December 25, 2013 + The Incarnation and the Fruits of Repentance
by St. Gregory Palamas, Philokalia, Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: One Hundred and Fifty Texts, 56 and 57
What, then, is the divine commandment now laid upon us? It is repentance, the essence of which is never again to touch forbidden things. We were expelled from the land of divine delight, we were justly shut out from God's paradise, and we have fallen into this pit where we are condemned to dwell together with dumb creatures without hope of returning - in so far as it depends on us - to the paradise we have lost. But He who initially passed a just sentence of punishment or, rather, justly permitted punishment to come upon us, has now in His great goodness, compassion and mercy descended for our sake to us. And He became a human being like us in all things except sin so that by His likeness to us He might teach us anew and rescue us; and He gave us the saving counsel and commandment of repentance, saying: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near" (Matt. 3:2). Prior to the incarnation of the Logos of God the kingdom of heaven was as far from us as the sky is from the earth; but when the King of heaven came to dwell amongst us and chose to unite Himself with us, the kingdom of heaven drew near to us all.
Since the Logos of God through His descent to us has brought the kingdom of heaven close to us, let us not distance ourselves from it by leading an unrepentant life. Let us rather flee the wretchedness of those who sit "in darkness and the shadow of death" (Isa.9:2). Let us acquire the fruits of repentance: a humble disposition, compunction and spiritual grief, a gentle and merciful heart that loves righteousness and pursues purity, peaceful, peace-making, patient in toil, glad to endure persecution, loss, outrage, slander and suffering for the sake of truth and righteousness. For the kingdom of heaven or, rather, the King of heaven - ineffable in His generosity - is within us (cf.Luke 17:21); and to Him we should cleave through acts of repentance and patient endurance, loving as much as we can Him who so dearly has loved us.
The Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ
Your Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world the light of wisdom! For by it, those who worshipped the stars were taught by a star to adore You, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know You, the Orient from on High. O Lord, glory to You!
Kontakion, Tone 3
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels with shepherds glorify Him! The wise men journey with a star! Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!