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.
THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST -- CHRISTMAS DAY
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Before us lies the holy icon of the Birth of Christ which explains the whole meaning of today's Feast.
In the bottom right-hand corner the newborn Christ is being bathed. Here is proof that God truly became man -- you cannot bathe an idea or a myth or an Angel. However, this bathing has another meaning too -- it prefigures the future Baptism of Christ by Saint John the Baptist.
In the bottom left-hand corner stands the Righteous Joseph, the Betrothed. He stands far off, showing that he is not the father of the Christ-Child. He only protects the Virgin. The Devil is trying to tempt him. But as we know from the Holy Scripture, Joseph rejected these temptations and protected the Virgin until the end. He appears then as an example to all men, who are called on to protect women.
Depicted also, is an Angel of God, who is reprimanding the evil one who is attempting to plant thoughts of doubt in the mind of Joseph the Betrothed.
On the center right stands the shepherds who have come to worship Christ; on the center left stand the Angels who have come to do the same. We are reminded of the hymns of the Church -- that the heavens rejoice and the earth makes glad, that heaven and earth are united by God become man.
In the top right-hand corner the Angels look up to heaven and down to the earth and to men. We recall their words: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all men.'
In the top left-corner the Wise Men are coming with their gifts -- gold, for their King, incense for their God and myrrh for their Priest. They have come from human wisdom to worship Divine Wisdom.
At the top of the holy icon we see a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, reflecting the Light of the Holy Trinity. Below it even the beasts bow down in worship of Christ.
In the very center of the holy icon, we see the Holy Virgin lying down. On her clothes three stars are visibile, one for her virginity before the Birth of Christ, one for her virginity which remained intact during the Birth, the third for her virginity after the Birth. She is with the Christ-Child, the God from before all the ages. He is clothed in pure, white swaddling clothes which stand out from the darkness of the cave where He has been born.
This is not only the holy icon of the Birth of Christ, it is also the holy icon of the Burial and the Resurrection of Christ. The present and the future come together here. The swaddling clothes resemble the burial shroud, the cave resembles the tomb, from where Christ rose. His destiny and all our human destiny are portrayed here. For the holy icon is not only an icon, it is also a map of our souls.
Without Christ our soul is like a dark cave. Empty, cold and unlit. With Christ, they are light, white, warm. All human problems stem from this one source, that we have not put Christ at the center of our lives, as He is in this holy icon of His Nativity. Every human sorrow, every difficulty, every grief comes from the absence of Christ, not only individually, but also collectively. Why, whole peoples have fallen into sin and come into humanity insoluble difficulties because they have fallen away from Christ. Every sin is a falling away from Christ, a failure to put Him in the center of our lives.
Let our prayer on this feast day be that Christ might be born in the hearts of us all and might become the center of our lives. Amen.
Orthodox Christians greet one another at Christmas by saying to each other: Christ is Born! and by responding, He is Born indeed! This practice is mostly common among Orthodox Christians of Eastern Europe, i.e., Serbians, Russians, Romanians, Bulgarians, etc. It is a beautiful tradition and there is no reason why the rest of us cannot practice it as well.
It is very similar at the celebration of Pascha when we say: Christ is Risen! and responding, Truly (or indeed) He is Risen!
(Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of England)
Please note: The holy icons in our Holy Tradition, are not offered to our faithful only for their veneration, but also, they are used to teach our Holy Orthodox Christian Faith and Tradition. It would be wonderful if our Church School Teachers would use the holy icons (a) to explain the significance and meaning of the various holy feasts, and (b) the lives of the Saints of our Church, throughout the ecclesiastical year to all parish Church School students.
The holy hymns chanted during the divine services of our Church are also used to teach the theology of our Holy Orthodox Church to the faithful. Both iconography and hymnology have the same purpose, and are the designated instruments to edify and educate the pious members of the Church.
MY BLESSSING 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.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God