|16 - Sunday Before Christmas, Dec 18, 2011|
Hebrews 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And to all who received Him, to them He gave the power to become children of God, born not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of male desire – as it says in St John’s Gospel – but begotten of God.
Pascha proclaims the great joy of Christ’s victory over death and hell, the source of all evil and suffering in the world. Christmas proclaims the Gospel’s glorious vision of man, the mystery that has been hidden in God from before the ages. It is the glory of Christ in you! (Col 1:26-27)
Christmas proclaims the Church’s glorious vision of man because of who Christ is. He is the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, by whom all things were made. He has become flesh and dwelt among us. God has become man. He has clothed Himself in our human flesh that we might clothe ourselves in His own divinity and live His uncreated life in His Holy Spirit.
The earthly mind cannot grasp this glorious vision proclaimed by the Church. In different ways, the earthly mind has denied that Christ is God incarnate, the “God-Man”, and along with that denial, it denies the glorious vision of man that Christmas proclaims. The earthly mind has made of Christ an ordinary man, extraordinary only in his relationship to God; it has made of him a prophet, a messenger from God, an avatar, a demi-God, God’s first creature that He created to serve Him as His creative agent. These heresies present human destiny either to be absorbed and lost in some divine essence, or dissolved back into the cosmos, or to gaze from afar on the majesty of God. None of these heresies sees the glory of “Christ in you!” for none of them confess that Christ is God. The glory of “Christ in you!” is that, united to Christ, man has been granted to become a partaker of God. He becomes one with God without being dissolved or lost into God, abiding in the love of God, living the uncreated life of the Holy Trinity in an eternal ascent from glory to glory.
For, Christ is God the Word incarnate who was in the beginning with God, who was God. He is the Image, the Icon of the invisible God by whom all things were made, and in whom all things cohere. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the effulgence and very splendor of the glory of the Father. In Him is the Light of God that is the life of men, and that illumines all with the uncreated light of God the Father.
This Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us. Born of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of Christmas, He clothed Himself in our human nature given to Him by His Holy Mother; and, when He united Himself to our human nature, it was not consumed or destroyed. It was saved. It was sanctified. It was made whole and alive in God.
This proclaims the high dignity and nobility of our nature. That we are not destroyed but saved and made whole when God unites with us and dwells among us reveals our innate kinship with God. We were made in His image. That is why we can receive Him, why He can become one with us and we can become one with Him, and far from being destroyed or dissolved into God, we become truly human in God.
The Church proclaims that the Word of God did not join Himself to a man. He did not take on the flesh in appearance only so that He only seemed to be man. God the Word truly became man without ceasing to be God. He took to Himself the whole of our humanity, body, soul and mind, so that He himself became man even as He was God. He united in Himself, in His own divine Person, the divine and human natures in their wholeness without confusion or division, without change or alteration. In Him, each of the natures retains its full integrity even as they are united in an ineffable intimacy and oneness. In the Person of God the Word, the Person of Christ, the humanity participates in the glory of the divinity and the divinity communicates to the humanity the uncreated energies of its own glory.
This means that “God is with us” in the depths of our own nature. He is with us not in that He is alongside us, or in the same room with us. He is with us because He is in us. “Christ in you!” is the mystery hidden before the ages and now revealed in the Church. Christ in you! God is with us! And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He became one with us and is with us in the heart of our nature: in our mind, in our soul, in our flesh. He is the Light of God shining in the darkness of our soul and spirit as in the cave of Bethlehem. Because of Christmas, the life of God is the life that our humanity now can live, and we can be illumined in our mind and soul to know God the Holy Trinity in our heart that He has transformed, by His Holy Pascha, into a glorious bridal chamber, radiant with the uncreated Light of His divinity in the glory of His Holy Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven.
“God is with us!” “Christ in you!” This is the proclamation of Christmas. Coming forth from the Virgin, He unites earth to heaven, man with God. That means that we can call upon Him as One who is near to us, not far from us, because we are in Him, He is within us. He is in our darkness, He is in our suffering, in the mundane moments of our everyday life, in the depths of our soul, because of Christmas, because He has become flesh and dwelt among us.
There is, then, such great joy, such reverent joy, such holy joy to be found in the Church on Christmas Eve. We draw near to the inexpressible mystery of Christ God born of the ever-Virgin Mary and Theotokos as a little child, as a precious rose born in a cave in ways beyond nature, made one with us in the ineffably tender and sacred mystery of love that is natural to God and to the human heart and that unites us together in the ineffable union of God and Man in the glory of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ is born! Glorify Him! This is the Good News of Christmas, the Good News of the Gospel! Amen.