Sermon of His Beatitude, Archimandrite Parthenius, uttered at the feast of the Nativity of Christ before the beginning of the all-night vigil
Τhe the mystery of Nativity lives in its fullness in the hearts open to God, in the being of the man tired of egoism and burdened by sin, who has humbly replied to the Saviour’s call for peace with himself and with God, a who has gratefully carried His easy yoke of patience with hope, of obedience with faith and the light burden of love and joy in the spirit.
Beloved pilgrims of the Divine Child of Bethlehem,
“Our Savior had visited us from high above…” With these words the ecclesiastic poet begins the so called Exapostilar of the bright Nativity feast. Indeed, words seemingly simple and plain, but at the same time so great and inconceivable! We have been visited by the One Who is Creator of all beings, visible and invisible; visited by the Divine Wisdom, the Enlightener of all minds and the Inventor of all things; visited by the Peace Who reconciled heaven and Earth; visited by the Joy, the immaterial joy which is for all the people (see Lucas 2,10); visited by the Son of God, Who became like us, so that we could become like Him.
The Dayspring from on high hath visited us (Luke 1,78). Hath visited us. He Himself visited us, willingly, personally. Without our merit or any kind of eagerness to accept Him. Without even being aware of Him, not even remotely knowing his unselfish, utterly devotional, pure, incomprehensible love. But God commendeth his love toward us, says the great teacher of nation St Paul, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans, 5,8). The Nativity of Christ is literally an inconceivable mystery, a perfect gift of our Lord’s mercy. The Predestined Council of the Holy Trinity did not send a mighty angel to deliver the people from corruption, but the very Son Himself, the pre-eternal Logos of the pre-eternal Father. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, says the great mystery witness, St. John the Theologian (John 3,16). Love was the cause for the creation of the world and man, that same love was the cause for the recreation of the human nature, which was subjected to death and corruption because of the disobedience and egoism.
The Incarnation of the God Made Man Christ means not just deliverance of the misled humanity from sin and death. It’s far more than that. In one of the festive verses we hear: “Today, when Christ is born, the Heaven and Earth have united; Today God came on Earth and man rose in Heaven”. The deliverance, therefore, from the darkness of ignorance and the realm of the deadly shadow of sin (see Mathew 4, 16 and Luke 1, 79) was just a part, a transient step in the Divine caring Providence for humanity. Actually, the main goal of God is the deification of human nature. God Logos, receiving a body from the Most Pure Virgin, became of one nature with us people, so that we could become participants of the Divinity.
This great and awesome mystery of the human deification is carried out through the Sacramental life of the Church, which being the Body of Christ, has preserved unchanged the reviving grace of Nativity. Only in the Church, where Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Hebrew 13, 8), “our lives are redeemed from destruction”, and “youth is revived” of the souls which have grown old from the bondage of sin (see Psalm 103, 4-5). Here in the realm of the Church, the space-less God is fully present. The Unreachable, the Limitless, the Timeless, having accepted a human body by the Most Holy Theotokos, has become visible to us, and touchable by us, limited by our nature and our companion through time. Simultaneously, through His grace, He makes His people just as limitless, timeless and eternal. He makes them citizens of the Kingdom of eternal joy, freedom and beauty.
Having this in mind, you cannot but consider utterly noneclesiastical and foreign to the spirit of Christ’s philanthropy, some statements and acts of certain members of the clergy seem, who are selfishly trying to limit the effect of the limitless Divine love and grace. Under the pretense of seemingly justified, but actually hypocritical fanaticism for the alleged preservation of the God-given canonical order in the Church, they themselves undermine the catholicity of the One, Holy, Catholical and Apostolic Church. By disrespecting the primacy, in an Orthodox sense of the word, of the Head of the Great Christ’s Church in Constantinople, established by the Ecumenical Councils, they give a bad example of impertinence and disobedience, turning the Church into an instrument for achieving their worldly inclinations. Furthermore, carried away by the temptation of absolutism, they tend to blame, without a justified cause, others for that same thing.
Nobody has the right of monopoly and exclusiveness of the Good Tidings on the coming of our Saviour to this world. The angel who encountered the Bethlehem shepherds in that mysterious night, told them this: Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people (Luke 2,10). So not just for certain nations, not just for some social elites, or just for one generation, but for all the people, of all times. No one could be excluded from the love of God. The Messiah, Jesus Christ, was born for all of us. For every single man, from Adam and up to the last one – big and small, rich and poor, of all the places and all generations, everybody is called to salvation.
In this world we live in, seriously burdened by deep polarization to rich and poor, powerful and week, disturbed by the spree of consumerism and glorification of lust, which inevitably leads to “the unbearable lightness of being”, the joyful message of the Bethlehem event seems to have lost its effect. As is the essence of the Incarnation of God couldn’t find its place in our contemporary existence, drowned by concerns and sorrows. But the mystery of Nativity lives in its fullness in the hearts open to God, in the being of the man tired of egoism and burdened by sin, who has humbly replied to the Saviour’s call for peace with himself and with God, a who has gratefully carried His easy yoke of patience with hope, of obedience with faith and the light burden of love and joy in the spirit (see Mathew 11, 28-30).
But in order for us to feel the power of today’s all-festive grace and the real, in us and among us, presence of Emmanuel, which means “God is with us”, we should also, similarly to the shepherds and the Magi humbly prostrate our hearts before the greatness of God’s love, and just like them present the Divine Child with our gift of gold, incense and myrrh: the entireness of our life, the scent of prayer and the sweet perfume of love and humbleness.
I wish you all a good vigil and a graceful Nativity of Christ!
Christ is born!