January 2019 Letter
We wish you a happy new Gregorian year 2019 and a Merry Christmas celebration hoping that this year will be a blessing for our spiritual and practical lives, and a blessing to our families and all our loved ones. As for Christmas, we learn from the writings of HG the late Bishop Gregorios about the wisdom of the church in selecting the gospel readings for the feast:
What grabs our attention is that the chapter of the gospel read during matins, is chosen from the first chapter of the gospel according to St. John, which says: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, This was He of whom I said, `He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (John 1: 14-16). On the other hand the gospel read during mass is chosen from the second chapter of the gospel of St. Mathew which tells the story of wise men coming to Jerusalem asking for “King of the Jews”, to worship Him and offer Him their gifts.
Here we ask ourselves: how come that in matins and during mass we read chapters from the gospel without even mentioning the story of the nativity? Such as mentioned in the second chapter of the gospel according to St. Luke, which tells us the story of the appearance of the angel to the shepherds and proclaiming the birth of Christ that day saying: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (Mat 2: 10-12)?
The story of the nativity – as told by St. Luke – is read on the day before Christmas (Paramouni). The significant meaning that the church wants to teach us is that the One we’re celebrating His birth did not come to existance when He was born on earth, as in case of all human beings. For Christ is has existed before He was born of St. Mary. His existence is eternal without a beginning, so as mentioned by Micah the prophet: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting” (Mic 5: 2).
So rather than thinking that in Christmas we are celebrating the birth of a prophet or normal human being, the church has selected the chapters that clarify that Christ existed eternally before His birth from St. Mary for the Christmas eve readings. This serves to clarify to us that the nativity for Christ is actually the mark of His incarnation, in which God the Logos took a human body and dwelt in it and by it among people (John 1: 14), and was found in appearance as a man (Phi 2: 8). During the Christmas mass the chapter of the gospel read is that of the wise men who came asking for the babe, who is not an ordinary one but a king, and God to be worshiped. Not a child who will later become a king, but since His appearance He is already a king, and the Lord worthy of adoration and worship.
May the blessing of Christ, the Incarnate Word, be with us all in this coming year.
Belleville, January 1, 2019