This sermon was delivered on the feast day of the Nativity of Christ – December 25, 2018, which Cypriots celebrate in a new style.
Spirit captures from the realization of the fact of the incarnation of the Lord for the sake of man
These days are so full of the presence of the great feast of the Nativity of Christ that it is impossible to talk about anything else except the meaning of these days. It is impossible to stand aside, because it is such a bright holiday in the life of the Church and all of us, that it captures the spirit from the realization of the fact of the incarnation of the Lord for man. Therefore, today, during our meeting, we will try to say a few simple words about this great event.
The experience of the life of the Church and the experience of the holy fathers confirms that every time we stand before God, whether by praying, or being in the temple during church holidays, or in any other situation when we meet the Lord, this is ours. standing before Him has two main characteristics. First of all, we are filled with joy, because we see how great God’s love is for man. Affection and gratitude fill our hearts when we realize how great God’s gift is. But at the same time, our standing before the Lord Jesus Christ is also a judgment for us. Especially on these holy holidays, through which the earthly path of Christ is remembered, of his preaching, of His deeds, all these events produce a judgment on a person, and this judgment is a saving one. This court does not condemn man, but saves.
Thus, we meet the feast of the Nativity of Christ, on the one hand, to experience the great love of the Lord for us and fill our hearts with deep gratitude to Him for all those innumerable benefits given to us, and on the other hand, that is much more useful in a practical sense for our souls – in order to make a judgment on oneself. Because, as the apostle Paul says, if we condemn ourselves, we will not be judged by the Lord. That is, if we judge ourselves in this life, we will not be judged on the last day, because the court will be held here, at this stage of our existence.
Now we are facing the great feast of the Nativity of Christ, we live in its atmosphere to test ourselves, to make a trial of ourselves, the criterion of which is all that the Lord accomplished for our salvation. After all, we know that the Lord did not do anything by chance and did not act by coincidence, but everything was directed by Him, everything happened according to His will, and even to the last trifle. His will was to be born at this time, in such a way and in this place.
A Christian is a person who tries to imitate Christ, and that which cannot be imitated is fulfilled through repentance.
The fact that, thanks to the feast of the Nativity of Christ, we subject ourselves to judgment, is reflected in the lives of the holy saints of God. We see that whenever something happened in their life, they compared themselves and their lives with the life of Christ. Often, people of God who find themselves in a difficult situation can hear how they recall events from the life of Christ, trying to understand how their actions relate to what the Lord Himself did. After all, we want to believe that a Christian is the person who tries to imitate Christ, to the extent of his human nature, of course, but that in which he cannot imitate, he replenishes through repentance, humility or sorrow through all the spiritual work that he creates within himself.
In these holy days, when our Church sings the great condescension of the Lord to man, and through marvelous chants reveals the deepest theological meaning of this holiday, the most virtuous men, the elders, stand in the altar as convicts, looking at the events of the Nativity of Christ. I remember when elder Ephraim Katunak returned from Jerusalem, we went to him to ask about the holy places. We expected him to say how agitated he was by visiting the sites of beating Christ and Golgotha, but most of all he was struck by the cave of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, because while there, he put himself in front of the events that took place in this cave two thousand years ago. . He told us that he used to think that while living in this small hermitage house in Katunaki, he had the feeling that he meant something, that he had done something in this life, once living in the desert. But from the moment he saw where Christ was born, he really fell silent, he felt his “I” began to collapse. “There Christ hid his mouth,” said Father Ephraim. After all, Christ was born in a cave, persecuted and despised by all people, not even having where to put the head. No one, except simple shepherds and the Persian Magi, knew that that night the greatest event in the history of mankind happened – the embodiment of God, which was accomplished in extreme poverty, in extreme humility and silence and in complete obscurity.
Every time when life will experience us with various difficulties, we can put ourselves in front of the Bethlehem cave to judge how much what we are doing and what we are striving for coincides with what the Lord accomplished during His Christmas. By the same principle, we can talk about all his life.
You probably read stories in Paterik about people who were influenced by some kind of passion, either rancorousness, or revenge, or malice itself, which is considered the main passion. And so, to help a person get rid of this passion, the spiritual fathers did not arrange trials in which they tried to prove with logical arguments what was good and what was bad, but one simple conversation about the life of Christ was enough to convince these people – and us, subsequently, – that everything that we do is not appropriate for us as Christians. We all feel it every time we give in to our feelings, and our worldly logic begins to rebel and demand justice, and worldly justice, worldly justification, in every possible way defending our rights. And you cannot give an answer to this challenge, because the arguments that logic offers you are often fueled by our human weakness. In such a situation, a person needs only one thing – to stand before the event of the Nativity of Christ and ask yourself: “What you want, or what you do, or what you strive for, or what you think is all in the spirit of the life of the Lord? Did the Lord Himself do this? Explore this question, put yourself next to Christ, and then, if you decide that your actions do not contradict the life of the Lord, then you can safely go forward. ”
The world that came to earth is the Lord who became man so that we can love Him.
From the moment when Christ became man and the angels sang: “peace on earth,” these words have become a wonderful slogan for the whole world, because today the world has become very dear, and it is not so easy to preserve it. Many people, of course, the word “peace” means the absence of war, unrest, unrest. However, Christ said the following: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10, 34). What happens: angels say one thing, and Christ another? In fact, the world that came to earth is the Lord Himself, who has become man so that we can love Him. He thereby showed us that our relationship with God is not just a theory. You may be a loyal supporter of a certain philosophical system, but you will never be able to enter into a love relationship with it, because no matter how much you love this system, it will never love you. In the Church, the opposite is true. Here we do not encounter any theories at all. The word did not become some kind of ideology or philosophy, but the Word became flesh, became a man, just so that we could love Him. And when we love Him, then we will understand that He loved us even before. The moment we decide to strive to love the Lord as soon as we make the first movement towards Him, we will immediately feel His great love for us, which He had for us before we took the first step towards Him. Such a mystery is possible only in the Church. Therefore, Christ, being the world for this world, became an object of love. Not an object of faith! After all, a person must go beyond faith, hope and remain in love. As the apostle Paul said, at the end, “these three abide: faith, hope, love; but the love of them is greater ”(Cor. 1, 13, 13). Because only love is an empirical and ontological fact, due to which a person can truly feel his connection with God.
All who loved the Lord to the end followed this path. Recall the first martyr Stephen, who, imitating the Lord, testified of his love for Him. The holy archdeacon and the first-martyr Stephen, this commander of all the martyrs, after being seized by the Jews for preaching about Christ, was forced to appear before the court in the Sanhedrin. During the trial, he again confessed his faith, and his face lit up like an angel. The Jews sentenced him to death, took him to the place of execution and began throwing stones at him. According to the law of Moses, this penalty was defined for the most wicked sinners. Just imagine that you are thrown in a certain place with your arms and legs tied and stones are thrown at you until you die. What a terrible and terrible death! St. Stephen, as the Holy Scripture tells us, prayed at that moment, but not about himself, but, like Christ raised on the Cross, prayed for people. Saint Stephen let out his last breath, praying for those who stoned him: “Lord! Do not impute this sin to them ”(Acts 7, 60, cf. Lk. 23, 34). Thus, the mind and heart of St. Stephen were not occupied with anger towards the Jews and not with the stones that were flown into him, but he only thought that the Lord would not impute this sin on them. If we want to trace at what point Stephen became similar to Christ, then we easily notice that St. Stephen became similar to the Lord not only at the time of his martyr’s death, but most of all, when his heart, mind and love were turned to those who threw stones in it.
Today you remembered another martyr – Saint Mauritius, who was subjected to terrible torture. In the Synaksar it is said that he lived in the 3rd century, during the time of persecution of Christians. Saint Mauritius was captured along with other Christians. When he refused to betray his faith in Jesus Christ, he was accused and subjected to cruel torture. Then the emperor took the lad, the native son of Mauritius named Fotin, and killed him in front of his father. Before Saint Maurice, it was said: “If you do not deny Christ, I will kill your child.” Just imagine the horror of this choice! But Saint Maurice remained faithful to Christ, and his son was executed. Then the evil emperor invented another torture. He took Mauritius and his comrades and ordered them to be led to the swamp. There they were tied to pillars, their bodies were coated with honey and left to be eaten by mosquitoes, gadflies, mosquitoes and other insects that lived in those places. But Maximian did not stop at this cruelty, but took the body of the youth Fotina and laid before the bound Mauritius. For ten days, the martyrs suffered severe suffering, until they breathed their last.
Since Christ came to earth and brought peace, millions of martyrs have given their lives for believing in Jesus Christ. Why would they do that? Because they truly loved Christ, tasted His great love, because the life of Christ spoke in the hearts of these people. The events that we remember on the days of church holidays were a court for them, they measured their lives through the life of Christ. On the one hand, they saw Christ, the nativity scene, humility, obscurity, silence, exile, poverty, and on the other hand, themselves convicted. That is why the trial for them was already over. For them, Christ became not the Judge, but the Life Eternal. If a person lives his life in the Church this way, each time placing himself before God, condemning his life and allowing the Lord to execute judgment on himself in this life, then on the last day he will escape judgment.
How can you follow Christ and live a life alien to Christ?
After all, how can you follow Christ and live a life alien to Christ? Through the apostles and the experience of the holy fathers, the Lord very clearly indicated that if the Holy Spirit lives in us, then there must be the fruits of the Holy Spirit. And so that we would not look for excuses for ourselves, the Lord said specifically: “The fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, mercy, faith, meekness, temperance. On such there is no law ”(Gal. 5, 22–23). Take this list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and examine yourself, and if you find that instead of love there is hatred in you, instead of joy – despondency, instead of goodness – revenge and
Dear brothers, we wish each other that these holy days become salutary for us, that they lead us to Christ, who through the events of his life will give us a lesson, and we realize that our relationship with God is not some kind of abstraction, but it has specific fruits and results. Good day to us! May the Lord be always with us and bestow the joy of His presence. Amen.