2148 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

Christ is Born, Glorify Him!

[Gal. 4:4–7; Mt. 2:1–12] Glo­ry to Thee, O Lord! Once again we greet the await­ed bright days of Christ’s Nativ­i­ty. Let us be glad and rejoice. In order to raise our fes­tiv­i­ties to a high­er lev­el in these days, the Holy Church has inten­tion­al­ly insti­tut­ed a pre­ced­ing fast — a cer­tain a­ mount of dif­fi­cul­ty, so that when we enter the fes­tive peri­od we might feel as though lib­er­at­ed. Neverthe­ less, the Church in no way desires that we should give our­selves over to pure­ly sen­su­al delights and flesh­ ly plea­sures. Since the Church has from old­en times called these days svi­at­ki, or the “holy days,” these days require that our very fes­tiv­i­ty be holy, as they are holy. So that those who rejoice might not for­get them­selves, the Church has placed a short song upon our lips to glo­ri­fy the born Christ, by which the flesh is restrained and the soul is uplift­ ed, show­ing the prop­er occu­pa­tions for these days. It says, “Christ is Born, give ye glo­ry,” and the rest. Glo­ri­fy Christ; glo­ri­fy Him, so that by this glo­ri­fi­ca­tion the heart and soul would delight, and there­by si­ lence any urge for var­i­ous oth­er deeds and occu­pa­tions that might promise cer­tain con­so­la­tions. Glori­ fying Christ does not mean devis­ing lengthy songs of prais­es to Christ. But if when con­tem­plat­ing or hear­ ing about the birth of Christ the Sav­ ior you invol­un­tary shout from the depths of your soul, “Glo­ry to Thee, O Lord, that Christ is born!” —this is suf­fi­cient. This will be a qui­et song of the heart, which neverthe­ less reach­es the heav­ens and enters in to God Him­self. Repeat a lit­tle more clear­ly to your­self what the Lord has wrought for us, and you will see how nat­ur­al this exclama­ tion now is. So that this might be eas­i­er for us, we shall com­pare it to the fol­low­ing inci­dent. A king prom­ ised free­dom to a man who was im­ pris­oned in a dun­geon and bound with fet­ters. The pris­on­er waits a day, then anoth­er, then months, and years. He sees no ful­fill­ment of the promise, but does not lose hope, and believes in the king’s words. Final­ly, he sees signs that it is com­ing soon, his atten­tion increas­es — he hears a noise; some one is approach­ing with cheer­ful words. Now the locks fall and the lib­er­a­tor enters. “Glo­ry to Thee, O Lord!” the pris­on­er invol­ untar­i­ly cries. “The end of my im­ pris­on­ment has arrived, and soon I will see God’s world!” Or anoth­er inci­dent: A sick man is cov­ered with wounds and par­a­lyzed in all his mem­bers. He has tried all medi­ cines and var­i­ous doc­tors. His en­ durance is exhaust­ed, and he is ready to give him­self over to de­ spair. He is told, “There is one very skilled doc­tor who heals every­one from those very ill­ness­es that you have. We have asked him to come, and he has promised to do so.” The patient believes them, cries out in hope, and waits for the promised one… One hour pass­es, then anoth­ er, and his soul is tor­ment­ed with anx­i­ety. Final­ly, at evening, some­ one arrives… The door opens, and the desired one enters… “Glo­ry to Thee, O Lord!” the sick man shouts. Here is anoth­er exam­ple. A thun­ der­cloud hangs over the sky, and the face of the earth cov­ered with dark­ness. Thun­der shakes the foun­ dations of the moun­tains and light­ ening tears the sky from one end to the oth­er. All are in fear, as if the end of the world had come. When the thun­der pass­es and the sky clears, every­one breathes freely, say­ing, “Glo­ry to Thee, O Lord!” Bring these exam­ples clos­er to your­ self and you will see our whole his­ tory in them. The threat­en­ing clouds of God’s wrath were over us. The Lord has come — the peace­ mak­er, and has dis­persed that cloud. We were cov­ered with wounds of sins and pas­sions; the heal­er of souls and bod­ies has come and healed us. We were bound by the fet­ters of slav­ery; the lib­er­a­tor has come and released our fet­ters. Bring all of these exam­ples clos­er to your heart and take them in with your sens­es, and you will not be able to refrain from exclaim­ing, “Glo­ry to Thee, O Lord, that Christ is born!” I will not try to con­vey this joy to you in words; it is unreacha­ ble by any words. The work that the Lord Who is born has wrought touch­es every one of us. Those who enter into com­mu­nion with Him re­ ceive from Him free­dom, heal­ing, and peace; they pos­sess all of this and taste of its sweet­ness. There is no rea­son to say “rejoice” to those who expe­ri­ence this with­in them­ selves, for they can­not help but re­ joice; but to those who do not expe­ rience it, why say “rejoice”? They can­not rejoice. No mat­ter how much you say “rejoice” to one bound hand and foot, he will not re­ joice. From whence can the joy of heal­ing come to one who is cov­ered with the wounds of sins? How can one who is threat­ened by the thun­ der of God’s wrath breathe freely? You can only say to him, “Go to the Infant wrapped in swad­dling clothes in the manger, and seek de­ liv­er­ance by Him from all the evils that encom­pass you, for this Infant, Christ, is the Sav­ior of the world.” I would like to see every­one rejoic­ing with this very joy, and not want­i­ng to know any oth­er joys; but not ev­ ery­thing that comes from Israel is Israel. Fes­tiv­i­ties will now begin that are emp­ty, wild, and inflam­ing of the pas­sions: the lust of the eyes, smok­ing, cos­tume-wear­ing. [1]My soul hateth… your solem­ni­ties: they are become trou­ble­some to me, I am weary of bear­ing them (Is. 1:14)! Tru­ly, many of our social fes­tiv­i­ties are real­ly pagan abom­i­na­tions; that is, some of them are brought to us straight from the pagan world, while oth­ers, though they appeared lat­er in time, are pen­e­trat­ed with the spir­it of pagan­ism. And they come out as if on pur­pose in great quan­ti­ties for the feasts of Christ­ mas and Pascha. By get­ting caught up in them we give the prince of this world, our tor­men­tor, the ene­ my of God, an excuse to say to God, “What have You done for me with Your Nativ­i­ty and Res­ur­rec­tion? They are all com­ing to me!” But let the words of the fifti­eth Psalm be repeat­ed more often in the depth of our hearts: That Thou might­est be jus­ti­fied in Thy words, and pre­vail when Thou art judged (Ps. 50:4). No mat­ter how much you tell these peo­ple to stop, they only shut their ears and pay no heed; they bring these bright days of the feast to such an finale that the Lord is com­pelled to turn His eyes from us and say, We are inter­est­ed in enlight­ened Europe. Yes, the abom­i­na­tions of pagan­ism that were cast out of the world were first restored there; they are pass­ing from there to us. Hav­ing breathed in that hell­ish poi­ son, we run around like mad­men, for­get­ting our own selves. But let us remem­ber the year of 1812 —why did the French come to us then?God sent them to wipe out all the evil that we had learned from them. Rus­sia repent­ed then, and God had mer­cy on her. But now it seems that we have for­got­ten that les­son. If we come to our sens­es, of course, noth­ ing will hap­pen. But if we do not come to our sens­es, who knows? Per­haps the Lord will again send sim­i­lar teach­ers, so that they would bring us to our sens­es and place us on the path of cor­rec­tion. Such is the law of God’s right­eous­ness: to cure some­one from sin with the thing that enticed him into it. These are not emp­ty words, but a mat­ter that has been con­firmed by the voice of the Church. Know, ye Or­ tho­dox, that God will not be mock­ ed; and know, ye who make glad and rejoice on these days with fear. Illu­mine the bright feast with bright deeds, occu­pa­tions, and fes­tiv­i­ties, so that all who look upon us will say, “They have holy days, and not some wild games with the unrigh­ teous rev­ellers who do not know God.

[1] St. Theo­phan coins the word o­ borot­nich­est­vo, (from the word obo­ rot­ni, mean­ing “were­wolf”) here, which refers to a strange entertain­ ment in Rus­sia dur­ing the Christ­ mas hol­i­days that resem­bles Ameri­ can Hal­loween. Young peo­ple dress as fero­cious ani­mals like wolves and bears, and make pranks. The use of this word also implies that this prac­tice is some­thing from the realm of witch­es and sorcerers.