Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Blessed Feast of the Nativity 2011

Wishing a Blessed Nativity Season to all of you! Here are a few words from the Holy Fathers on this wonderful day!

Saint John Chrysostom before a grand audience at the Church of Holy Wisdom on a warm December night had this to say about the joyousness of the day:

"All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised. Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices and, in place of the sun, witnessing the rising of the Sun of Justice. Ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, he had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God. This day He Who Is, is Born; and He Who Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became he God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassibility, remaining unchanged." - St. John Chrysostom

God sought fit, to make his promise, his word present, real, and tangible for us, in the birth Jesus the Christ. Saint Gregory of Nyssa calls us to remember amid the hustle and bustle of gift giving, of movie going, that even if those around us do not understand the joy of the Nativity, we should take heart. It is the winter Pascha! The first light of dawn before the rising of the sun!

"The glories of Pascha, therefore, belong to the laudations of His Nativity. If one enumerates the benefactions recorded in the Gospels and reviews the miraculous healings, the provision of food amid scarcity, the return of the dead from the tombs, the extemporaneous production of wine, the expulsion of demons, the transmutation of various illnesses into health, the saltations of the lame, the fashioning of eyes from clay, the Divine teachings, the ordinances of the new Law, the doctrines of the mysteries, through parables, towards higher things—all of these are a gift of the present day. Therefore, “let us rejoice and be glad in it,” not fearing the reproach of men, as the prophet exhorts, nor being overcome by the contempt of those who deride the rationale of His economy, saying that it is not possible the Lord should assume bodily nature and mingle with human life through birth, sad, it seems in their faint heart, of how the Wisdom of God wrought our salvation." - St. Gregory of Nyssa

Saint Augustine points out the beauty of the mystery and how we, unable to fully understand, nevertheless celebrate with joy the coming of our salvation into the history:

"Until He shows us what will completely satisfy us, until we drink to satiety of that fountain of life, while we wander about, apart from Him but strong in faith, while we hunger and thirst for justice, longing with an unspeakable desire for the beautiful vision of God, let us celebrate with fervent devotion His birthday in the form of a servant. Since we cannot, as yet, understand that He was begotten by the Father before the day- star, let us celebrate His birth of the Virgin in the nocturnal hours. Since we do not comprehend how His name existed before the light of the sun, let us recognize His tabernacle placed in the sun. Since we do not, as yet, gaze upon the Son inseparably united with His Father, let us remember Him as the 'bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber.' Since we are not yet ready for the banquet of our Father, let us grow familiar with the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ." - St. Augustine of Hippo

And the final words of John Chrysostom's Nativity Homily, may they kindle joy in your heart!

"I too desire to rejoice. I too wish to share in jubilation, to celebrate the festival. But I take my part, not plucking the harp, not with the music of pipes, nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ. For this is all my hope, this my life, this my salvation, this my pipe, my harp. And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels, sing: Glory to God in the Highest; and with the shepherds: and on earth peace to men of good will." - St. John Chrysostom

Merry Christmas!