Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Christ is Born!"

Dear Parish Faithful,


Not only is Christmas long gone by now, but we have also reached the final day on which we openly celebrate the Nativity of Christ.  On January 1 - the day of the Civil New Year - we commemorate the Circumcision of the Lord on the eighth day after His birth.  Following this we will begin to prepare for the great Feast of the Theophany of the Lord on January 6.  However, as we leave the open liturgical celebration of the Nativity, I wanted to share a very small excerpt from the justifiably famous Nativity Homily of St. Gregory the Theologian (+395).  If you have ever wondered about the origin of our festal greeting of "Christ is Born!" you will see that it was first said by St. Gregory as the beginning of his homily. From here, it was eventually incorporated into the Church's liturgical tradition through its use in the  first ode of the Nativity Canon of Matins; and then as the greeting and response that we use among ourselves as a kind of imitation of the paschal greeting of "Christ is Risen!"  St. Gregory was a profound theologian and a gifted orator, who employed the rhetorical techniques of late antiquity to great effect in describing the Mystery of the Incarnation of the eternal Word of God.  He also revels in the paradox of how divinity and humanity - the eternal and the temporal - are uniquely united in the Person of the Son of God made flesh:

        Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!  Christ is from heaven, go to meet Him.  Christ is on earth, be lifted up.  "Sing to the Lord,
        all the earth," and, say both together, "Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice," for the heavenly one is now
        earthly. Christ is in the flesh, exalt with trembling and joy:  trembling because of sin, rejoicing because of hope.  Christ
        comes from the Virgin ... Who would not worship the one "from the beginning?"  Who would not glorify the "last?"

        ... I myself will proclaim the power of this day. The fleshless one takes flesh, the Word is made coarse, the invisible one
        is seen, the impalpable one is touched, the timeless one makes a beginning, the Son of God becomes the Son of Man,
        "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for all ages."  Let Jews be scandalized, let Greeks mock, let heretics talk
        until their tongues ache.  They will believe when they see Him ascend into heaven, and if not then, at least when they      
        see Him coming from heaven and sitting as judge.

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