A great and most glorious mystery

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Whether you have just celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of Christ or (like me) have another two weeks to wait, I wish to share the joy of Christ’s birth with all of you who have become friends through commenting on my facebook page or this blog. It is a wonder that this technology which we so often see used to share information which causes suffering or fear can also be a great tool for good – look at Abbot Tryphon or Sister Vassa, for two great examples of this.

I wanted to share two things particularly with you today – time is short at this season, with school holidays, extra Church commitments, the lack of daylight… but not for long! (am I the only person who checks each day to see sunset and sunrise times? No? I long for the days when it is light until the giddy hour of 8pm… never mind summer when it is barely dark!).

The first was from the homily given by Fr Raphael today after Liturgy: he mentioned something Saint Ignatios of Antioch had said – that there were

“three mysteries loudly proclaimed yet wrought in the stillness of God”

These mysteries were the ever virginity of the Theotokos; the Birth of Our Lord; the Death of Our Lord. (St Ignatios, Epistle to the Ephesians; 19:1). Mystery has, in the West at least, largely become short-hand for something slightly untoward – we think of murder-mysteries, of bigfoot or the Bermuda triangle, of things in short that we cannot explain. In Orthodoxy, mystery means so much more than that. (Here I ask forgiveness for my inability to type it in greek or slavonic letters).  We speak of partaking of the “Holy Mysteries of Christ” when we receive the Eucharist; we are joined in the mystery of Matrimony; we are baptised into Christ in the mystery of His death and resurrection. In short, we use ‘mystery’ most often in the way the Latin churches use ‘sacrament’. There are more than seven sacraments in Orthodoxy but we also talk about the acts of God within history and within our lives as mysteries. Christ, the pre-eternal God incarnate, was born of a Virgin who had not been married – that couldn’t be more ‘mysterious’ – inexplicable if you like – if we tried.  And yet these mysteries – these great and glorious events – are witnessed by those with most humility. The most holy Mother of God, who bowed her head and said “let it be to me according to Your Will” and today Joseph the Ever-Betrothed , whose humility was so great that he was visited by an angel of God three times – that he might do God’s will and protect the Child, while also fulfilling the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible (the Prophet Hosea saying “out of Egypt I called my Son” (11:1)).

Humility hears the words within the stillness of God – that still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) which calls to us in our hearts, to our true selves, the nous which knows the reality of God.

Let us be able to hear this quietness, whether we find it in walks by flowing rivers, in the wind rushing through winter branches, in the soft breathing of children as they sleep or in the quiet hum of Church before the services, as we prepare for the loud proclamation of the feast –

Christ is born, give glory! Christ comes from heaven, go to meet Him! Christ is upon earth, be exalted! Sing to the Lord all the earth; and all you peoples raise the hymn with joy, for He has been glorified.  (Nativity of Christ, Canon, Ode 1)


The second post is to follow in an hour or two!

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