We shall now say something about the present feast. Many celebrate the feastdays and know their designations, but the cause for which they were established they know not. Thus concerning this, that the present feast is called Theophany—everyone knows; but what this is—Theophany, and whether it be one thing or another, they know not. And this is shameful—every year to celebrate the feastday and not know its reason.
First of all therefore, it is necessary to say that there is not one Theophany, but two: the one actual, which already has occurred, and the second in future, which will happen with glory at the end of the world. About this one and about the other you will hear today from Paul, who in conversing with Titus, speaks thus about the present: The grace of God hath revealed itself, having saved all mankind, decreeing, that we reject iniquity and worldly desires, and dwell in the present age in prudence and in righteousness and piety—and about the future: Awaiting the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit 2:11-13). And a prophet speaks thus about this latter: The sun shalt turn to darkness, and the moon to blood at first, then shalt come the great and illuminating Day of the Lord (Joel 2:31).
“The Lord of all endures circumcision, and He circumcises man’s sins, for He is good.” This is the meaning of today’s Church feast. The Circumcision was established by God and commanded through Abraham to all the chosen people of the Jews. It was a sign of entering into the Covenant with God, the seal of the promise to be always in Obedience to Him from childhood, to be faithful to Him unto the shedding of blood. It was performed in the image of cutting off the fleshly passions, the circumcision of the hardheartedness of the very heart, which was so destructive for Israel and so often caused it to apostatize from its God.
Love was incarnate and seeks of us who are bearers of His most pure image, that within us we realise even His likeness which we have distorted by our sins. If we were to realise this, we would redeem not only ourselves, but humanity in its entirety from this valley of temptations.
Today, from an overflowing heart we repeat those same words of the great Prophet Isaiah, for unto us truly is born a Child, unto us a Son is given! The Divine Youth was incarnate for us and for our salvation! Let us rejoice, therefore, always for Christ our Saviour is born!
As your Аrchpastor, responding, as Isaiah to the summons of the Lord, walking with you through the valley of temptations and beholding about us all of you, His holy flock, the people of God, joyfully we cry out before the cradle of the New-born: Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me! (Is. 8:18).
Truly, beloved children, beholding the world about us, we see that the ways of today throughout the entire world are but diversions, one mindless pilgrimage through the valley of temptation. However, the Incarnate God pours into us plentiful hope, for in the midst of a harsh reality which has dominated humanity, from economic crises to societal fragmentation, from battles for justice to unrest and wars; our Saviour and Redeemer comes to us as a new-born Child – precisely an innocent Child. For He within Himself as God Almighty reveals the might of innocence. Our Wonderful God and Counsellor fills the world by His birth according to the flesh with the light of purity which stems only and exclusively from that new life. For us that new life is: a life in Him who alone offers us boundless possibilities.
Hieromonk Job (Gumerov) of Sretensky Monastery answers questions related to the Nativity season.
I have read the Gospel according to Matthew many times, and suddenly I took note of the first two lines of the second chapter. How could the Magi come from the east to a star that they saw in the east? The Magi should have either come from the west to the star from the east, or the star should have been in the west; or perhaps something else is meant. Please explain. —Yuri
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Our holy righteous Father John of Kronstadt reposed in the Lord on December 20/January 2, 1908, just a few years before the revolution in Russia that would topple the order that he mentions in this homily. But his message remains timely even to this day—and not only in Russia.
This song to the incarnate God, the Infant Christ, was sung by the angelic hosts on earth at His Nativity. It is a brief song, but its meaning and significance are wise and full of substance. In it is contained and revealed to us the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God for the salvation of the world. This mystery, in the words of the Church, amazed all the angelic powers.
But where is this peace on earth, which the angels announced to the Bethlehem shepherds?
Glory to Thee, O Lord! Once again we greet the awaited bright days of Christ's Nativity. Let us be glad and rejoice. In order to raise our festivities to a higher level in these days, the Holy Church has intentionally instituted a fast before them—a certain amount of constraint, so that as we enter the festive period we might feel as though we were coming out into freedom. Nevertheless, the Church in no way desires that we give ourselves over to mere sensual delights and fleshly pleasures. Since the Church has from olden times called these days sviatki ("holy days"), they require that our very rejoicing on these days be holy, as they are holy. So that those who rejoice might not forget themselves, the Church has placed a short hymn upon our lips to glorify the newborn Christ, by which the flesh is settled down and the soul is uplifted, showing the proper occupations for these days: "Christ is born, give ye glory," and the rest. Glorify Christ; glorify Him, so that by this doxology your heart and soul might delight, and thereby silence any urge for various other deeds and occupations that might promise some kind of pleasure. Glorify Christ: this does not mean that you have to compose lengthy songs of praise to Christ—no. But if when contemplating or hearing about the birth of Christ the Savior, you involuntarily cry out from the depths of your soul, "Glory to Thee, O Lord, that Christ is born!"—this is sufficient. This will be a quiet hymn of the heart, which will nevertheless pass through to heaven and enter in to God Himself. Repeat a little more clearly to yourself what the Lord has wrought for us, and you will see how natural this exclamation now is. So that this might be easier for us, we shall compare it to the following incident: