‘We worship Thy Nativity, O Christ; show us also your divine Theophany’
(From the Service of the Great Hours, 24th December)
Throughout the ages, there have been many people who have desired to see God. Moses, a faithful servant of God pleaded with his Maker to see His face, but was granted only a momentary glimpse of His Presence. As he stood behind the cleft of a rock, it was not the face of God that Moses saw, but His back (Exodus 33:22-23). This was a preview of the Nativity and Theophany, two events from the life of Jesus that had been celebrated as one feast in the early Church because they both revealed God’s Son to humankind and were an integral part of God’s redemptive plan for our salvation.
God sent His Son to live in the world so that He could lead all people back to the Father. There was no other way, because all other avenues had been exhausted. The Prophets and the Law of the Old Testament were meant to protect and lead the Israelites on the road to redemption, but the Law only cut them off from God because they could not keep its precepts. The Gentiles did not know God, and so they were strangers and far away from His Truth. In his Homilies on the Epistle of St Paul to the Ephesians, St John Chrysostom tells us that God did not send Angels and Archangels on this mission to redeem humankind from ignorance and sin, but He sent His Son because ‘there was no other who could repair so much mischief’. People had moved far from God’s ways and were incapable of knowing Him, and so they could not see God or worship Him purely. Only the Son knew the Father, and therefore, the Son had to come on earth and live amongst us, so He could show us the way to find God and to see Him.
Our Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly life began as an infant needing nourishment and protection from His holy mother. As He grew up and matured into a young man, He became a minister, teaching and spreading the good news of God’s plan of salvation to all people living in Judea and beyond. He showed His followers how to live through His own life’s example as we read in the Gospels of the New Testament and in the Acts of the Apostles. He preached ‘Peace’ to all people, and His sacrifice on the Cross conclusively destroyed all the enmity that separated humankind from God and one another (Ephesians 2:14-21). Both Jew and Gentile, St John Chrysostom says, were made new. Both were given the chance to become heirs, true children, exalted to the same dignity. Christ had reconciled all people with God, and gave them the gift to be able to live in peace and to become fellow citizens with the Saints. So in light of this gift, let us not belittle the effort God made to redeem us through Christ’s birth and the Theophany.
Source: December 2015 – January 2016 Lychnos Edition