REFLECTIONS ON THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD, GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
REFLECTIONS ON THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD, GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
From the Nativity homily of St. John Chrysostomos,
Archbishop and Patriarch of Constantinople, 354-407 AD
I behold a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherds' song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. 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, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of Justice. And ask now 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.
"But what shall I say? What shall I utter? *Behold an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Mary is present, who is both Virgin and Mother, Joseph is present, who is called father. He is called husband, she is called wife. The names indeed are lawful, but there is no other bond. We speak here of words, not of things. He was espoused to her, but the Most High overshadowed her. Hence, Joseph, doubting, knew not what to call the Infant. He would not dare to say that It was conceived in adultery; he could not speak harshly against the Virgin; he shrank from calling the Child his own. He knew well that here was something unknown to him; how or whence was this Child born? And being anxious because of this, there came to him a message, by the voice of an angel, which said: *Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Spirit."
From a sermon of St. Cyril of Alexandria,
Patriarch of Alexandria, + 444 A.D
"He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infant's bands."
"Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice: for the Son who is co-eternal with the Father, having his throne and like him without beginning, in his compassion and merciful love for mankind has submitted himself to emptying, according to the good pleasure and the counsel of the Father; and he has gone to dwell in a Virgin's womb that was sanctified beforehand by the Spirit, O marvel! God is come among men; he who cannot be contained is contained in a womb; the Timeless enters time; and strange wonder! His conception is without seed, his emptying is past telling; so great is this mystery! For God empties himself, takes flesh, and is fashioned as a creature, when the angel tells the pure Virgin of her conception: 'Hail, thou who art full of grace; the Lord who has great mercy is with thee.'"
MORE ON THE NATIVITY BY SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
I behold a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd's song, piping no soft melody but chanting forth a full heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. 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 starts the singing of angelic voices; and in the place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of Justice. And 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 impassability, remaining unchanged.
"This day, He Who was ineffably Begotten of the Father, was for me born of the Virgin: in a way no tongue can tell. Begotten according to His nature before all ages from the Father; in what manner He knows Who has begotten Him; born again this day from the Virgin, above the order of nature, in what manner knows the power of the Holy Spirit. And His heavenly generation is true, and His generation here on earth is true. As God He is truly begotten of God; so also as man is He truly born from the Virgin. In heaven He alone is the Only-Begotten of the unique Virgin.
Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence, and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech. For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him Who Works.
And what shall I say? And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of Days has become an infant.
He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness. For this, he assumed my body, that I may become capable of his Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His Spirit; and so He bestowing, and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me. He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.
Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Come and we shall commemorate the solemn festival. It is a strange manner of celebrating a festival; but truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.
Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He has come on earth, while being Whole in heaven; and while complete in heaven, He is without diminution on earth. Though He was God, He became Man; not denying Himself to be God. Though being the impassable Word, He became flesh; that He might dwell among us, he became flesh, He did not become God, He was God. Wherefore He became flesh so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger so that He, by Whom all things are nourished, may receive an infant's food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.