On the Saving Nativity According to the Flesh of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ (Part II)

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

by Saint Gregory Palamas Archbishop of Thessaloniki

That is why God Who sits upon the Cherubim (Psalm 99:1) is set before us as a babe on earth. He upon whom the six-winged Seraphim cannot look, being unable to gaze intently not only at His Nature but even at the radiance of His glory, and therefore covering their eyes with their wings (Isaiah 6:2), having become flesh, appears to our senses and can be seen by bodily eyes. He Who defines all things and is limited by no one is contained in a small, makeshift manger. He Who holds the universe and grasps it in the hollow of His hand, is wrapped in narrow swaddling bands and fastened into ordinary clothes. He Who possesses the riches of inexhaustible treasures submits Himself voluntarily to such great poverty that He does not even have a place at the inn; and so He enters into a cave at the time of His birth, Who was brought forth by God timelessly and impassibly and without beginning. And--how great a wonder!--not only does He Who shares the Nature of the Father on high put on our fallen nature through His birth, nor is He subject merely to the utter poverty of being born in a wretched cave, but right from the very start, while still in the womb, He accepts the final condemnation of our nature. He Who is by Nature Lord of all is now ranked with the servants and enrolled with them (St. Luke 2:1-6), clearly making humble service to others no less honorable than the exercise of lordship, or rather, showing the servants as having greater honor than the earthly ruler at that time, provided of course they understood and obeyed the magnificence of grace. For the man who then seemed to rule the world was not counted with the King of Heaven, though all his subjects were, nor was this earthly ruler reckoned then as one of them, but the heavenly Lord was.

David, who is a forefather of God on account of Him Who has now been born of his line, hymns God somewhere, "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments" (Psalm 119:73). What does this mean? That only the Creator can grant true understanding. Anyone who has been vouchsafed understanding and grasped the honor which our nature received from God through being formed by His hands in His own image, will run towards Him, having come to a realization of His love for mankind, and will obey Him and learn His commandments. But how much more so if he comprehends, as far as possible, this great mystery of our re-creation and restoration. God formed human nature out of the earth with His own hand and breathed His own life into man (Genesis 2:7, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23), whereas everything else He brought into being by His word alone. He then allowed man to be governed by his own thoughts and follow his own initiative, because he was a rational creature with a sovereign will. Left alone, deceived by the evil one's counsel and unable to withstand his assault, man did not keep to what was in accordance with his nature, but slid towards what was unnatural to it. So now God not only forms human nature anew by His own hand in a mysterious way, but also keeps it near Him. Not only does He assume this nature and raise it up from the fall, but He inexpressibly clothes Himself in it and unites Himself inseparably with it and was born as both God and man: from a woman, in the first instance, that He might take upon Himself the same nature which He formed in our forefathers; and from a woman who was a virgin, in the second, so that He might make man new.

If He has been born from seed, He would not have been a new man and, being part of the old stock, and inheriting that fall, He would not have been able to receive the fullness of the incorruptible Godhead in Himself and become inexhaustible source of hallowing. And so, not only would He not have been able to cleanse, with abundance of power, our forefathers' defilement caused by sin, but neither would He have been sufficient to sanctify those who came later. Just as water stored in a tank would not be sufficient to provide a large city with enough to drink continuously, but would require its own spring, so that it is never surrendered to the enemy (Satan) on account of thirst; in the same way, neither a man not Holy Angel who, by sharing in grace, had the ability to make things holy, would suffice to sanctify everyone at all times. But creation needed a well containing its own spring, that those who drew near it and drank their fill might remain undefeated by the attacks of weaknesses and deprivation inherent in the created world. So neither an Angel nor a man, but the Lord Himself came and saved us, being made a man like us for our sake, and continuing unchanged as God. Building now the New Jerusalem, raising up a temple for Himself with living stones (Ephesians 2:20-21, cf. 1 Peter 2:5), and gathering us into a holy and worldwide Church, He sets in its foundation, which is Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11), the ever-flowing fount of grace. For the Lord's eternal fullness of life, the All-Wise and Omnipotent Divine Nature, is made one with human nature, which was led astray through lack of counsel, enslaved to the evil one out of weakness, and laid in the deepest caverns of Hades for want of Divine Life, that the Lord might instill into it wisdom and power and freedom and unfailing life.

And look forthwith at the symbols of this ineffable union and the resulting benefit poured out even upon those far away. A star accompanies the Magi (St. Matthew 2:2-10): coming to a halt when they do, and traveling with them when they move on, or rather, drawing them and inviting them to the road, as their leader escorting them on their journey. It offers itself as their guide when they are on the move, and when they rest awhile it permits them to do so, and itself stays in its place, lest deserting them it should grieve them by its absence, seeing to abandon its role as guide before journey's end. For it caused them considerable distress by concealing itself from them when they approached Jerusalem.

Why did it hide from them while they were there? To make them, through their inquiries, unsuspecting heralds of Christ Who was born at that time according to the flesh. Because they presumed they would learn from the Jews where Christ was to be born according to the sacred prophecies, the divine star left them, teaching us that we should no longer seek to find out about the law and the prophets from the Jews, but rather to seek after the teaching that comes from above. When they left Jerusalem, the star appeared again to their delight, and went before them to lead the way, "till it came and stood over where the young Child was" (St. Matthew 2:9), obviously worshiping with them this earthly and heavenly Infant. This star first brings the Magi as a birthday gift to God, born upon earth, and through them to the whole Assyrian nation, according to the saying of Isaiah: "In those days the Assyrians shall be the first nation for God, and after them the Egyptians, and Israel shall be the third" (cfr. Isaiah 19:23-24), as is now seen coming to pass. For the veneration by the Magi was immediately followed by the flight into Egypt (St. Matthew 2:13), during which He delivered the Egyptians from idols (cf. Isaiah 19:1), and after His return from there, a nation worthy of God's possession was chosen from among Israel. (Source: Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies)

(To be continued)



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.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George