Archive for the ‘Nativity of the Savior’ Category

Thy Nativity – Nativity Troparion videos.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

 

The Nativity Troparion (English),  in a beautiful Serbian melody:One of my favorites! 

 

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvGra7w70Uc

Here is is in a Russian melody:

 

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXvs-bXEVy4

 

Nativity Medley, in English and Slavonic. 

 

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvGra7w70Uc

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NB:“They departed into their own country another way.”

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Our encounter with the Nativity of Christ must change our way.

MATTHEW 2:12

Adoration of the Magi. From http://www.atelier-st-andre.net/en/pages/gallery/enicon13.html. Used with permission<br />
adoration-of-the-magi-www-atlier-st-andre-net.jpg And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. (Matthew 2:12)

 This scripture describes what we must do if there is to be a “nativity” in our hearts. As we celebrate the season of the Nativity of the Lord, we must also be continually having a nativity occurring in us. It is described in a previously commented upon hymn regarding the feast:

  Be glad, O human nature, thou barren desert, for the master hath come to make thee bear many children.

 For the event of our Lord’s nativity to have ANY personal meaning for us, our human nature must bear many children – it must give birth to many virtues. This begetting of children by us is the reason why our Lord became incarnate.

 This is only possible if we live according to the spiritual meaning of the historical event of the departure of the wise men; it is an imperative to our soul: we must live in “another” way. This way is published all over the Prophets, and especially in the Gospel. It is the way of truth, and light. This way is a difficult one, and not natural to us in the beginning. As we give birth to the virtues, they become easier for us to perform. Make no mistake – we must perform them. Today’s Epistle makes that plain enough:

 

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17) [1]

 

 May God help us to live in “another way”, which He showed to us, taught us, and enabled us to perform.

 

 

“NB” is shorthand for “nota bene” ,which is Latin for “Note well”. These shorter posts are meant to be “noted well” more often because they are briefer than the usual blog posts. I have “noted well”  that many of my flock does do not read the longer posts. I have a lot of stuff to tell you, so there will still be longer posts, but I also plan to post shorter “snippets” which will have “NB:” in the title.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

This article is at: http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2010-01-11-nb-they-departed-into-their-own-country-another-way+matthew2-12.doc

&

 

 

New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime

 

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Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (seraphim@orthodox.net)

 



[1] From James 2:14-26, read on the 32nd Monday after Pentecost.

 

 

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Sunday after Nativity 2009. Audio Homily. How should we react to evil?

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

LISTEN NOW

Matthew 2:13-23 13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.



If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-savior-nativity-04_2010-01-10+sunday-after-nativity.m3u

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Sunday after Nativity – events afterwards are to be expected.

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Brothers and sisters: Christ is born! 

When we read about the events that occurred right after the birth of Christ – in the 40 days or so right after the birth of Christ – we should be struck with how carefully God plans for our salvation. Everything was already arranged. He knew that Herod would wax wroth. He knew that he would try to kill Him. And although He was only a babe, Herod could not kill Him, because evil is powerless against good. Jesus avoided Herod quietly, very quietly. First He warned the wise men not to go back to Herod, and then He warned Joseph in a dream, to flee into Egypt, and he did. The God-man fled for His life into Egypt, as a babe, but a king as well as a babe, fully in control of everything.

Now Herod, after he saw that Christ had escaped his clutches, was extremely angry. Herod was a brute of a man. He later died in terrible agony, and worms ate his flesh while he was still alive. And the last thing he did was to call his guards to tell them to kill all his enemies, because he wanted to kill anyone that threatened him even after his death. And what did he do shortly after our Lord’s birth? He wanted to kill all the children in the area. Ten thousand holy Innocents were murdered. This should teach us something. It is historical fact, but brothers and sisters, do not read the bible as a history book, because the events in it are carefully arranged, by the providence of God, to teach us about the Christian life.

Now right after this glorious occurrence – a quiet occurrence, but glorious none the less – known by the wise men2, known by the shepherds3, known by the simple people4, and exclaimed throughout all the heavenly hosts5 – the birth of Christ – came a terrible torrent of evil upon that area. It was not accidental that this happened; it was inevitable that this would happen, and we should learn from this occurrence for our own lives.

The Christian life is struggle. The Christian life is battle to the death. Now, God gives us great consolation and fills our hearts with His grace and this exceeding happiness that a Christian should have, at least occasionally, when he wonders at the grace of God. Indeed, a Christian should be happy. And the real meaning of the word happy is blessed. He should feel truly redeemed, he should be at peace in his heart, because he knows that God desires his salvation more that he even desires it himself. But in the midst of this peace that we should feel, there are great deprivations and great difficulties and great sadness.

If a person indeed does not lament and mourn, then he is not a Christian. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."6 The mourning of these mothers was forced upon them. Some of these mothers certainly must have endured their pain with grace and received crown for what they endured. And others, they just lost their children and they probably were among those that later, in their old age, said, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him."7

They suffered involuntarily, but a Christian must suffer voluntarily. A Christian must understand that as God gives grace, the Evil one hates us and tries to take away everything that is given. He tries to snatch away the seed. Now, if we leave the seed out on the ground, the hard earth, it will be snatched away by those birds of the air, the demons.8 If we don’t protect the seed, and nurture the ground, then tares, weeds, will spring up and choke our life.9

We must expect temptations. The Fathers say, without temptations, no man can be saved. And the reason is because Satan hates good. When he sees good, he reacts against it. He used as his instrument Herod, that wicked man, who killed ten thousand holy innocent children, who had nothing whatsoever to do with the birth of Christ. We number then as martyrs.

We see this pattern repeated over and over and over again in the Gospels, in the entire scriptures, and you should see it in your life. Indeed, when you have something in which God truly blesses you, you should steel yourself and be careful, because Satan is lurking like a lion, waiting to devour10, and he will try to devour in the very near future after some victory is obtained.

Now, should we be afraid because of this? Should we be morose? No, not at all. Our Lord and God and Savior showed us the path, He showed us how to live. As a babe He ran away, at night, into Egypt, when He could have called down legions of angels to protect Him. As a man, He allowed the rabble to take Him by night, to try Him unjustly and crucify Him, when He could have called down legions of angels11. Evil thought that it was able to kill Christ, but it was powerless. Herod thought that he could kill Christ when He was born, but he was powerless.

Many times there are things that go on in our lives that truly wash over us like waves and cause us great distress, whatever it might be, such as a terrible situation at work, a family situation that grieves us, maybe our own sins, or something that we cannot battle very effectively at the time, and many other things. And indeed, also as a Christian, we should notice the world around us and grieve and lament and mourn that so few know the God-Man Jesus Christ, and so few live according to this knowledge, even within the church.

The examples of the Scriptures where they show that temptations follow God’s grace, sort of like a hyena follows after the dogs when they make a kill, and eventually will steal the kill from them.12 This is what happens. The demons follow after God and try to upset His grace. And this is possible to do, but only if we do not understand the mercy of God and only if we do not live in this mercy. If we live according to the Christian way of life and understand the Resurrection, then we are unshakable. What does it say about the martyrs that we read in the Old Testament, in the Wisdom of Solomon? – "In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace."13

Even in the midst of our trials, our difficulties, which indeed as Christians we should feel with a great depth of soul, and with great sadness concerning our own weaknesses, and the weaknesses and sins of those we love, and the difficulties that assail the Church, and all the rest, even in the midst of all these terrible things that occur, we must be at peace, because we must understand that God truly has our salvation planned. It only is required of us that we follow the trail that He has already blazed, that we live as He has taught us to live. Then it matters not, concerning the Herods of the world that try to kill us, because we will be at peace.

Truly the Gospels are a beautiful multi-faceted jewel. This story has many facets, and is a sweet story to tell to children. We can talk about Jesus on the donkey and the tree bowing down to worship Him as He went into Egypt, and the beautiful story of Justus and Dismas. The Good Thief was Dismas, who allowed the Theotokos and Joseph and the Family to pass and did not rob them. Later on, Dismas was saved, 30 years later, and Justus went to judgement because he had not shown compassion to the family. All these are beautiful stories, they are all true, and they are very profound. But there is a hidden meaning in these stories, and today I want you to try to understand this hidden meaning.

Expect temptation, but don’t fear it. Expect difficulties, but don’t fear them. Don’t become despondent because of the difficulties of living the Christian life. You are not the only one that struggles to say your prayers and gets bored with them. You’re not the only one that has difficulty in the middle of the fast with being crabby because you’d rather eat non-fasting foods. You’re not the only one that falls into difficulties with anger, or with lust, or with cowardice, or all the rest. If indeed, you understand that you are part of a plan, that God has redeemed you and will indeed perfect you until the day of Christ Jesus14, as St. Paul says, then you should not fear all these things. You should expect them, and like a good soldier, you should fight them.

A soldier who knows that there is going to be an invasion in the night readies himself. He makes sure his weapons are in good working order. He makes sure he understands what the commander has told him to do, what the plan of defense and counter-attack is. He does not cower in his foxhole, because that is a sure way to die. We must be like these soldiers. We are soldiers. We should expect attacks; we should expect Satan to try us, to make things difficult, but we should be at peace because we should feel part of the plan of God, that he cares for us and wishes us to be saved.

I believe in my heart, this is why the birth of Christ and the aftermath of his birth and all the planning that was done is described so carefully, and also such care is taken to describe things about the Mother of God and her birth, and the birth of St. John the Baptist, and all the prophecies. Their purpose is not just to give us an historical tapestry, but it is also to show us the care that God has for us in intimate detail.

So when you struggle tonight or tomorrow or the next day with a sin, God is aware and God cares about that struggle at that moment. Do not feel despondent about your struggle. Do not feel despondent about any losses that you suffer. They are only battle skirmishes. You can lose many battles and still win the war, as long as you stay the course that the Commander has given you. So we must stay this course, which is the living of the Christian life, with faith and with love, and with confidence. Don’t be afraid of temptations, brothers and sisters. Don’t expect everything to go perfectly well because you are a Christian. Every day as a Christian, you should mourn something. Mostly you should mourn your sins. You should mourn how little you’ve accomplished in holding on to the grace of God, which He has given. But in the midst of this mourning, you must not have a sense of hopelessness. Because even if you do not appropriate the grace that God wants to give you today, He will send down the same grace tomorrow and the next day and the next. You must learn to appropriate this grace. You must learn to live with faith. You must learn to see God’s plan in your life. Then you will realize the true meaning of the incarnation.

Jesus Christ lived the life that He wants us to be able to live. He accomplished what He wishes us to accomplish. The battle has been fought, and it is already a decisive victory. The kingdom of God is within you!15 We have all already won. We need only to appropriate this victory. It only appears to us that we are losing the battle, with our sins or with difficulties in life. Indeed God has already fought this battle for us. If we live according to the plan, and we feel secure in His embrace, just like a child, nothing can harm us. Little Sven has no worries in the world. He knows his mommy and daddy are going to take care of him. He does not worry whatsoever about what tomorrow will bring. This is you we should be. He’s just going to do what his mommy and daddy tell him, that’s all. He will grow, become bigger, stronger, and become a man. It’s the same with us. Rest in God’s plan, brothers and sisters.

Of course, to rest in it you must follow it. In the places where you don’t follow it you should feel great restlessness. You should feel great sadness if you’re not following his plan, if you’re not living according to the commandments in some way, if you’re not prioritizing your life properly. Indeed, then you should feel great fear and great trembling. But if you are following the plan as best as you can at the moment God will reward. God will not abandon. This is what this reading is really trying to show us. This is what all the planning that the Scriptures describe is trying to show us. God cares. God knows every hair on our heads.16 Certainly He knows every temptation we will encounter, every sin we will sin, every sadness we will feel. And He will not abandon us, but we are required to not to abandon Him, in order to remain close to His grace.

Brothers and sisters, believe in the incarnation and the Resurrection. Follow the path. You know how well it is marked out. It’s marked out well by the Scriptures and by the way of life in the Church, the perfect way of life. Strive to learn the commandments and be at peace, even though you will have worries and troubles. I tell you honestly, my life is filled with troubles and worries, more than I ever had in my life before. And they affect me in ways I wish they didn’t do. But I know absolutely that I am on the path, and therefore I’m not afraid. You should not be afraid either, even in the midst of all the difficulties you encounter. Stay on the path, listen carefully to the still small voice that God has, when he shows you the way, and be at peace. And save your souls in the midst of all tribulations. Amen.

Originally at: http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/feasts-of-the-savior-nativity-04_1999+sunday-after-nativity.html

1 This sermon was transcribed from one given on the Sunday after Nativity, Dec 27/ Jan 9 1999/ 2000, at St Nicholas Russian Orthodox church, Dallas, Texas
2 Matthew 2:1-12
3 Luke 2:8-18
4 Luke 2:18
5 Luke 2:13-14
6 Matthew 5:4
7 Luke 23:21
8 Cf. Matthew 13:3-9, the Parable of the Sower
9 Cf. Matthew 13:24-25 – the Parable of the tares
10 (1 Pet 5:8) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour
11 Matthew 26:53
12 In Africa, the wild dogs often make a kill, and the hyenas or lions often steal it from them.
13 Wisdom of Solomon 3:2-3
14 (Phil 1:6) Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
15 (Luke 17:20-21) And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: {21} Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
16 (Mat 10:30) But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Matthew 2:13-23

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. {14} When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: {15} And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. {16} Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, the and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. {17} Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, {18} In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. {19} But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, {20} Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. {21} And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. {22} But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: {23} And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

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NB:The barren desert will bear many children.

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Eve of Nativity

Christ cometh to be born, bestowing a strange regeneration upon the descendents of Adam, in that He is God. Be glad, O human nature, thou barren desert, for the master hath come to make thee bear many children. (Matins, Eve of Nativity, December 24, Canon, Ode I)

 

desert flowers http://www.desertusa.com/images/anza-113.jpgThe great power of the holy services of the church and especially the deeply theological and devotional content of matins is that it presents the important dogmas of our faith in startling and understandable ways. In every matins service, there is something that is too beautiful for words, and yet, the words being sung warm the soul and comfort it.

 

This sticheron above contains such words. A dogma of our faith is that Christ came so that human nature could change, be renewed, become holy. We know this (or should know this – many Christians do not understand this dogma), but in order for it to be completely active in us, we must experience it.

 

Here, the bearing of many children is used as a beautiful metaphor to sum up the entire good news of our salvation.

 

Human nature without God becoming man to change it is a “barren desert”. With the coming of the God-man, His teaching, example and His changing of human nature so that it can, if it chooses and desires, be completely changed into holiness and peace is represented by the exclamation ”the master hath come to make thee bear many children.”

 

These “children” are the virtues. They are the same virtues that our Lord Jesus Christ has, and that we are capable of obtaining.

 

The joy of a barren woman who has a child is profound. So is that of the barren soul which becomes clothed in the virtues. This is the real “nativity story”.



 

A comment to this post quoted the entire  35th chapter is Isaiah. Obviously, this sticheron is based on this passage. So, a little bit outside of the "letter of the law" regarding the "nota bene" posts) (all are meant to be short, so they are read more, and therfore more beneficial to our readers), here is that amazing chapter:

Be glad, thou thirsty desert: let the wilderness exult, and flower as the lily.  (2)  And the desert places of Jordan shall blossom and rejoice; the glory of Libanus has been given to it, and the honour of Carmel; and my people shall see the glory o the Lord, and the majesty of God.  (3)  Be strong, ye relaxed hands and palsied knees.  (4)  Comfort one another, ye fainthearted; be strong, fear not; behold, our God renders judgement, and he will render it; he will come and save us.  (5)  Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear.  (6)  Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the stammerers shall speak plainly; for water has burst forth in the desert, and a channel of water in a thirsty land.  (7)  And the dry land shall become pools, and a fountain of water shall be poured into the thirsty land; there shall there be a joy of birds, ready habitations and marshes.  (8)  There shall be there a pure way, and it shall be called a holy way; and there shall not pass by there any unclean person, neither shall there be there an unclean way; but the dispersed shall walk on it, and they shall not go astray.  (9)  And there shall be no lion there, neither shall any evil beast go up upon it, nor at all be found there; but the redeemed and gathered on the Lord’s behalf, shall walk in it,  (10)  (35:9B) and shall return, and come to Sion with joy, and everlasting joy shall be over their head; for on their head shall be praise and exultation, and joy shall take possession of them: sorrow and pain, and groaning have fled away. (Isa 35:1-10 Brenton Septuagint)
 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

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Nativity Epistle of Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

 

Christ Is Born! Glorify Him!

Archbishop KyrillNo sooner was our Lord Jesus Christ born in Bethlehem, joining us under the most contradictory of circumstances, that His persecution began. Upon receiving the news of the Messiah’s Nativity from the three Wise Kings, the most wicked King Herod, in a fit of rage, sent his soldiers to slaughter all the boy babies who had been born then in those parts, from the infants to the two-year-olds. Herod’s crime is described in historical accounts. But the Evangelist St. Matthew reports that the Lord sent an angel to warn St. Joseph, in a dream, of the threat to the Holy Family, so that they might flee the vicious persecution.

So it was that the Nativity of the Son of God, amazing the shepherds and gloriously heralded by the heavenly hosts, had on the one hand inspired the Wise Kings to undertake a complex pilgrimage, that they might find God Incarnate, worship him and offer Him their gifts – while in the soul of the wicked, ignorant and idolatrous king (for Herod was not a righteous king at all, but prayed to idols), it only inspired a ferocious hatred and a stubborn obsession with asserting his ruthless personal agenda.

As we know, the hatred of Herod and others of his ilk succeeded in bringing about the crucifixion of our Saviour at Calvary. As in the earliest days of Christ’s earthly life, this hatred and cruelty proved futile: Christ rose from the dead. It is impossible for the evil powers of this world to vanquish Divine Providence, to subordinate Divine Reason to their own wicked ambitions.

Nonetheless, our Lord Jesus Christ’s entire earthly life unfolded against the backdrop of these two forces locked in struggle with each other: on one side, those who accepted Him, who searched for Him, like the Wise Kings, and came to worship Him, joyfully offering such gifts as they could, as an expression of their love and devotion to the Divine Child – and on the other side, those who searched for ways to slay Him, for the means to overcome and to destroy God Himself.

It is no secret that this struggle between good and evil continues on earth to this day. We should be neither troubled by it, nor despondent over it. No matter what ingenious tools theomachists devise to wage war against Divine Grace and Divine Love, Christ Himself or even our own weak Christian selves, theomachy – war against God – is always doomed to exposure and disgrace. God and Divine Truth are always triumphant over the tricks and the outright crimes of theomachists. It is precisely because of these trials and tribulations that we, the faithful, are given the chance to prove ourselves, and also to prove to ourselves, that we are on the side of the Wise Kings, to whom God even granted permission to understand the secrets of the stars & the cosmos, and not on the side of the ignorant Herod, a cruel idolater, a selfish egotist consumed with lust for power.

All of us who have come here this day to worship Christ the Divine Newborn Child proclaim our own choice before all the world. We are joined in this act of faith by some two billion people who, regardless of the degree of their own spiritual development, view Christmas Day (the Feast of the Nativity) whether it be on the Julian or Gregorian calendar, as a great, radiant and holy feast day. Regardless of the vices that afflict mankind, its best aspects do indeed honour, revere and worship our Lord, love the Divine Child and strive to bring Him joy, to serve and emulate Him at least in something. This is why, against all odds, life on earth continues and thus, there remains hope for our salvation.

Let us therefore, as we begin a new civil year, intensify our efforts, so that the light of Christ and the Faith of true Christians might inspire more people to come worship the Christ Child, in the year to come. Amen.

† KYRILL
Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America

Link:http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/synod/eng2010/1enarbpkyrillepistle.html

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Nativity Epistle of Bishop John of Caracas and South America

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

 

Bishop John of Caracus and South AmericaBrothers and sisters, beloved children in Christ, my dear Christians, yet again we are able to celebrate the radiant feast of the Lord’s incarnation, to honour this divine event, when the pre-eternal Son of God descended upon this earth and became man, so as to lift up fallen humanity and raise it from the earthly to the heavenly.

When we celebrate the Nativity of Christ, we are not merely commemorating an historical event, the beginning of the earthly ministry of the Son of God, but above all we must bear witness by our lives of His real and continuing presence in our midst, in His holy Church, which is an eternal type of the cave of Bethlehem, in which Christ is ever born, lives, teaches, suffers, dies, rises and raises, and saves man. The incarnation of the Lord is not merely an historical fact, but an eternal truth, an eternal mystery,ever continuing, without end, within His holy Church.

The whole life of the Church is in fact a Nativity of Christ, His work of redemption, salvation – Christ on earth seeking to raise us to heaven. If we are truly living partakers of her life we will be blessed to stand as the shepherds of Bethlehem at the manger of the divine Infant, but if we do not partake in the life of Christ’s Church, if we remove ourselves from her, our lot will be with the wretched inhabitants of Bethlehem who closed their doors. They were right next to the Saviour, but never knew him.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!

+John, Bishop of Caracas and South America

Link: http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/synod/eng2010/1enbpjohnepistle.html

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Ambvon Prayer on the Feast of the Nativity of the Savior

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Nativity of the Savior - Novgorod. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/nativity-novgorod-01.gif

O Master, Christ our God, Who from before all ages didst shine forth from the  Father [Greek: "from Thine unoriginate Father"] without  passion,

and in the latter days wast ineffably incarnate and born of the most  holy Virgin;

Who for our sakes wast made poor, that by Thy poverty we might be  enriched;

Who wast wrapped in swaddling clothes as an infant, and laid in a manger,

yet as God possessest all things: Thyself accept our humble prayers and  praises, as Thou didst the Shepherds’ songs of praise and the gifts and homage of  the Magi.

Make us to be like unto the heavenly Host praising Thee in hymns, Who art born  on earth;

Shew us to be heirs of the eternal joy prepared for those that worthily honor  Thy Nativity.

Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians, uphold Thy Churches, Thy priests  and all Thy people.

For Thou art God that lovest mankind, and art glorified, together with Thine  unoriginate Father, and Thine all-holy, and Good, and Life-creating Spirit, now  and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

From an ancient Ambon Prayer. This text appears in Greek and Slavonic in Orlov’s "Divine  Liturgy of St.Basil", as Prayer No. 73. Provided by Fr John Shaw, (Bishop Jerome) via email

 

From http://www.orthodox.net/trebnic/ambvon-nativity.html

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Nativity Epistle of Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany 2010

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Christ is born, glorify Him!

And the Word was made flesh (John 1:14)

Archbishop Mark of BerlinThe Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God is beyond comprehension to the feeble intellect of mankind. Exactly how this was manifested is unknown even to the angels, archangels and other heavenly bodiless powers. The Holy Fathers say that for man, who has not yet finally healed himself of the sin of pride, it is risky to study the depths of the Divine, in which the Mystery of the pre-eternal Council of the Three-Sun Divinity is hidden. But at the same time, Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition clearly open for all of us the reason why the Son of God was born of the Most-Pure Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. The Divine Word, the Second hypostasis of the Most-Holy Trinity, the Divine Logos, was incarnated for no other reason that for our sake and for the sake of our salvation.  

The Lord Almighty, “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3), the all-creating Word, by Whom “were the heavens made” (Psalms 33:6), and by Whom “all things were made” and “the world was made” (John 1:3, 10), chose us, the fallen, weak, foolish, poor, in order to enrich us with Himself. He, upon Whom the many-eyed Cherubim and burning Seraphim dare not gaze, descended to our extreme poverty, in order to become father and brother and friend to us, the rejected. He became the Son of Man, assumed the flesh of mankind in order to make us communicants and heirs of His unutterable glory and His Kingdom. The Son of God entered our nature, which is infected and rotted with sin, in order to heal it from within. He, the all-wealthy, became poor, in order to enrich us, the impoverished.

Out of all of creation, mankind is closer and dearer to the All-Merciful Savior. Not other creature does the Lord nourish with His most-pure Flesh and His life-giving Blood. No other creature is created in the image and likeness of God.

Let us ponder, dear brothers and sisters, why of all the names in the tongue of man, did the Son of God choose the name “the Word.” Was in not so that we, His disciples and followers, would cherish the gift of speech which separates us from all the earthly creatures?

Since we are created in the image and likeness of God, our language itself must reflect the image of the word of God and its power. Used in accordance with its Divine purpose, it creates everything for the good, similarly to the Word of God. The word of God’s saints heals and teaches, it soothes the savage beasts and consoles the suffering, it lifts up the fallen and raises the dead. The word of man, given wings through prayer, passes unimpeded through the heavens and reaches the Divine throne. It has been thus in ancient and not-so-ancient days, and so, by the grace of God, should it be in our day.

Yet many today do not believe in the constructive power of the word, and carelessly dismiss this gift of God, using it for lowly, fleshly purposes. Sinful filth has rendered the word of mankind powerless. The world, as never before, is choking and dying from idle, empty and false words—those very words for which we will be obliged to answer for on the Day of Judgment. If the word is not sanctified by prayer, if, having been given to us to communicate with God, it becomes an instrument used to achieve purely temporal goals, it will become a destructive and soul-dooming instead of a positive force. There are more than enough examples of this in the contemporary world.

But we, as children of the Church of Christ, no longer belong to this world, which had rejected the Word of God at its peril. The Lord Himself has “chosen” us “out of the world” (John 15:19), as He once selected His first disciples. We, the chosen ones, Orthodox Christian, know that the Word of God did not only at one time become Flesh, but has remained with us forever in the Church, in His Body. It has remained with us, illuminating our word, our human word, and preserves its divine power when we use it for prayer, and, correspondingly, in our service: the pastor in his words of edification and denunciation; the teacher in his words of wisdom and reason; students and the flock—words of humility, meekness and obedience in the image of the our Lord Jesus, “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).

The world today needs the word of truth no less than in those times, when the “light of wisdom”  first shone from the Bethlehem cave. In the Church of Christ this light shines eternally from the Heavenly Bethlehem, in the Church, the Word of God resounds, illuminating and sanctifying the speaking flock of Christ. The Lord came to earth not to doom fallen mankind, but to save it. If our word is like the Word of God, our minds and hearts will be filled with His Spirit, the Spirit of truth, and we will be true children of God Almighty and lanterns unto the world, even if “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19), yet seeking salvation. Amen.

Link: http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/synod/eng2010/1enarbpmarkepistle.html

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Nativity Epistle of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

 

Archpastors and brethren, most honorable fathers,
and all Orthodox children of the Russian Diaspora,
beloved in the Lord! 

Metropolitan HilarionI congratulate you with all my heart on the all-glorious and divinely salvific feast of the Nativity of Christ and the impending New Year! 

Each year the feast of the Nativity of Christ enters into our hearts with ineffable spiritual joy—the joy that came to earth when the angel of the Lord announced the birth of Christ the Savior to the simple shepherds of Bethlehem. The feast of the Nativity also fills us with radiant joy through the profound content of its divine services, which illumine our souls: the deeply edifying and divinely inspired hymnody of the Nativity and the readings taken from the prophecies. 

 Hieromartyr Hilarion (Troitsky) wrote thus of the miracle of the birth of the divine Infant: "The heavens proclaimed the birth of God on earth, yet this proclamation was magnificent and silent, because the stars were the heavens’ mouth. This event, which the whole Christian world now celebrates, at the time passed almost completely unnoticed." And this was probably because everything that is great takes place in stillness and mystery. 

In the night of the Nativity, near the city of Bethlehem, in a humble cave which shepherds used for penning their flocks, was born Him Whose name has become close to millions of people in our land. For Jesus, the divine Infant, Who was born of the Virgin Mary, came to proclaim to us the glad tidings of our salvation—the Gospel of joy and light, the good news of new life." The Son of God became man so that man might become the son of God," the Holy Hieromartyr Irenaeus of Lyon wrote of Christ the Savior. In the divine Infant our salvation became visible. In God, Who for our sake became man, we all sense ourselves beloved and cherished in the eyes of the creator.  

Rejoicing with the angelic hosts that unceasingly glorify God in the heavens, with them we sing the wondrous hymn of the angels: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men!" This joy is transmitted to all men, from age to age, from generation to generation. During the difficult 20th century this joy gave to our people the strength to endure persecution at the hands of their neighbors and kin, wars, invasion by foreign foes, estrangements. 

And today, when things are still unsettled in the world, when we are threatened by the economic disorders to which the unrestrained striving for wealth and profits, and the abandonment of moral principles have brought us, let us not be daunted by the stormy waves of the sea of life, for we are not alone in this world. In the hymnody of the Nativity of Christ we sing: "God is with us! Understand, ye nations, and submit yourselves, for God is with us!" If with all our mind, all our heart, all our life we will strive to be with God, then no difficulty or trial will discourage us. And no one will be able to deprive us of the joy that comes to us from on high, and which the Gospel tells us no one can take from us (John. 16:22). 

This past year there took place in the life of the reunited Russian Orthodox Church an event long awaited by the faithful in the homeland: the all-pure Mother of God, in her miraculous image—the Kursk-Root Icon of the Sign—visited Russia and its native precincts in the Kursk-Root Hermitage. It was a joyful thing to behold the faith and zeal of the tens of thousands of believers who came to venerate the Directress of the Russian Diaspora. One may rightly say that this event brought them together spiritually and united them. All of this gives one hope that, with God’s help, in the year 2010 also the good traditions of that spiritual life of prayer, the beginnings of which were laid by the ever-memorable Patriarch Alexy and Metropolitan Laurus, will develop further and become the surety of the spiritual unity of our Holy Church. 

The year 2010 will mark the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Russian Church Abroad. Thus, we would like to thank the hierarchs and pastors who carry out their tasks with diligence and zeal, the staff members of the departments of the Synod, the Church-affiliated social organizations, the parish schools, the sisterhoods, and all who help strengthen the Church throughout the Russian Diaspora, and to call upon them to work toward the fulfillment of the goals which lie before our Church in the field of spiritual, educational and missionary service. 

With "Christ is born! Glorify Him!" the Holy Church addresses us during these radiant festal days. Let us follow this summons and glorify Him in our prayers, acts, words and thoughts. 

The day of the Nativity of Christ is a feast of peace, hope and the love of God. Let each of us strive to translate this day into deeds pleasing to God—let us give alms and help our neighbors, treat each person with goodness and love, become better and, most important, closer to God. With all my soul I wish that you will greet and celebrate the radiant feast of the Nativity of Christ in the joy of the Lord Who came into the world "for our sake and for our salvation." Let the joy of the radiant Nativity of Christ enter into each home, each family, and warm our hearts with the fervor of divine Love. 

May your souls be filled with splendor and joy, like the cave of Bethlehem, where the divine Infant, the Savior of the world, was born. May God bless our homes and families with peace, happiness and prosperity during the coming year and all the days of our life. May the star of Bethlehem guide you on the path to salvation. 

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has now been born of the Ever-virgin Mary, remain with all of you. 

+Hilarion,
Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

Link:http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/synod/eng2010/1enchristmasepistlemh.html

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