A HOMILY FOR THE GREAT FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST

 

About Our Deliverance and Gratitude

 

        Brothers and sisters!

        On this bright day of our Saviour’s Nativity, I greet you with the words we all know and love so well, the words of the heavenly hosts:  “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

        In the beginning, God fashioned us in His image and likeness.  He bestowed on us a rational nature, a soul attuned to the divine harmonies, and a promise planted within our essence assuring us that, if we did His will, we would become like Him in many ways.  This promise was a worthy reflection of His infinite glory and love for us.  He gave us one easy command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  By obeying Him in this, we could exercise our free will, advance in virtue, and thus become more like Him, thereby initiating our growth into the splendor of His majesty.  But we refused to train ourself in self-restraint and, instead, broke the commandment.  In this way, man fell away from his likeness to the everlasting glory of God and remade himself in the likeness of brute beasts; moreover, each person chose for himself a new god to worship.  Some people gave themselves over to gluttony, stuffing themself with rich foods, then vomiting them up so that they could eat more, like those nowadays who must run around in circles and ride machines that go nowhere in order to work off the heavy meals with which they gorge themself.  Others, spurning all sense of shame, burned with lust, not only of the “natural” sort, but even such that the men yearned after the men and the women after the women, like so many of our demented, perverted contemporaries.  Yet others filled their ears with songs that were not music at all, but just loud, obnoxious noise; and they danced with wild gyrations, similar to the spasms of an epileptic having a fit, in this too foreshadowing the hedonists of our time, with their crude, soul-destroying entertainments.  But worst of all, the tribes and tongues of the heathen throughout the whole world changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things,[1] as says the Apostle Paul, thereby daring to deny the mystery of the one, unique Godhead, Which utterly transcends all being.  Some of the heathen made divinities out of monkeys, apes, or rats; others of the sun or the moon.  Still others ascribed to their gods sins like their own, thereby justifying the iniquities which they themself committed.  In the end, the pagans concluded that all religions essentially amounted to the same thing, an error that has reappeared today in the guise of the pan-heresy of syncretistic Ecumenism.

        These wretched folk were deluded and mocked by the devil, who bound them in chains during this life and after their death dragged them down into the abyss of Hades.  There he held them in bondage as slaves; for as they were subject to his will during their lifetime, so were they after death.  The few righteous, who did not succumb to crude passions and refused to drink the lethal poison of iniquity and error, were much afflicted by the servants of the demons.  Thus we see how the prophets of the Old Testament were driven out of the cities and into the wilderness, made a laughingstock by the impious, and passed their life, according to the scripture, in sheepskins and goatskins, and in caves and dens of the earth, for the world was not worthy of them.[2] 

        But the all-merciful God, looking down from heaven on the sad plight of the human race, felt pity for the creature He had fashioned with His own hands.  In a single, divine glance He beheld the sins of every age, weeping as though from a single wound or spewing out of a single wellspring of corruption.  In His perfect wisdom He knew that mankind’s delusion and degradation was so great that there was only one solution:  to take all the evil upon Himself and thus to destroy it.  For the worse the illness, the stronger the remedy required to cure it; and nothing is greater and stronger than the God of all:  the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Beginning of the beginning, the unwaning light, the source of life, and the fountain of immortality.  The Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, God the Son, bowed the heavens and came down, assuming human flesh to deliver us from bondage to the devil.  What an ineffable wonder!  He who wrapped the earth in darkness was wrapped in swaddling clothes as a little babe!  He who sits upon the wings of the cherubim was laid in a manger of dumb beasts, to free us from brutish passions.  The Invisible became visible and was seen clothed in our human nature, His own creation.  The Son of God became Son of Man without any alteration or diminution of His divinity, so that He is from eternity and forever perfect God and is now forevermore perfect man.  Hiding His divinity under the covering of flesh, He came into our midst and led us out of our pitiful captivity.  Hoisting the lost sheep upon His shoulders, He took him back to the Father.  Then he summoned the angelic powers and exclaimed, “Rejoice with Me, for I have found the sheep that went astray!  Rejoice with Me, for I have found the drachma that had gone missing!  Let the heavens be glad and the earth give glory, for I have shown My infinite good will towards man.  Henceforth peace shall reign in the hearts of all who truly believe on Me and follow My commandments.”

        And so it is that on this blessed day the heavenly hosts rejoice and give glory to God for our sake, and bid us also give God glory and keep the feast worthily.  Therefore, adore the nativity that freed you from giving birth to sin.  Honor little Bethlehem, which has led you back to the great paradise.  Worship the manger from which you have been fed the Bread of life.  Bow down with the ox and ass before the Master’s crib.  Set out with the Magi to the holy land of celestial promise.  The bright star of true faith will shed ample light for your travel.  Bring the newborn Lord gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh:  the gold of honor as to a King, the incense of prayer as to God, and the myrrh of love to anoint the One Who died for your sake.  Hail Him with the shepherds and join chorus with the angels.  With the Virgin Mother, lay up in your heart the mysteries of God’s Incarnation, and ponder them ceaselessly, not only today, but throughout the days of your life.  So doing, you will yourself give flesh to the timeless Lord of Glory, Who will descend into your heart – now not a heart of stone, but of living, Godbearing flesh -- as He descended into the Virgin’s womb. 

Unto our newborn God, with His Unoriginate Father and His Most Holy Spirit, be all our praise, glory, love, and thanksgiving forever and ever.  Amen.

 

[1] Rom. 1:23

[2] Heb. 11:37