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.
GOD IS WITH US: ON THE INCARNATION
By His Eminence Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
"And His name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God with us" (Saint Matthew 1:23)
The feast of Christmas proclaims something that is inconceivable to the human mind: God came to dwell among us. He came to be united with the human race, to share their pain, to answer their desire for redemption. All religions may point to people searching for God, but what makes Christianity completely different and unique is that Almighty God became one of us "to deify (theosis) each one of us." Christmas is about this shocking reality.
Jesus did not come as an Angel or a Prophet in order to reveal the will of God through some written Law. God becomes one of us, "and dwelt among us." He entered into humanity with a real birth from the Virgin Mary in order to remain eternally "one of us"--like us in every way except for sin; He is one who truly belongs to our human family.
The Good News of our faith begins with the assurance that Jesus is Emmanuel, "God with us." And the Risen Lord leaves this earth with the comforting promise that "I am with you always, even to the close of the age." Thus Christmas, the Incarnation of God, can be summarized in this name--Emmanuel.
Saint Basil the Great explains this feast by saying that "our Lord raises all humanity to Himself," in order to bring the human race in the right direction which it had lost, and to relate humanity once again with its root, with God. Christ proclaimed: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." The wisdom, the righteousness, the peace, the salvation, that people desire, are summoned in His person. Saint Paul assures us that "In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." The personal union of the divine and the human nature in Christ gave humanity a new dynamism. With Him coming on earth, Christ brings back to God "all humanity", the entire human race, all human creativity in order to recreate divine energies which His love radiates.
The feast of Christmas comes to revive within our conscience the assurance that God is "with us." The Church, with her hymnology, challenges us to feel these events as happening today. In one hymn, we heard: "Today is born from the Virgin He Who has the world in the palms of His hands." In another one, we heard: "The universe is filled today with joy; Christ is born from the Virgin."
Usually many people think of Jesus as a person of the past and not as Emmanuel, the Living Christ Who remains with us. Many believe more in an absent than in the eternally present Lord. Many, even among us, rest and feel greater security in the thought that "money is with us, power is with us, the protection of the powerful is with us," than in the belief that He Who is with us is God. That is why bitterness, fear, and sorrow so often remain with us and we drown in loneliness.
"And His name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God with us." The feast of Christmas invites us to strengthen this feeling of the continuous presence of Emmanuel, in order to move with His vision, criteria and power, with His honesty, chastity and love, so that we can be free of fear and agony, looking at His Face and supported by His hand. It helps us to be bearers of peace, justice, reconciliation and optimism in our closed and wider environments, so that we can show ourselves as durable and creative even in the hardest and most unsure social conditions. The characteristic of the Orthodox believer remains, first of all, the living feeling of the presence of Emmanuel, and secondly, the consistent effort to make tangible the presence of Christ even to the others with our word, our work, our silence and all our being.
In a time when violence, injustice and poverty plague humanity and fill our hearts with anxieties and turbulence, the Christians feast comes again to turn on the Light of faith and hope in our souls. In our era, when human knowledge drowns our thought in the infinite--from the breathtaking greatness of space to the smallness of matter--our heart leaps to the eternal message of the Christian faith that the Infinite God, without beginning and without end, comes to take on our human nature and to guide us in the majesty of development: the deification (theosis) of grace.
The Logos/Word of God came to "lift up all humanity to Himself"-- i.e. to the real life and love. Let us accept Him with more dedication, completely opening the doors of our mind and our heart. Let us work so that more of our brothers and sisters near and far, can meet Him. All of our lives can be transfigured in a joyous feast, if the truth that "God with us" becomes the atmosphere in which we breathe and move.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God