Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

O Bethlehem, receive Christ, for He comes to dwell in you in the flesh, that He may open Paradise for me.  Make ready, O Cave, to behold the One who cannot be contained, now wonderously contained in you; for He now is made poor in the wealth of His tender mercies.
In the prayers of the Byzantine Catholic Church leading up to the Nativity of Our Lord and during the celebration of this great feast, the paradoxes of our faith are continually placed before us: "Behold Him who is invisible is now visibly manifest," "As a stranger You have come to Your own," "How shall I nurse the One who gives nourishment to the world?", "How shall I wrap You in swaddling clothes, for You wrap the whole earth with clouds?", "I hold in my arms as a child the One who upholds all," "Behold! The Image of the Father and His unchangeable eternity has taken the form of a servant."

Each day as we meditate on these mind-blowing paradoxes in our liturgical prayer, we are overwhelmed by the love of God for us.  But I think that there is yet another reason why the Church points them out to us.  It seems that if God humbled Himself so completely to embrace these paradoxes--these seeming contradictions--then we are called to embrace them too!  We are called to become poor so that we can become rich, lowly so that we can be raised up.  We cannot do what God did in becoming man--in coming down from heaven to the manger--but we are called to stoop into the cave and to meet Him in his littleness.  We have to become "little" in order to meet the infinite God!! (Now there is a paradox!)

Just now as I was writing this blog post, a friend encouraged me to read Pope Benedict's Christmas Eve homily (without knowing what I was writing about).  It seems that the Holy Father was reflecting on the same thing!
 Today, anyone wishing to enter the Church of Jesus' Nativity in Bethlehem will find that the doorway five and a half meters high, through which emperors and caliphs used to enter the building, is now largely walled up. Only a low opening of one and a half meters has remained. The intention was probably to provide the church with better protection from attack, but above all to prevent people from entering God's house on horseback. Anyone wishing to enter the place of Jesus' birth has to bend down. It seems to me that a deeper truth is revealed here, which should touch our hearts on this holy night: if we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our "enlightened" reason. We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognizing God's closeness.... Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart.  

It's just my size!  Is it for me???
Well, Christmas at the monastery was beautiful!  We were so blessed that Fr. Stephen Titko was available and happy to come out to the monastery to celebrate the liturgical services for us on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We found our deepest joy in receiving Christ in the Eucharist, our humble God for whose coming we had been preparing our hearts.  We also cooked the traditional Christmas Eve Velija supper and enjoyed it with some friends.  We hope that you are enjoying the celebration of this beautiful feast!  S'nami Boh!  God is with us!

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