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Christmas Eve Reflection

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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory be to the Father! And to the Son, ever begotten of His monarchy and fatherhood, begotten, not made! One in essence with the Father, God of God, Light of Light, True God of True God!

And to the Most Holy Theotokos, Most Immaculate and Ever Virgin, Bearer of God and His Mother, not of Christ alone, but of God Himself, though not in His Divine Nature, as the heretics maintain, but of His human nature. And He is both God and Man, two natures in Jesus Christ. Therefore, she is the Mother of God, and let the anathema of the Fathers at Constantinople be sufficient for those who shall say contrary, and of Nicaea, and of all the Ecumenical Councils.

Christmas celebrates something far more beautiful than the lovely sentiments, which though good, are a sort of Victorian or 1950ist sappiness. What was said above is the Christian faith, confessed in the Creed and confirmed by the Holy Spirit by the Councils. Christ, the infant, is not some mere infant in a crib, to be cute and adored by wise men as such, nor even his own mother. Mary did you know, the song asks. Yes, she did, and when she kissed his divine face, she kissed the very flesh of the Eucharist. The wise men came to worship him, for though heathens, the light of God, the Holy Spirit, God Himself, enlightened them. Thus they were made Israelites, though pagans of the Orient.

How can I express the mystery of God’s Incarnation? How can I express what Christmas is, when the world, so well-meaning I admit, is tied up in sweet sentiments? The avaricious live for the money, far worse, but even the good-hearted live for sentiments, not truth.

Let us begin with God as He is. “In the beginning was the Word,” says St. John. “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Before he was made flesh, before his embryo was in the womb of the Virgin, and before he lay in the crib all sweet, he existed forever, outside of all creation. Because before creation, St. John also writes “by him all things were made”.

How can it be that one has existed forever, without being made by another? For the Word, we are told by the Creed, is begotten of the Father before all ages, but not made, eternally begotten. Begotten is just a human way of understanding his relation to the Father, who is called the monarchia of the Trinity. And yet, the Father is no more God, or any greater than the Son, as a father is than his son, or a monarch than his subject. And though we, like the schoolmen try to decipher this with our cleverness, we cannot. Let it remain a mystery, and yet, let us dwell upon it. I am, poor and wretched sinner, unworthy to write these words, and yet I do because otherwise I should be sinning at this moment. Therefore, upon the Trinity and the eternal nature of God let us dwell for a moment, lest the Christ Child be but some cute baby.

Looking above, at the crucifix, such a sad end, or seemingly so at least, for the Christ Child, and considering that it is the Eternal Word, that is God Himself, what sweetness! What mystery! Why do we dwell here in the ditch of the flesh? Why sex? Why women? Why wine? It is all vanity, and yet I love it. You ever are, O God! O Word of God, Son of God, upon the Cross, ever present in the Eucharist, that flesh you became for our salvation! If I could die in you, I should be happy, ever with you. The women that I love, that I should like, forgive me, to make love to, what vanity! Even if you should grant me the Very Holy Sacrament of Matrimony with her, and the marriage bed should be my duty and glory for you, it is so empty. In that, I should glorify you, and yet if I could, the monastery should be a happier bed, rough and alone in a cell. Let me grow old with her then, if you deign it, and though I would adore so much her young flesh, so beautiful, let it grow old, that I may truly love her. Then let me die, an old man, somewhat wise, loving my wife for herself, her inward beauty, not her outward vanities. Vanity! Away with it!

All this because of you. Simply put, you ever were and are. Your name is I AM. And you became flesh—therein lies Christmas. That you became flesh is but the beginning of it all, for first comes Christmas, then the desert of Lent with the Passion, and then Easter, or Pascha. And that is the greatest of all the feasts, for this one, though great, is nothing without its purpose, the Resurrection. The flesh is wretched in Adam, but glorified in You, O God.

And let me praise your mother. Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, and now you with him! You are more worthy than all the angels! You are immaculate! Unstained by the pregnancy which is a stain to other women, undefiled by the marriage bed. You, Theotokos, are the tabernacle of God, the Ark of the Covenant, the vessel by which God became man. Then even as the day of a child’s birth give glory to the mother, so does Christmas also give glory to you. Then pray for me, O Mother, now and at the hour of my death. Amen.

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