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What a strange and paradoxical mystery do I behold!

The voices of shepherds reach my ears. They are not playing any random tune on their flutes today; they are chanting a heavenly hymn with their lips.

Angels are reciting hymns, archangels are glorifying, The Cherubim are chanting and the Seraphim are extolling. They are all celebrating, as they observe God on earth and mankind in the heavens.

Today, Bethlehem is imitating heaven: instead of stars, it has received angels; instead of the Sun, it has received the Sun of righteousness. But do not ask how. Because wherever God wants, natural laws are overturned.  He therefore has willed it thus. And He has done it. He has descended on earth and has saved mankind. Everything collaborated with Him, for that very purpose.

Today is born the One Who exists eternally, and that which has never been before, now takes place. He is God, and He becomes a man!  He becomes a man, and yet, He remains God!

When He was born, the Judeans did not accept His paradoxical birth:  On the one hand, the Pharisees were misinterpreting the sacred scriptures; and on the other, the Scribes taught entirely different things.  Then there was Herod, who sought to discover the newborn child, not to honour it, but to put it to death.

Well, all of them today are rubbing their eyes in disbelief, seeing the King of Heaven on earth, with human flesh, born of a virginal womb.

Then there came kings, to worship the heavenly King of glory.

Soldiers came, to serve the General of the heavenly Hosts.

Women came, to worship the One Who transformed women's sorrow into joy.

Virgins came, to worship the One Who created breasts and milk and is now breastfeeding from a Virgin Mother.

Infants came, to worship the One Who became an infant, in order to compose a glorification hymn "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings..." (Psalm 8:2)

Children came, to worship the One Whom Herod's fury turned into first-martyrs.

Shepherds came, to worship the Good Shepherd, Who sacrificed His life for the sake of His sheep.

Priests came, to worship the One Who became Head Priest, like Melchisedek (Hebr.5:10)

Servants came, to worship the One Who took on a servant's form, in order to transform our servility into freedom.

Fishermen came, to worship the One Who transformed them into "fishers of men"  (Matt.4:19)

Tax-collectors came, to worship the One Who from tax-collectors proved them to be evangelists.

Whores came, to worship the One Who surrendered His feet to the tears of a whore.

In short, all sinners came, to see the Lamb of God that lifted onto His shoulders the sins of the world:

The Magi came, to worship Him

The shepherds, to glorify Him

The tax-collectors, to proclaim Him

The whores, to offer Him precious perfumes

The Samaritan woman, to quench her thirst

The Canaanite woman, to be benefited.

So, if everyone is leaping for joy, I too wish to leap for joy, I wish to dance, to celebrate. Without any stringed instrument, without a flute, without any lit candles in my hands. I celebrate, by holding -instead of those things in my hands- the swaddling-cloths of Christ.  They are my hope, they are my life, they are my salvation, they are my flute, my stringed instrument. That is why I keep them with me: to draw strength from their strength, to cry out together with all the angels "Glory to God on high", and with the shepherds, "peace on earth, and blessings to all men". (Luke 2:14)

And do you know why? Because He, Who was begotten pre-eternally by the Father inexplicably, is born today by a virgin, supernaturally.  How this came to be, is known only by the grace of the Holy Spirit. We can say only this: That both His celestial birth is true, and His terrestrial one is irrefutable.  It is true, that a God was begotten by God; it is true, that a man was born of a virgin. In heaven is the only One Who was ever begotten by the Father, as His only-begotten Son. And on earth, He is the only One Who was ever born to a virgin - Her only-born Son.  Just as it is irreverent to think of a mother in the case of His celestial begetting, thus it is blasphemy to assume there is a father in His terrestrial birth.  God begat Him in a divine manner. The Virgin gave birth to Him in a supernatural manner.  Thus, neither can His celestial begetting be explained, nor can His Incarnation be examined.  That He was born of a Virgin today, I am aware.  That He was begotten by the Father pre-eternally, I believe.  And I have learnt to honor His birth silently, without any curious research and useless discussions. Because, inasmuch as it pertains to God, one should not rely on the natural development of things, but believe in the power of Him, Who directs everything.

What could be more natural than a married woman giving birth? But how much stranger is it, for a virgin to give birth to a child, without a man, and yet remain a virgin?  Therefore, we can examine only whatever is in accordance with natural laws. But whatever occurs supernaturally, let us respect it speechlessly. Not because it is dangerous, but because it cannot be interpreted.

I feel awe, before such a divine mystery.... What can I say, and what can I utter?

I see Her, who gave birth. I also see Him, Who was born. But the manner of birth I cannot understand. You see, wherever God desires, natural laws are defeated.  That is what happened here:  natural law was put aside, and Divine Will enacted.  How inexpressible is God's mercy!

The pre-eternal Son of God, the incorruptible and invisible and incorporeal, has inhabited our corruptible and visible body.  For what reason?  Well, as you know, we people believe more in what we can see, rather than what we can hear of.  We believe in the visible. Not in the invisible. Thus, we did not believe in the true, invisible God, but instead, we worshipped visible idols with human forms.  So, God condescended to appear before us in a visible, human form, in order to disperse in that manner every doubt of His existence. And then, after teaching us with His tangible and undeniable Presence, lead us easily to the true faith; to the invisible and supernatural.

This miracle fills me with amazement!

I see the pre-eternal God as a child!

He rests in a manger, Whose throne is the heavens!

Human hands touch the inaccessible and incorporeal!

Tightly bound in swaddling clothes, is the One Who broke the bonds of sin!

However, this was His will:  To transform dishonour into honour; to clothe venality with glory; and to transfigure insult into virtue.

He assumed my body. He offers me His Spirit. He grants me the treasure of eternal life, by taking but also by giving:  He takes my flesh in order to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit in order to save me.

Behold, the virgin shall be with child (Isaiah 7:14).

These words may belong to the Synagogue, but they are the acquisition of the Church.  The Synagogue buried the yarn, but the Church donned the royal attire.

Judea gave birth to Him, but the entire world received Him.  The Synagogue nursed Him and nurtured Him; the Church received Him and benefited.

The vine sprouted within the Synagogue, but we are enjoying the grapes of Truth.  The Synagogue harvested the grapes, but the idolaters are the ones drinking the mystic drink. It (the synagogue) sowed the seeds in Judea, but the idolaters harvested the wheat with the sickle of faith. They plucked the rose with reverence, while the Judeans were left with the thorn of faithlessness.

The little bird has flown, and those fools are still guarding the nest.

The Judeans are struggling to interpret the Book of the Law, and the idolaters are harvesting the fruits of the Spirit.

Behold, the virgin shall be with child.  Tell me, then, Judean, WHO did she give birth to?

Show some boldness - please - even if it is like the one you showed before Herod. But you have no boldness. And I know why.  Because you are insidious. You spoke up to Herod, so that he might annihilate Him, but you say nothing to me, in case I worship Him.

Well then, WHO did She give birth to?  The Creator of all creation. And even if you remain silent, nature itself thunders it out loudly. She gave birth to Him, in the manner that He Himself wished to be born.  In nature there was no possibility of such a birth taking place.  But He, being the Master of Creation, designed a manner of birth that was paradoxical, thus showing that even though becoming a man, He was not born like a man, but only in a manner befitting a God.

He, Who fashioned Adam out of a virgin soil - He, Who afterwards out of Adam created woman - is born today of a virgin maiden who has defeated Nature, by overriding the law of wedlock.

Adam, then, without having a woman, acquired a woman.  The Virgin, now, without having a man, has given birth to a Man.

And why did this take place?  Here is why:

Women had an ancient debt towards men, given that woman had sprung from Adam without the intercession of another woman.  Thus, the Virgin today, in paying back to men the debt of Eve, has given birth without a man, thus indicating the parity of Nature.

Adam remained intact after the removal of his rib. The Virgin likewise remained undefiled, after the birth of the Infant.

But, notice one more thing:

The Lord did not fashion any other body in order to appear on earth.  He assumed the body of a human, thus ensuring that He did not appear to be scorning the material out of which Adam was fashioned.  In this way, God and man came to a mystical union. And the devil, who had enslaved man, fled.

God becomes man, but is born as God. If He originated - as I do - from an ordinary marriage, many would have regarded His birth as a hoax.  That is why He is born of a Virgin; that is why He preserves Her womb unharmed; that is why He preserves Her virginity intact: so that this strange manner of birth might become the cause for unshakeable faith.  To him, therefore, who doubts the seedless birth of the Logos-God, I shall invoke as witness the immaculate seal of virginity.

Tell me then, o Judean, did the Virgin give birth, or not?  If She did, why do you not confess that supernatural birth?  If, again, She did not give birth, then why did you trick Herod?  When he sought to learn where the Christ was to be born, was it not you who informed him "in Bethlehem of Judea"? (Matth.2:4).  Was I perhaps aware of which town or location?  Did I perhaps know the value of the Infant who had come into the world?  Didn't Isaiah and your own prophets speak of it? And you, the ungrateful enemy, did not explain what the truth really was?   You - the Scribes and the Pharisees, the precise guardians of the law - were you not the very ones who taught us about the Christ?  Were you not the ones who had interpreted the Scriptures?  Did we perhaps know your language?  And when the Virgin gave birth, were you not the ones who presented to Herod the testimony of the prophet Micah, "And you, Bethlehem, of the house of Ephrathah, are small among the thousands of towns of Judah; yet out of you shall come forth for me a leader of Israel, whose beginnings are from the commencement of the time of ages" ? (Micah 5:1)

He presented Himself as a man, in order to guide mankind. He presented Himself as God, in order to save the world.

Ah, but what beneficial enemies you are!  What philanthropical accusers!  You, inadvertently, indicated that the newborn Infant of Bethlehem is God.  You proclaimed Him, without meaning to.  You revealed Him, by striving to conceal Him.  You have done Him service, by wishing to harm Him.

What irrelevant teachers are you, really?  You hunger, yet you feed others.  You are parched, yet you irrigate others. You are destitute, yet you make others wealthy.

Come, therefore, and let us celebrate!  Come and join the festivity!  The manner of this festivity is unusual - as unusual as the reason of Christ's birth.

On this day, the age-old bonds have been broken.

The devil has been put to shame.

The demons have fled.

Death is abolished.

Paradise has been opened.

The curse has been lifted.

Sin has been driven out.

Delusion has been left behind.

The Truth has been revealed.

The sermon of piety has gushed forth and is spreading everywhere.

The kingdom of the heavens has been transplanted on earth.

Angels converse with mankind.

Everything has become one.

Why?

Because God has descended to earth, and man has been elevated to the heavens. God has come down to earth and is still in heaven. He is wholly in heaven and wholly on earth. He became a man and is God. He is God and has taken on flesh.  He is held in a virginal embrace, and in His hands, He holds the world.

Magi hasten to him. We hasten also. The star also hastens, to reveal the Lord of the heavens. But... He too hastens.  He hastens to Egypt.  And it is obvious that He is going there, to avoid Herod's insidiousness.  But this is for the sake of fulfilling the prophetic words: "On that day, Israel shall be the third one - after the Assyrians and the Egyptians - to receive the blessing of God upon the earth". (Isaiah 19:24)

What do you say to this, o Judean?  That you, who were first, have become third? Did the Egyptians and the Assyrians go before you, and the firstborn of Israel went behind them?  Indeed, that is the way things are: The Assyrians shall come first, because they were the first - with their Magi - who came and worshipped the Lord. Behind them came the Egyptians, who received Him when He sought refuge in their lands in order to avoid Herod's insidiousness.  Third and last are the Israelites, who came to know the Lord through the Apostles, after their baptism in the Jordan.

What else is left for me to say?

I see the Creator and a manger... an Infant and swaddling-cloths.... a post-birth virgin, shunned... so much poverty... so much indigence....

But can you see what wealth there is, amid such poverty?  The Wealthy One became poor for our sake.  He has neither a bed, nor a mattress.  They laid Him inside a lowly manger...

Ah, poverty - the source of wealth!  Ah, immeasurable wealth - hidden beneath poverty!

You lay inside a manger, and yet You can shake the entire world.

You are bound with swaddling cloths and yet, You break the bonds of sin.

You have not yet uttered a single word, but have taught the Magi the knowledge of God.

What can I say, and what can I utter?  Behold, a swaddled Infant! There is Mary - both a Mother and a Virgin!  There is Joseph, supposedly the Child's father!  She is the woman, he is the man. The names are legal, but without content.  Joseph was only betrothed to Mary; the Holy Spirit overshadowed Her.  Thus, filled with wonder, he did not know what to suppose about the Child: He did not dare say that it was the fruit of adultery. He was unable to express any blasphemous word against the Virgin.  Nor, again, could he claim the Child to be his, because he did not know how and by whom it was begotten.

Ah, but see how, in his confusion, he receives the answer from heaven, with the voice of an angel: "Joseph, do not be afraid of taking Mary your wife unto you, for the one that is inside Her is begotten of the Holy Spirit."  (Matth.1:20), thus revealing to him and to us that the Holy Spirit had overshadowed the Virgin.

But why did Christ wish to be born of a virgin, leaving her virginity intact?

Here is why:

Once, the devil had deceived the virgin Eve. Now, the angel brought the salvific message to the Virgin Mary.  Once, Eve had uttered words that became the cause for death; now, Mary gave birth to the Word-Logos, Who became the cause for eternal life.

Eve's word pointed to the tree that expelled Adam from Paradise;  Mary's Word-Logos pointed to the Cross, which put Adam back in Paradise.

To this, therefore, Logos of God and Son of the Virgin, Who opened a path in an inaccessible place, let us offer up glorification, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

 

Translation by A. N.

 

Article published in English on: 25-12-2010.

Last update: 25-12-2010.

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