MUNICH: January 12, 2010
Nativity Epistle of Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany
Christ is born, glorify Him!
And the Word was made flesh (John 1:14)
The Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God is beyond comprehension to the feeble intellect of mankind. Exactly how this was manifested is unknown even to the angels, archangels and other heavenly bodiless powers. The Holy Fathers say that for man, who has not yet finally healed himself of the sin of pride, it is risky to study the depths of the Divine, in which the Mystery of the pre-eternal Council of the Three-Sun Divinity is hidden. But at the same time, Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition clearly open for all of us the reason why the Son of God was born of the Most-Pure Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. The Divine Word, the Second hypostasis of the Most-Holy Trinity, the Divine Logos, was incarnated for no other reason that for our sake and for the sake of our salvation.
The Lord Almighty, “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3), the all-creating Word, by Whom “were the heavens made” (Psalms 33:6), and by Whom “all things were made” and “the world was made” (John 1:3, 10), chose us, the fallen, weak, foolish, poor, in order to enrich us with Himself. He, upon Whom the many-eyed Cherubim and burning Seraphim dare not gaze, descended to our extreme poverty, in order to become father and brother and friend to us, the rejected. He became the Son of Man, assumed the flesh of mankind in order to make us communicants and heirs of His unutterable glory and His Kingdom. The Son of God entered our nature, which is infected and rotted with sin, in order to heal it from within. He, the all-wealthy, became poor, in order to enrich us, the impoverished.
Out of all of creation, mankind is closer and dearer to the All-Merciful Savior. Not other creature does the Lord nourish with His most-pure Flesh and His life-giving Blood. No other creature is created in the image and likeness of God.
Let us ponder, dear brothers and sisters, why of all the names in the tongue of man, did the Son of God choose the name “the Word.” Was in not so that we, His disciples and followers, would cherish the gift of speech which separates us from all the earthly creatures?
Since we are created in the image and likeness of God, our language itself must reflect the image of the word of God and its power. Used in accordance with its Divine purpose, it creates everything for the good, similarly to the Word of God. The word of God’s saints heals and teaches, it soothes the savage beasts and consoles the suffering, it lifts up the fallen and raises the dead. The word of man, given wings through prayer, passes unimpeded through the heavens and reaches the Divine throne. It has been thus in ancient and not-so-ancient days, and so, by the grace of God, should it be in our day.
Yet many today do not believe in the constructive power of the word, and carelessly dismiss this gift of God, using it for lowly, fleshly purposes. Sinful filth has rendered the word of mankind powerless. The world, as never before, is choking and dying from idle, empty and false words—those very words for which we will be obliged to answer for on the Day of Judgment. If the word is not sanctified by prayer, if, having been given to us to communicate with God, it becomes an instrument used to achieve purely temporal goals, it will become a destructive and soul-dooming instead of a positive force. There are more than enough examples of this in the contemporary world.
But we, as children of the Church of Christ, no longer belong to this world, which had rejected the Word of God at its peril. The Lord Himself has “chosen” us “out of the world” (John 15:19), as He once selected His first disciples. We, the chosen ones, Orthodox Christian, know that the Word of God did not only at one time become Flesh, but has remained with us forever in the Church, in His Body. It has remained with us, illuminating our word, our human word, and preserves its divine power when we use it for prayer, and, correspondingly, in our service: the pastor in his words of edification and denunciation; the teacher in his words of wisdom and reason; students and the flock—words of humility, meekness and obedience in the image of the our Lord Jesus, “meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).
The world today needs the word of truth no less than in those times, when the “light of wisdom” first shone from the Bethlehem cave. In the Church of Christ this light shines eternally from the Heavenly Bethlehem, in the Church, the Word of God resounds, illuminating and sanctifying the speaking flock of Christ. The Lord came to earth not to doom fallen mankind, but to save it. If our word is like the Word of God, our minds and hearts will be filled with His Spirit, the Spirit of truth, and we will be true children of God Almighty and lanterns unto the world, even if “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19), yet seeking salvation. Amen.