St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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A Meditation for the Eve of the Nativity

We see what others do not.
Our eyes have been opened to see a peculiar and unique source of light that others do not see. Where they see only darkness we see the light of God. To those who do not see Jesus is opaque whereas to us he is transparent, for he was “the true light that enlightens the world” (John 1). He is the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and has been made visible to us (I John 1:2).

We see, so to speak, to the source of all that is through him. This is what the gospels proclaim, this is the true Christian faith and not a weak parody or a lessened teaching.

God is, in essence, unknowable but Christ has made God known to us. He is, so to say, the energies, the grace, of God made manifest. This is what we see when we look at him.

We see a truly human being animated by a selflessness rarely if ever seen and driven by a desire to bring all people to the recognition of God’s Presence in their lives.
We see him as God’s Presence in the world.

That’s why we have all the strange paradoxes in our liturgical hymnody that you heard this evening, like a waterfall that cascades over you so that you cannot even comprehend them, cannot take them all in. These great words are expressed in the words of the liturgical hymnody: the only begotten son of god become human in the figure of Jesus Christ and yet remains the god beyond all knowing, remains the creator God.

Lo the antinomies, the paradoxes, the mystery of our faith:
God of all Creation packed into the human frame;
He who made the stars lies as a child under their canopy.
This is the central mystery, that heaven is contained on earth;
The eternal becomes timely
And infinity is bounded in human flesh.

We see what others do not and yet, given a flash of insight, they too would see.
What holds them back can be appreciated by us for we, too, lose sight and grow weary.

The mystery of the Nativity is the same, however, as the mystery of the Eucharist,
Just as this bread and wine so this flesh and blood are also the body of Christ and
Contain the fullness of life and light,
The very experience of God and beyond, the recognition of the very Presence of God.

There is a sublime connection between Incarnation and Eucharist. One cannot mean without the other and to deny one is to deny the other. This denial is why people continue to seek even when they say they’ve found, because there is no satisfaction, no final end to the seeking, no conclusion that brings life in the midst of death
unless we proceed from the manger to the cross – And notice on the icon of the Incarnation that Christ is laid in a manger that looks like a coffin to indicate that he was, in some way, born to die for his people –
Unless we proceed from the manger to the cross, and on beyond to the resurrection we have missed the whole point of Christianity.
Remember those words we say in the liturgy, the moment when the priest uplifts the chalice and the paten and remembers “the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the session at the Father’s right hand, the second and glorious coming: thine own of thine own we offer to thee.” How could it be more plain than that?

This is the mystery as Paul expresses it in Colossians and Ephesians:
The mystery is the whole of the story, part of which we celebrate this day.
We see what others do not and in our seeing is our life eternal, as John puts it – the fullness of life given us in the God-man whom we adore on this day and always,
The fullness of life that we receive “slowly In type from age to age,” as the ancient hymn says, now made manifest through the ages of our lifespan.

It doesn’t matter at what age you enter the mystery
It matters only that you do;
Christ will draw you on in the pathway until
You too receive the fullness
Which has been there from the beginning
If only you see it and allow its wonder to touch you in body and soul.
It doesn’t matter at what point you enter into it:
You can dip into it in early life,
You can dip into it in middle life,
You can dip into it even in later age
Just as in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard,
The one who came at the eleventh hour still got the prize.
Still got the prize!
And it’s true for each and every one of us.

So on this day I invite you to see
As perhaps you have never seen before
That the One who is born in the cave, laid in a manger,
Goes on to the cross and was raised again for our justification
Can be yours as well
If only you can see it.