Brothers and Sisters, Beloved in the Birth of the God-Child; Children of our Dearest Mother, the Holy Orthodox Church:
The last moments of the second millennium after Christ's Nativity are slipping away. Since the holy night of the Nativity, mankind has travelled hither on a long, wearisome, and winding road: A road demanding crucial choices at every single step; a road, the poles of which are marked by the pure, childlike faith of the shepherds in Bethlehem; marked by the reverent awe of the Chaldean astrologers; marked, on the one hand, by the exultant «Hosanna!» and, on the other, by the savage cruelty of Herod and the spiteful «away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him» of the deranged throng (St. John, XIX:15).
Since the days of the Star and the manger in Bethlehem, the life-bestowing Tomb, and the mysterious tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost, there has streamed forth the never-waning light of the past two millennia: A light flowing through the podvig of apostleship; the podvig of all Christian Martyrs, Confessors, holy Hierarchs, holy monks and nuns; the podvig of all the lesser brethren of Christ, who followed the shepherds of Bethlehem; the podvig of the Chaldean astrologers and the Galilean fishermen; and that of all who have remained faithful unto death and have received the crown of life (Revelation II:10).
Since the time of Herod's blood-thirsty ferocity, of the envy and spite of the Judean high priests, Scribes and Pharisees, since the time of the proud self-reliance of the pagan world, there also creeps a darkness over the past two millennia: A darkness filling the mouth of the ancient snake and hungrily enveloping, obfuscating, choking, and poisoning all that is light, all that is pure, all that is holy, all that is Divine, and all that is human in man. A darkness bringing forth endless strife, contentions, and heresies, feeding the dark passions of fallen human nature, kindling the dark fire of its desire to place itself in God's place, to become a god without God.
«And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not» (St. John I:5). And how often the light has grown dimmer (not because of its powerlessness, but because of the powerlessness of men) in the midst of frenzied darkness, growing thicker and thicker around it. How vigorously false lamps, the servants of darkness, have insisted, and yet insist, on replacing, it with their showy luster. How often genuine Christianity has been on its deathbed and true Christians only a step away from despair. How outrageously the darkness of evil religions and a lack of faith have assailed the light of the Christian Faith; how brazenly, with venom, this darkness struggles to extinguish and substitute the light with the faith of the proud «Christian» West, a faith rendered faithless: a wine mingled with water, the dead water of the dark «light».
How is it, then, that darkness will not consume the light? How can the light resist? And how are men to rejoice, today, and say that on this day «the whole of creation is gladdened; for the Lord and Saviour is born in Bethlehem, all pagan delusion has been cast down...»?
«Ye are the light of the world» (St. Matthew V:14), Christ the Lord says to His Disciples, He Who is the eternal, the abiding Spring of light, Who said regarding Himself: «I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life» (St. John VIII:12). Christ alone is light by essence; and they, His disciples, were light by gift, by Grace, since they followed Him. And His life became their life; His light became their light. They, themselves, became the clear blue eyes of mankind, without which the latter wanders, «wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked» (Revelation III:1) in the chaos and darkness of pagan delusions. «And men loved darkness rather than light» (St. John III:19).
But «fear not, little flock!» (St. Luke XII:32).
Fear not, ye who have sojourned together with the shepherds and wise men towards Bethlehem; fear not, ye who have accepted in the friable soil of your hearts the seed of the heavenly Sower; fear not, ye, who have placed your hands on the plough and have never turned your face back; fear not, ye who started your course upward, toward the steep Golgotha; ye who have denied yourselves, taken up your cross, and followed Christ, the light of the world, unto the end. Fear not, little flock! To be sure, the flock is small; but it is inundated with the light of Christ, with Christ's truth, with Christ's love; and these things render the small flock universal in scope, making that which is small and seemingly weak great and spiritually strong; these things, the light of Christ, Christ's truth, and Christ's love, are the bulwark of the small flock in the seasons of its hardest trials, shaming its persecutors with the Apostle's words: [they consider us] «as dying, and, behold, we live» (II Corinthians VI:9). The flock is small, not because it is a self-contained community of the «perfect» who loathe the «unworthy». No! Indeed, like the chastity of a pure damsel, it guards its fidelity to Christ; but it also extends its arms to those who have torn themselves from it with a childlike absence of vengefulness. Being reviled, it endures; being cursed, it blesses; being hated, it loves. For two thousand years, now, this small flock, gathered around its gentle Shepherd, has nurtured the whole of humankind with truth, love, and light. Before its countenance, darkness dissipates; before its countenance, the temples of idols collapse; before its countenance, the lie and the spite of the devil and his toadies melt away in powerless fury. And together with it, with Christ's little flock, its gaze upon the very heart of mankind, «all of the Angels of Heaven rejoice; today, men make glad, for the whole of creation is gladdened; for the Lord and Saviour is born in Bethlehem, all pagan delusion has been cast down, and Christ reigns unto all ages».
Wishing you a joyous Nativity Feast and Nativity Season,
Bishop Photii of Triaditza
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