Obviously, the central figure in the Nativity story is Christ Himself, the Logos of God become incarnate as a human being. The next most central figure is the Virgin Mary. Tradition teaches us that the Virgin Mary was born to elderly parents, Ioachim and Anna, who had faith to believe that God would grant them a child in old age. She was chosen by God before her birth for this specific role of carrying the Son of God in her womb and allowing Him to enter the creation as a new-born babe. She was raised in the temple from the age of two or three, and then when she came out of the temple around age fourteen, almost immediately she was betrothed to Joseph, and then visited by the Archangel Gabriel, and asked to be part of the God’s plan for our salvation.
Monthly Archives: December 2019
The story of the birth of Christ and its true significance is often clouded by the commercialism of the season. There is a very frenzied pace to these days which can so easily depersonalize us and dampen the true joy of the season. The stores tempt us for weeks on end to buy this thing or by that thing. Some of us prefer to speak of the ‘Holiday Season’ rather than of Christmas. Many schools have forbidden the remembrance of Christ’s birth in the classroom. Yes, throughout our society, many fail to remember that the coming of Christ is truly at the heart of the Christmas celebrations.
What can we do? Let us remember that the season celebrates the love of God revealed in the coming of Christ. For those with faith, the coloured lights, the green trees, the wreaths and the flowers are the symbols of the joy of Christmas. Let us celebrate the joy of Christ’s coming!
Let us share the love of God with others. Christ has come to bear witness to the Father’s love for us. We too can share this love with others, especially with the poor and less fortunate among us. We can be sensitive to those who cannot easily celebrate because of a loss in their lives. Let us be the ambassadors of God who share His care and philanthropy.
Let us seek the Lord with an open heart as the shepherds and wise men did. This means that we find opportunities for prayer and meditation, for reading the Scriptures related to Christ’s coming. This means that we can make Christmas a special day by participating in the Divine Liturgy and by receiving Holy Communion with reverence for God, with faith and with love.
To Christ Our Lord be glory, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
11th SUNDAY OF LUKE, Luke 14: 16-24
The parable of the Great Banquet, which we heard today in the Holy Gospel, was told by Jesus at the house of a Pharisee lord during a dinner in which he had been invited with others. He took the opportunity to teach this parable from the words of one of those who ate with Him: “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15).
A good fruit of a good tree, this wonderful saint had noble and eminent parents. He was born in Rome, where his father was in imperial service. His mother, Anthea, heard the Gospel from the great Apostle Paul himself, and was baptised by him. Being early left a widow, she entrusted her only son to the education and service of the Bishop of Rome, Anacletus. Seeing how greatly Eleutherius was gifted and illumined by the grace of God, the bishop ordained him deacon at the age of fifteen, priest at eighteen and bishop at twenty. Endowed by God with wisdom, he made up for what he lacked in years. This godly man was made bishop in Illyria, with his seat at Valona in Albania. He kept his flock like a good shepherd, adding to their number from day to day. The Emperor Hadrian, a persecutor of Christians, sent a commander, Felix, with soldiers, to seize Eleutherius and take him to Rome.
When the furious Felix arrived in Valona and went into the church, and heard and saw God’s holy hierarch, his heart was suddenly changed and he became a Christian. Eleutherius baptised him and set off with him for Rome, as merrily as though he were going to a feast, not to trial and torture. The Emperor put the gently-born Eleutherius to harsh torture, flogging him, burning him on an iron grid, boiling him in pitch and burning him in a fiery furnace. But, by God’s power, Eleutherius was delivered from all these deadly torments. Seeing all this, Choribus the governor proclaimed that he himself was a Christian. Choribus was tortured and then beheaded, and so also blessed Felix. Finally, the imperial executioners cut off the honoured head of St Eleutherius. When his mother, holy Anthea, came and stood over the dead body of her son, she was also beheaded. Their bodies were taken to Valona, where St Eleutherius glorifies the name of Christ to this day by many wonders. He suffered in the time of Hadrian, in the year 120.
10th SUNDAY OF LUKE, Luke 13, 10-17
Many people today think of religion as a matter of feeling or emotion that simply helps them cope with the problems of life. That may sound appealing, but it is ultimately a perspective that limits God and takes away real hope. For Jesus Christ was not born simply to change how we feel about our broken world and lives. No, He came to restore and fulfill the entire creation, including every aspect of our lives as human beings in the image and likeness of God.
~ Word of the Church Fathers ~
Even if you are not what you should be, you should not despair. It is bad enough that you have sinned; why in addition do you wrong God by regarding him in your ignorance as powerless?
Is He, who for your sake created the great universe that you behold, incapable of saving your soul? And if you say that this fact, as well as his incarnation, only makes your condemnation worse, then repent; and he will receive your repentance, as he accepted that of the prodigal son (Luke 15:20) and the prostitute (Luke 7:37-50).
But if repentance is too much for you, and you sin out of habit even when you do not want to, show humility like the publican (Luke 18:13): this is enough to ensure your salvation. For he who sins without repenting, yet does not despair, must of necessity regard himself as the lowest of creatures, and will not dare to judge or censure anyone. Rather, he will marvel at God’s compassion.
St Peter of Damaskos, Book I: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 3)