Thursday, December 24, 2009

Homily: Eve of the Nativity (24 December 2009)

Diamonds and the Incarnation

If we had a diamond with us this night, no words of mine could add to its luster. It would be enough to set it in our midst and to shine the light upon it; then its brilliance and beauty would be revealed for all to see. The incarnation is such a gem; no words of mine can possibly increase its worth. It is enough to set it in our midst and shine the light upon it. This we have done by listening to the ancient words of the prophets, by singing the angelic Gloria with all the company of heaven, by bending the adoring knee with shepherds and magi, and soon by breaking the bread and lifting the cup with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

A beautiful diamond should not be admired for only a moment and then returned to a vault, unseen until its next, brief showing. It should be mounted in a ring and placed on a finger to adorn a hand with beauty. It should be worn with great joy every moment throughout a lifetime. And the incarnation should not be brought out and admired once every 25th of December and then returned to the vault of theology, unseen until next year. It should adorn the faithful with beauty and be worn with great joy every moment throughout a lifetime and beyond. Jesus did not become incarnate simply to show his luster and beauty, but to make us shine with his brilliance. Jesus put on our humanity that we might put on his divinity – ours by grace what is his by nature.

We must take the incarnation outward from this holy place into the dark recesses of this present age, take it and shine the light upon it so all may see its beauty. No words of ours are sufficient for the task, though they may sometimes be necessary. Instead, our lives are the gems we must lay before the world, lives illuminated by the reality of the incarnation we celebrate this night, lives made brilliant by the indwelling presence of the One who came among us. This night, this pure night, may Christ be incarnate once again: in you, in me, in all the faithful – on this pure night, as Saint Ephraim (Ephrem) the Syrian wrote in his nativity sermon.

Pure is the present night, in which the Pure One appeared, Who came to purify us! Let our hearing be pure, and the sight of our eyes chaste, and the feeling of the heart holy, and the speech of the mouth sincere!

The present night is the night of reconciliation; therefore, let no one be wroth against his brother and offend him!

This night gave peace to the whole world, and so, let no one threaten. This is the night of the Most Meek One; let no one be cruel!

This is the night of the Humble One; let no one be proud!

Now is the day of joy; let us not take revenge for offences! Now is the day of good will; let us not be harsh. On this day of tranquility, let us not become agitated by anger!

Today God came unto sinners; let not the righteous exalt himself over sinners!

Today the Most Rich One became poor for our sake; let the rich man invite the poor to his table!

Today we received a gift which we did not ask for; let us bestow alms to those who cry out to us and beg!

The present day has opened the door of heaven to our prayers; let us also open our door to those who ask of us forgiveness!

Today the Godhead placed upon Himself the seal of humanity, and humanity has been adorned with the seal of the Godhead!

Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men of goodwill! May your celebration of the nativity be truly blessed with the presence of the Incarnate One. Amen.

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