Christmas and Epiphany

Christmas and Epiphany


Message by Metropolitan Paul - November 2006 - 2007

Christmas and Epiphany are at hand. We are once more preparing to see ourselves reflected in the scene of the encounter in Bethlehem of the divine with the human, of the union of God with His creation – man.

We take time to thank the Baby of Bethlehem for having enabled us to go on hoping and working, and not yielding in the midst of darkness around us.

Thank Him, the God-Man for reminding us that His Name is Emmanuel (meaning God with us).

Thank Him, for having the angels continuously dew our hearts and minds with the sweet theme of their heavenly song:

      • Glory to God in the Highest
      • And on earth peace
      • Good will among all people

In this season, we have reason to rejoice in Him, because once more He brings to us the heart-warming tidings of his presence with us, through the remembrance of His Nativity. Yes! We rejoice even when nothing around us gives us reason for joy. For us Christians, joy comes not from what we are or what we do, but from what He is and He does in and through us. Thinking in terms of the human condition, we ask: Was His life on earth a peaceful existence! Did peace reign in His Church? He exhorts us saying: “Rejoice and be glad”. And to His sorrowful disciples He promised: “No one will take your joy from you”. Yes! Joy is an integral part of our Christian predicament, whether on still waters or on stormy seas, whether in time of peace or in time of trouble.

It is with that spirit of Christmas joy that I greet you all, wherever you are, and whoever you are.

The Church in which I was born is the same Church which the Divine incarnate Child established two millennium ago. Since then, this church has continuously lived its Christian faith under new Herods; Sometimes it was converted into a desert of temptation, put to test by new Pharisees and new Pilates, and at times turned into a mountain of transfiguration. Many times it was reduced to a garden of Gethsemane, and borrowed the name of Golgotha with the Cross planted like trees on its soil. It seldom enjoyed the foretaste of the joy of the resurrection. In other words I can say, my Church shares the geography of the map of Jesus’ life from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, and from nativity to Resurrection.

This season rekindles in our hearts the star of Bethlehem; it enlightens in us the vision of salvation; it renews in us the will of regeneration; it sharpens in us the determination for renewal; it deepens in us the aspiration for peaceful concord that we and all the world have so desperately lacked in our history.

Let us then all, clergy and lay people, men and women alike, each in his/her own capacity and ways answer this divine challenge by once more going through the purifying experience of rebirth in spirit, by letting Christ the Lord Incarnate come and dwell in our hearts. Come, and let us follow His footsteps from Bethlehem to wherever we now are. Let us glorify Him by offering to Him our own lives as a living sacrifice symbolized in the gifts "gold and frankincense and myrrh". What else can we give to Him in exchange for His sublime gift, Himself-in-our-own-human-nature, if not ourselves clothed with His image and bearing His name as the authentic name authenticating our own names as human beings.

With this readiness of hearts, let us now turn and shout to one another:

"Christ is born and revealed good tidings to one another".

 
Message by Metropolitan Paul - November 2005

The celebration of the birth of Christ was introduced in the ecclesiastical calendar at a relatively late date. During the first four centuries, the Church concentrated on Epiphany, the first and glorious manifestation of the Lord, rather than on His birth, an event which seemed somehow, to the faithful, private. We will not underestimate the inspiration by which the Holy Spirit has impelled the whole Christian community to complete Jesus' birth itself and honour it better. We shall strive to receive the message and the grace that Christmas brings with our whole heart. We shall consider the period which lasts from Christmas to Epiphany as an individual feast, of which Christmas is the starting point and Epiphany is the culmination. The prolongation of this celebration offers increased possibility for our conversion to Him who comes.

The Orthodox Church thought of Christ in terms of light. He is the Son of God who became a small child laid in a manger. He is above all the incarnate God, the Light who triumphed over darkness.

This spiritualization of Christmas evidences a very different state of mind, and finds its perfect formulation in the troparion of the Nativity : Your Nativity, Christ our God, gave rise to the light of knowledge in the world. Those who worshipped the stars learned to worship You, Sun of Justice, and You came Lord from the east of the heavens. Glory to You.


 

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