My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, 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 Nicodemos 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 one 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.
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
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 soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Daniel the Stylite of Constantinople; Saint Mirax of Egypt; Saint Barsabas, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Ishtar and 10 Companions in Persia; Saint Aeithalas and Acepsius at Arbela; Saint Nicon the Dry of the Kiev Caves; New Holy Hieromartyr Theophan of Solikamsk; Saint Kuksha, Hieroschemamonk of Odessa (1964); Holy Martyrs Terence, Vincent, Emilian, and Vevaia; Saint Leontius of Monemvasia in the Peloponnesos; Saint Luke the New Stylite of Chalcedon; All Saints of Georgia.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Ascetics, Holy Egoumenoi, Holy Sytlites, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Hieroschemamonks, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
HOLY-MARTYR BARSABAS, ABBOT (EGOUMENOS) OF ISHTAR AND TEN COMPANIONS IN PERSIA. Saint Barsabas was an Abbot (Egoumenos) of a monastery close to Persepolis in 4th century Persia, which is modern-day Iran, during the Christian persecutions of Emperor Shapur. Saint Barsabas and his ten monks were arrested by these sun-worshippers. When the pagans were about to behead the group, they saw that they all possessed a deep calm and were happily anticipating the Kingdom of Heaven. When the pagans asked Saint Barsabas to sacrifice to their god to save his life, he said that he preferred to live in Heaven and not on earth. One of the Persian magi who watched all this, seeing the peacefulness of those about to die, wanted deeply to become a part of what the monks possessed, these men who lived what the Holy Bible taught. He exchanged clothes with his servant and entered the contest of martyrdom along with the eleven.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 Timothy 6:17-21
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 21:28-33
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"The Holy Spirit, out of compassion for our weakness, comes to us even when we are impure. And if He finds our intellect truly praying to Him, He enters it and puts to flight the whole array of thoughts and ideas circling within it, and He arouses it to a longing for spiritual prayer." (Abba [Father] Evagrius the Solitary)
THE HOLY NATIVITY OF CHRIST
The Archangel greeted the Holy Virgin with the word: "Rejoice". His words to the shepherds are similar: "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy." When the Wise men saw the Star over the cave, "they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." Christ is the essence of inexpressible joy, H comes to captives in prison, to free them-can there be a greater joy for those who recognize Him? And those who proclaim His coming, the coming of the Friend and Deliverer, what more truly can they say of this rare visitor to prison than that He is joy, that joy is on the way and joy has come?
No sooner had the Angel spoken than there appeared around him "a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God." Only the Lord God is more perfect in beauty than the Angels. Only His voice is sweeter and more Life-Giving than that of the Angels. The great Isaiah heard this sweet Angelic voice when they sang "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3). And the greatest seer of mysteries in the New Testament, Saint John the Evangelist, writes in his vision of Angels: "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many Angels round about the throne...and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands" (Revelation 5:11).
Such splendor of Heavenly Glory was revealed to the simple shepherds of Bethlehem. Up till then, such glory could not only be seen by chosen individuals, and this is the first instance that we find in Holy Scripture of a whole group of mortal men's clearly seeing and hearing the immortal, Angelic Host. This is a sign that, with Christ's coming on earth, Heaven is a sign that, with Christ's coming on earth, heaven is wide open to all who seek it in purity of heart.
This appearing by the Angel also brings other tidings, till then unknown to men and not set forth in Holy Scripture. This is the new hymn that the Angels sing. The great Isaiah had heard them sing: "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord..." That is a hymn solely to God's Glory. But now, the Angels sing a new hymn before the shepherds, that could be called a schematic hymns of salvation:
"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill among men."
When men, in gladness of heart, give first place to glorifying God in the highest (and not some man-made god on earth), then this brings peace on earth-and both the one and the other produce goodwill among them. The Lord Jesus came on earth so that the whole earth should raise up praise to God on high, and thus bring peace on earth and goodwill among men. "I am the Lord…I make peace…" (Isaiah 45:6, 7). While our forefather Adam, with heart and mind, unceasingly sang praise to God above, the earth of his being was at peace, his body torn by no desires or passions, perfectly in harmony with both soul and spirit; and he was filled with goodwill, with love both for his Creator and for all God's creatures around him. When he sinned, his heart dilated with fear, his lips became dumb from horror and unrest seized hold of his entire being, evil desires growing in him as quickly as a dream-evil desires towards God, his wife, all the beings in Paradise and himself. He felt himself naked and began to hide from the face of God. So, from Adam's sin right through to Christ, only righteous individuals such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were able to glorify God in the Highest, to have peace in the earth of their bodies and goodwill towards men. Other people were divided in the glorifying of various gods in the lowest, on earth, in the glorifying of divers fantasies or idols, or of themselves, God's creatures. And there arose strife among men about which divinity to glorify. From the non-glorifying of the True God and the glorifying of false, imagined gods, unrest came upon earth, upon the whole earth and, from these both, ill will among men, which turned the life of man into a Tower of Babel and hell-fire. (Something that we experience on earth even now).
Together with the New Creation, we must place those three things that made Adam glad in Paradise. Therefore, at the time of the birth of the new Adam, the Lord Jesus, the Angelic Hosts sang the schematic hymn of salvation:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men."
And so all, the Holy Apostles, in their Epistles, give glory and praise to God in the Highest, and the Holy Apostle Paul exclaims: "He is our peace...!" (Ephesians 2:14). All God's Saints, from the very first, have taught us that good works are assessed, not by the amount given, but by the goodwill of the giver. As Saint Gregory the Dialogist says: in his sermons on the Gospels (Book 1, Homily), "there is, for God, no richer gift than goodwill."
After this event, unique in human history and alone worthy of our Lord and Savior, the Angels withdrew from human sight, leaving the shepherds in joyful wonder.
"Let us go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us." Why did they not say "the Angel", rather than "the Lord"? Because God's Angel revealed himself in such great and resplendent beauty that the human mind could not imagine the Lord, the Almighty, Himself in a beauty greater or more resplendent. And apart from this, in Holy Scripture, God's Angels are often called "Lord." This comes from the fact that true Israelites were strict in their faith in the one God, and saw all that they learned by an Angel's mediation as coming from God Himself.
"And see this thing which is come to pass." The shepherds do not say and see if this has come to pass there. They have not the slightest doubt that what the Lord had told them in such a glorious revelation had indeed come to pass. Their simple hearts knew little of doubt. Doubt makes its home most often in hearts that are darkened by sin and the passions.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God