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 TO THE HOLY CHILD OF BETHLEHEM
"He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (St. John 6:56).
O Most Benevolent and Holy Child of Bethlehem, do You indeed love us so very much? Do You again accept to recline in the poor and humble cold manger of our soul? We are filled with unimaginable awe and compunction by Your Infinite and ever abiding condescension. But we are also filled with inexpressible joy. Forgetting our many imperfections and overlooking our impurities, accept us, O Lord, as we come to You. Give us Your Body and Blood of Holy Communion "for the forgiveness of sins and life eternal." And abide with us, Lord, abide with us forever as God and Savior. Now that we have found You, our most worshipful One and only Lord and Savior, let us never again lose you and be without You. Always then abide with us, O Lord, for You are indeed the Immanuel, God with us, our Loving Lord and Savior. Amen.
(From: A Prayer Book: An Anthology of Orthodox Prayers by Father Peter A. Chamberas)
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On December 17th 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 of every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christina faith: Holy and Glorious Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths: Ananias, Azarias, and Misael; Saint Dionysius of the Greek island of Zakinthos; Saint Daniel the Confessor of Spain and Egypt; Saint Stephen the Confessor; Saints Petermuthius, Coprius, and Alexander the Soldier of Egypt; Saints Athanasius, Nicholas, and Anthony, founders of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mt. Athos; New Holy Martyr Niketas of Nyssa; Holy Martyr Iacchus; New Holy Martyr Paisius, Egoumenos (Abbot) of Turnovo, and Avacum the Deacon at Belgrade; Saint Misael of Abalatsk; Saint Sturmius, Egoumenos (Abbot) and founder of Fulda Monastery.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Prophets, Holy Youths, Holy Confessors, Holy Founders of Monasteries, New Holy Martyrs, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
SAINT STURMIUS, ABBOT AND FOUNDER OF FULDA MONASTERY. Saint Sturmius was from a German Christian family in modern-day Austria, and was a disciple of Saint Boniface. He was trained at the Monastery of Saint Wigbert and spent several years as a missionary priest. Saint Sturmius lived nine years as a hermit (ερημίτης), and became known for his miracles (wonders) of healing and insightful teaching of the Gospel. He learned the best from the Monasteries in Italy, especially Saint Benedict's Monastery in Monte Cassino, and from a two-year stay at a Monastery in France. Finally he founded the Fulda Monastery within Saint Boniface's missionary area. It was firmly established under St. Sturmius' wise direction and example. It became well known throughout the land of the Franks, and attracted many monks. Saint Boniface went there on retreats, and later chose to be buried there. Saint Sturmius died peacefully in old age, and his holy relics now lie near those of Saint Boniface.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrew 11:33-12:2
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Luke 11:47-12:1
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:
"Nothing troubles the man who is given over to the will of God, be it illness, poverty or persecution. He knows that the Lord in His mercy is solicitous for us. The Holy Spirit, Whom the soul knows, is witness therefore. But the proud and the self-willed do not want to surrender to God's will because they like their own way and that is harmful to the soul." (Saint Silouan the Athonite)
THE WONDER OF THE INCARNATION
Saint Gregory the Theologian
"The very Son of God, older than the ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal, the beginning of beginning, the Light of Light, the Fountain of Life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father:
He it is Who comes to His Own Image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and unites Himself to an intelligent soul for the good of my soul, to purify like by like.
He takes to Himself all that is human, except sin.
He was conceived by the Virgin Mary, who has been first prepared in soul and body by the Spirit; His coming to birth had to be treated with honor, virginity had to receive new honor.
He comes forth as God, in the human nature He has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit. Spirit gave divinity, flesh received it.
He Who makes rich is made poor; He takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of His Divinity.
He Who is full is made empty; He is emptied for a brief space of His Glory, that I may share in his fullness.
What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me?
I received the likeness of God, but failed to keep it. He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.
Holiness had to be brought to man by the humanity assumed by one Who was God, so that God might overcome the tyrant (devil) by force and so deliver us and lead us back to Himself through the mediation of His Son. The Son arranged this for the honor of the Father, to Whom the Son is clearly obedient in all things.
The Good Shepherd, Who lays down His life for the sheep, came in search of the straying sheep to the mountains and hills on which you used to offer sacrifice. When He found it, He took it on the shoulders that bore the wood of the Cross, and led it back to the Life of Heaven.
Christ, the Light of all lights, follows John, the lamp that goes before Him. The Logos (Word) of God follows the voice in the wilderness; the Bridegroom follows the Bridegroom's friend, who prepares a worthy people for the Lord by cleansing them by water in preparation for the Spirit.
We need God to take our flesh and die, that we might live.
We have died with Him, that we may be purified.
We have risen again with Him, because we have risen again with Him.
(Source: St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney Texas)
SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM: HOMILY ON CHRISTMAS MORNING
Behold a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd's song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voices 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 yielded 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 Logos (Word) He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.
And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Thrones, nor Dominions, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.
Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe 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.
What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.
Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us He may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.
Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a Living Temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature.' For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.
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 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. But 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. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death 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 kindness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been in planted 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 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; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a Star.
To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit, we offer all praise, now and forever. Amen.
Please note: It is no wonder they called this Saint and Father of the Church "golden mouthed", which is the meaning of his surname "Chrysostom." May we be thankful for the legacy of his sermons and teachings. And to all who read this homily: I wish you a blessed and wondrous Christmas.
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