by Eleutherious Vorontsov, Late Metropolitan of Leningrad
from The Word, December 1960
Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
I salute you, dear brothers and sisters, with the great feast of the Birth of Christ—with this radiant, joyous, and solemn day! This day is truly a day of especial joy: it was called this, as you have heard, by the Heavenly Angel who appeared to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem. And it is such in actual fact. How can not that day in which the Lord Himself descended from Heaven to earth but be radiant and joyful?
Who of the Orthodox Christians can greet this day with a feeling of coldness? Who will not rejoice in his soul, hearing that “a Saviour is born today, who is Christ the Lord?” It is for this reason that one of the Church hymns sung so joyously today, says: “Let Heaven and earth rejoice today in prophecy: let Angels and men exult . . . the whole of creation danceth because of the Saviour and Lord being born in Bethlehem.
But while radiantly rejoicing today, brothers and sisters, let us reverently remember at the same time that the day is one of a great Divine mystery—as the Apostle also says: “A most devout mystery—God has appeared in Flesh.” This mystery is incomprehensible to our mind, it is comprehended only by faith. In very fact, how much is there here which is mysterious, inscrutable! The Un-originate—begins. The Eternal Spirit receives a beginning and is incarnate. Almighty God humbled Himself to the semblance of a slave, for He “took the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).
St. John Chrysostom, in his homily on the Nativity of Christ, has this to say on the subject: “Imagine to yourselves that the Sun had humbled itself and descended to the earth - not burning it, and not destroying it; but warming, lighting, and enlivening it! So it is that the Eternal Sun of Righteousness—Christ the Lord—descends to the little earth, to infirm creatures who are weak and sinful, in order to enlighten, vivify, and save them!”
This is the greatest miracle of Divine Love called God to earth. Love performed this great miracle. “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: l6)
How shall we respond, beloved brothers and sisters, to this immeasurable Divine love? Love ought certainly to be answered with love. May such love be manifest in our devout doxologies to the new-born God-Child! May it be manifest in our prayers of compunction to Him! May it be manifest in our most reverent sacred remembrances and meditations on the great mystery of the Incarnation of God! Most of all may it be manifest in love and compassion towards our lesser brethren—to all the poor and unfortunates, to those who are forced to greet even this great day with tears, in want, in sickness and sorrow. Our Lord is so compassionate and mankind-loving that all which is done for them, he considers done for Him. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me,” He says (Matt. 25:40).
Thus, in these holy days let the holy joy of the Birth of Christ delight not only our personal hearts, but also those who are in need of our mercy and our help! May we all celebrate and exult together, glorifying the immeasurable Love Divine manifested to us now and which has shone forth in the Birth of Christ. Amen.
St. Basil the Great - January 1
Thy fame has gone forth into all the earth, which has received thy word. Thereby thou hast taught the Faith; thou hast revealed the nature of created things; thou hast made a royal priesthood of the ordered life of men. Righteous Father Basil, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion of St. Basil the Great, Tone 4
Thou wast an unshaken foundation of the Church and didst give to all mortals an inviolate lordship which thou didst seal with thy doctrine, O righteous Basil, revealer of the mysteries of heaven.