2019 NATIVITY MESSAGE OF HIS GRACE, BISHOP PAUL
For today I see equality of honor between heaven and earth, and a way for all those below to things above, matching the condescension of those on high. However great the heaven of heavens may be, or the upper waters which form a roof over the celestial regions, or any heavenly place, state, or order, they are by no more marvelous or honorable than the cave, the manger, the water sprinkled on the Infant and His swaddling clothes. For nothing done by God from the beginning of time was more beneficial to all or more divine than Christ’s nativity, which we celebrate today.… The very Word of God from God emptied Himself in an indescribable way, came down from on high to the lowest state of man’s nature, and indissolubly linked it with Himself, and in humbling Himself and becoming poor like us, He raised on high the things below, or rather, He gathered both things into one, mingling humanity with divinity, and by so doing He taught everyone that humility is the road that leads upwards, setting forth Himself as an example before men and holy angels alike.
(St. Gregory Palamas on the Nativity).
The Word of God, timelessly begotten of the Father, takes on our fallen human nature and raises it on high. But He didn’t accomplish this through some great demonstration of His omnipotent power. He is born into this world owning nothing and having no home. He is born in a manger, in a cave. His humble beginning in time reveals the Incarnate Timeless One.
This is what happens at every Divine Liturgy. We are invited to a banquet to partake of the Incarnate One. We humbly partake of bread and wine now become His Body and Blood. This banquet is the theme of the Gospel of Luke read the 2nd Sunday before the Nativity. When people start making excuses for not attending, this is reported to the householder issuing the invitation.
Then the householder in anger said to his servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.” (Luke 14:21)
St. Ambrose in commenting on this verse says, “He invites both good and evil to enter in order to strengthen the good and change the disposition of the wicked for the better. The saying that was read today is fulfilled, ‘then wolves and lambs will feed together.’”
There are many interpretations of this gospel reading. Perhaps one way to look at it is to answer the invitation for both “good and evil” to come and embrace Him Who is born in the Cavern for our salvation. Once we behold the God-Man and see something of ourselves fulfilled in Him, then the invitation to the Eucharistic banquet becomes the fulfillment of that experience.
So let us all come to the Cave to greet the One Who will “strengthen the good and change the disposition of the wicked for the better.” Let us come to see the Church as the place where the polarities of life are reconciled and united in the New Adam, Jesus Christ, born into this world for us men and for our salvation.
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
With love in Christ, the unworthy
Bishop of Chicago and the Midwest
To be circulated or read in Diocesan parishes.