Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A PRAYER FOR THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST
(Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain)
Jesus, Son of the Father without a mother in Your divinity, I glorify You, ever existing beyond cause and reason in the beginning.
Jesus, Son of the Mother without a father in Your humanity, I glorify You, Who became in time a human person for us.
Jesus, Immanuel unchangeable, Angel of the Great Will of God, I thank You for Your boundless love for us.
Jesus, innocent Lamb of God, I confess to You For I have sinned against You far more than all other men.
Jesus, my Good Shepherd, I always confess to You, And admit that I am the lost sheep.
Jesus, most compassionate Paraclete, Make the grace of Your Spirit active in me.
Jesus, the New Adam, remove from me the old man And put on me the new one, that is, You.
Jesus, You condescended and came to earth, Make me worthy to live not as if on earth but as if in heaven.
Jesus, by nature You became a human person, Make me by grace to be a participant of Your divinity.
O Jesus, my life and my breath, come to visit me And remain with me. Amen.
On December 11th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Daniel the Stylite of Constantinople; Saint Mirax of Egypt; Saint Varsavas of Persia; Saint Aeithalas and Akepsios at Arbela; Saint Nicon the Dry of the Kiev Caves; New holy Hieromartyr Theophan of Solikamsk, Russia (1918); Saint Kuksha of Odessa (1964); holy Martyrs Terence, Vincent, Emilian, and Vevaia; Saint Leontios in Achaia; Saint Luke the New Stylite; Synaxis of the Saints of Georgia.
SYNAXIS OF THE SAINTS OF GEORGIA. This date has been set aside for the commemoration of the Saints whose lives are known, and also for the nearly 300 Saints whose names only are known, their deeds having been lost in history, as well as the countless ascetics and martyrs whose names and deeds are known only to God. Saint George of the Holy Mountain wrote: "...we have never renounced Him, nor have our people ever yielded to heresy." Most people in Georgia have been named for a Saint commemorated on this day, and they ask that Saint to intercede for them before the Lord.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Ascetics and holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 4:1-4
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Mark 8:22-26
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"When a man receives something Divine, in his heart he rejoices; but when he receives something diabolic, he is disturbed. The Christian heart, when it has received something Divine, does not demand anything else in order to convince it that this is precisely from the Lord; but by that very effect it is convinced that this is heavenly, for it senses within itself spiritual fruits: love, joy, peace, and the rest" (cf. Gal. 5:22). [Saint Seraphim of Sarov).
THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
by Joanne Stefanatos, D.V.M [source: Animals Sanctified: A Spiritual Journey]
"And leaving Mary and his sons in the cave, Joseph went forth to seek a Hebrew midwife in the city of Bethlehem. But as I was going (said Joseph) I looked up into the air, and I saw the clouds astonished, and the fowls of the air stopping in the midst of their flight. And I looked down towards the earth, and saw a table spread, and working people sitting around it, but their hands were upon the table, and they did not move to eat. They who had meat in their mouths did not eat. They who lifted their hands up to their heads did not draw them back: And they who lifted them up to their mouths did not put anything in, but all their faces were fixed upwards. And I beheld the sheep dispersed, and ye the sheep stood still. And I looked unto a river, and saw the kids with their mouths close to the water, and touching it, but they did not drink. Then a bright cloud overshadowed the cave, and the midwife said, 'This day my soul is magnified, for mine eyes have seen surprising things, and salvation is brought forth to Israel.' But on a sudden the cloud became a great light in the cave, so that their eyes could not bear it. But the light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared and sucked the breast of his mother Mary. A virgin hath brought forth, which is a thing contrary to nature."
The Infant Jesus born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem received gifts from all tiers of Creation. He was sheltered by the cave offered by the mineral kingdom. He lay in the manger of straw offered by the plant kingdom. He was warmed by the breath of the ox and the ass of the animal kingdom. He received gifts from the wise men, both shepherds and kings of mankind. He heard the magnificent praises of the most dignified creatures of heaven-the Angels!
The birth of Jesus was a restatement of Creation. The Angels were created first, then the animals, then man. Man was created to be a caregiver for the animals and to glorify God, "Jesus is the Creator and the first Caregiver of animals." (St. Luke 2:6-7). He compares Himself to the Good Shepherd. (St. John 10:14). The Angel of the Lord announced the birth of Christ to shepherds in the field guarding their sheep and goats. (St. Luke 2:8-12). Those chosen to be the first receivers of the Good News of Christ's birth were shepherds who cared for animals. The life of the shepherd was the life of service to animals. God ordained men to care of animals.
The Lamb of God
Lambs were sacrificed most because their gentleness made them ideal victims. There was no dangerous, frenzied, struggling creature facing death. Sheep were endlessly slaughtered for man's atonement of sin and thanksgiving offerings.
Jesus Christ is called the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The lamb has a non-violent being led to slaughter; Christ did not inflict violence on those who wanted to kill Him. He ordered His Apostles to refuse retaliation in the Garden of Gethsemane when the authorities went to arrest Him. Jesus went to His death "like a sheep led to the slaughterhouse" (Acts 8:32).
Jesus always spoke about God as a loving parent, one who "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good". Jesus urged us to demonstrate compassion and goodness to all creatures--even to those we consider our enemies. (St. Matthew 6:43-45) Jesus Christ was led as a lamb to the slaughter...He was delivered to death, to b slain as a defenseless sheep!
Jesus Christ, the High Priest, made passage into the Holy of Holies in heaven, through His own blood, so that He might be the everlasting propitiation of our sins. God resurrected from the dead Jesus Christ first-He Who had given Himself as a sacrifice for the redemption of humanity. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself-The Eternal Godhead.
JESUS CHRIST OUR SAVIOR
"Look, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (St. John 1:30)
Each one of us has been made a partaker in the inheritance of the Saints in light: God hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son: In Whom we have redemption through His Blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Higher than Angels, beyond the celestial realm is Jesus Christ the God-man, the everlasting Word, Who is "begotten not made," the eternal generation of the Father "through Whom all things were made." He was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.
"God raised Him high and gave Him the name that is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father". [Philippians 2:9-11)
This is the testimony God has given us about his Son, Jesus Christ. God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son; anyone who has the Son has life, anyone who does not have the Son, does not have life (St. John 5:11). The person who denies that Jesus is the Christ-he is a liar, he is antichrist and he is denying the Father as well as the Son (St. John 22).
Jesus Christ is the measure of all things divine and human. He is in truth the "mystical axis of the universe."
God gave humanity a way of reconciliation after the Fall, to bring great peace out of turmoil. He gave us His Only-begotten Son, the Logos [Word] to be Mediator between God and man. Jesus Christ became our justice, taking on Himself the punishment for our injustices. Clothed in our humanity, Jesus offered the obedience required of humanity--for He took on our likeness and human nature. Nothing could restore us to our original image of divinity that we lost, except Jesus Christ! Christ is the answer in every dimension of life.
"Christ is all and in all" (Colossians 3:11).
Everyone is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. For we are members of His Body, of His Flesh, and of His Bones (Ephesians 5:30). He takes our infirmities and bears our diseases (Psalm 103:3). For those who fear His Name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2). The sight of a vine reminds us of our nature; Jesus Christ is the vine, God is the husbandman, and each of us is the branches.
"Let us then take off the old man with his works, and become partakers in the generation of Christ, renouncing the works of the flesh. O Christian realize your dignity: you are associated with the divine nature...you have been rescued from the power of darkness. You have been transported into the light and the Kingdom of God. By the Mysterion (Sacrament) of Holy Baptism, you have been made the temple of the Holy Spirit...you have been redeemed by the Blood of Christ".
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God