, Jesus Christ, Who by His death on the Cross effaced the sin of the whole world and reunited what was divided:  sinful man and the All-holy God.  Restoring man, redeemed and justified by the sacrifice on Golgotha, to the favor of the Divinity, the Son of God and Son of man transformed man from an enemy of God to God’s beloved child, a friend of the angels, and their future co-inhabitant in heaven.  In this the great glory of God was manifested to the world:  the glory of His supreme justice and righteousness, the glory of His wisdom and compassion.  For the Lord, Who could not endure to see mankind perishing in sin and error, devised the most wondrous, the most unprecedented, the most incomparable, the utterly unsurpassable means to effect man’s salvation:  namely, the Incarnation and death of His Only-Begotten Son, co-eternal and consubstantial with Him.  By this wondrous self-emptying, the Son of God granted to us in superabundance everything necessary for our salvation, without violating a single one of His own inherent properties or characteristics, or transgressing any of the moral laws of nature which He had established in the beginning.  Seeing this supreme act of divine love, of compassion, of justice, of righteousness, of condescension, how could God’s angels have failed, on this holy night, to sing in jubilation, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men?

          From this it follows, dear brothers and sisters, that our chief task in life is to make the peace of God our own and to enjoy the goodwill of the Heavenly Father towards men.  But for this it is necessary first to believe, with all the warm fervor of the faithful heart, in the great Intercessor and Reconciler granted us by God; to appropriate for oneself by faith the redemptive sacrifice of the Cross; to become joined to the Lord in one spirit3 with Him by truly leading the devout Orthodox Christian way of life in all its particulars; and to commit oneself to Christ without reservation, for all eternity.  Only then does the peace proclaimed by the angels descend into the heart; only then does one descend into the abyss of inner tranquility which Christ bestows.  When he does this, then the Christian swims deep in the sea of divine peace, whatever may trouble the waters on the surface of his life.  In a state of inner calm he passes all his days until the Merciful Saviour calls him from this vale of tears to the celestial realm, where there is no sorrow, no sighing whatsoever, but only the ultimate peace and the everlasting blessedness of the most intimate, the fullest communion with the timeless, infinite One.

          Whoever believes thus and lives thus – and all of us should thus believe and live:  whoever makes nothing more than a good beginning of believing thus and living thus soon learns by experience that it really is possible, amid all the turmoil and fuss of life, to enjoy the true inner peace of Christ.  Amid the quarrels and conflicts of men, their ill-will and backbiting, it is not only possible, but easy to rejoice in God’s goodwill to us in Christ.

          Again, on this holy feast I wish for all of you, dear brothers and sisters, this wondrous peace and joy, the peace and joy bestowed by the newborn Child in the manger; the peace and joy of the Almighty Reconciler of heaven and earth!  Amen.

 

1.  Luke 2:14

2.  John 15:19

3.   I Cor. 6:17