Pro-Life Means More than Anti-Abortion

On the Sunday after the Nativity, we continue reading the Nativity narrative, but a portion which is not part of the American spirit of Christmas: Matthew 2:13-23.  This is part of the Nativity story we don’t have in our Christmas cards or carols and prefer to ignore because we like a sentimental winter story rather than one which exposes the reality of the world.  This Gospel brings to the forefront a very worldly reaction to the Gospel: Herod decides to murder babies to protect his own interests. We see in the Gospel lesson why the Fathers often described self-preservation as a sin which leads to much evil.  In this case Herod justifies the murder of babies by his concern for self-preservation.  In the modern world, we justify letting refugee babies die to preserve our comfort and  standard of living.

Christmas for us Christians is not just one day of the year which we can put away with our decorations, or throw out with all the wrapping paper, or take down with the tree.  In the Church we continue to celebrate the Feast for a week which remembering the entire Gospel lesson, including the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.

Christmas is God’s Word to the world.  In the Christmas narrative God sends word via the angels to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.  Persian Magi receive a divine message through the movement of the strangest star they have ever seen.

Christmas is God’s message to us.  It is not merely a human wish for good cheer nor just human hope for the world and for each other.  Christmas is God’s word, God’s plan, God’s hope for the world.

Christmas is God, not just some people, telling us about peace, joy and good will.  The angels proclaim it, not humans.  And certainly when we read the Gospel, and not just some sentimental version of it, we see God’s message of peace and good will brought about a negative reaction in the world.  King Herod is out killing children because of the Gospel.

Christmas is God’s Word coming into the world, it is not fake news, nor does it have a media spin to it.  It was not created by Internet trolls.

In the Epistle (Gal 1:11-12) St Paul points this out clearly:  the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul openly claims the Gospel comes to us by revelation from God.  St. Peter says:

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.   (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Christmas is God’s message to us, not a human message.  God actively takes part in the world, to be with us and to heal us, to speak to us, to reveal Himself and His will to us.

If Humans were composing Good News about a savior, we would no doubt follow a more Hollywood plan – a superhero with supernatural powers, armed to the hilt with weapons of mass destruction, who wreaks vengeance and death on his enemies.

However, it is God who composed the Gospel, and God’s Gospel is one of humility, God in Christ sacrificing Himself for the good of humanity.  God’s message is one of reconciliation not rage and revenge.  God’s message is one of forgiveness for wrongdoing, not payback time.  Or as we find in Hebrews 1:1-3 –

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high … 

Christmas is God speaking to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who comes as a baby into the world.  Christmas is a divine message, God speaking to us and to the  world about what God wants us to know about God’s plan.

It is a plan not created by military planners, nor by terrorists, nor by a government, nor by Hollywood, nor by American billionaires.  All of them would create a savior in their image and likeness.

The Orthodox Church today as it has for 2000 years is still preaching this same message.  Our purpose for coming here each Sunday is to listen to the Gospel so that we can share the Good News with others.

On this Sunday after Christmas, we are still celebrating Christmas in the Church, still proclaiming that Christ is born.  We are still celebrating life, though in the Gospel we hear about how in the world King Herod is already issuing a decree that children must die, that he sees some children as unwanted in the world.  This is his response to the Gospel.

For us on the other hand, Christmas is God’s message.  We hear it as a feast of life, of God the giver of life.

Christmas, we Americans often think is for children.  Let us as Christians give Christmas to all children of the world.  Let us be the bearers of life for the world.  Let us lend our support to those children in need, those children who anyone in the world declares to be unwanted and undesirable.  There are many Herods in the world who want to get rid of somebody else’s children.  Men and women who see someone else’s children as a threat to their lifestyle.  We should not be those kinds of people.   We are to be with God, pro-life and giving our full support to those children whom God has called into being.  Christmas is a pro-life message, and as Christians we should be working for the lives of the children of the world, especially those who some have declared as unwanted, just like Herod declared Jesus unwanted, and the children around Bethlehem as undesirable, as threats to his way of life.  We have a responsibility to protect life and to give aid and support to the children that others want to kill.

Christmas is about our salvation, but the Gospel is clear there are evil men and women in the world who are willing to kill even children because they don’t like them.  We on the other hand are those who hear the birth of Christ as Good news, as life-giving news, and we are to be like Joseph protecting the lives of the children that are unwanted and who cannot protect themselves.  We are not only to protect but to nurture the children whom some ruler or nation wants to kill.

May the newborn Christ who lay in a manger for our salvation inspire us to help Him and all such children who are unwanted by the world.  Pro-life cannot be reduce to “anti-abortion”.  Pro-life means giving our support to children in general, but especially to those children victimized by the Herods of the world.  We are to protect all these children, for as our Lord Jesus told us:

 ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’   (Matthew 25:40)

David the Righteous One

In the weeks before the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, quite a few Old Testament prophets and saints are commemorated in the Orthodox Church calendar.  Some have their individual feast days and some are commemorated among the forefathers and ancestors of Christ on the Sundays before Christmas.  On the Sunday after the Nativity one of our commemorations in the Orthodox Church calendar is of King David the Righteous One.

David exclaims, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” A David who achieved so much, who won so many victories, who slew Goliath, strangled a lion barehanded, received great favor from the Holy Spirit, yet imploringly cries out: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving  kindness, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” One could imagine what the great king was thinking; I was a simple farmer and you made me a king, and when I became a king you appointed me to be a prophet. You made me victorious in war, victorious against Goliath. Not according to my own physical strength, but through the power of faith, which You also gave unto me. You vested me with royal garb and appointed me to a royal throne. You gave me wealth. That which sin hath destroyed, You O God, through Your Grace, gave back to us. “Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways, and ungodly men shall turn to Thee.” You ranked me so high that You gave me the ability and vision to know and prophesy Your only begotten Son. I have been taught that You have a Son begotten of woman, with the same authority as you have. I told of the good news of His crucifixion, His death and descent from the heavens and of His glorious resurrection. I spoke of His trial, of man’s salvation. I foretold of the apostles’ calling.

David thunders, “For behold, Thou lovest truth; Thou has manifested to me the secret and hidden things of Thy wisdom.” The prophet testifies of the Lord’s descent upon the earth: “He shall come down as rain upon a fleece; and as drops falling upon the earth.” (71:8). And truly, when the Son of God descended, He did not arrive via earth-shaking thunderous clamor, He did not bear a pure divine form, He came as a man. Had He come in a pure divine form, neither could the mountains, nor the Sun endure the same. Its light would have been blown out, the earth – destroyed, and all those who dwelleth upon it perished. He came quietly without fanfare. Even his birth was humble, in a Virgin‘s womb with shepherds and adoring animals as witnesses.

 (George Dimopoulos, Patristic Orthodox Sermons on the Psalms, p. 37-38)

Who is the King of Glory – Jesus or Caesar?

When Augustus ruled alone upon the earth,
the many kingdoms of men came to an end,

and when You were made man of the pure Virgin,
the many gods of idolatry were destroyed.
The cities of the world passed under one single rule,
and the nations came to believe in one sovereign Godhead.

Virgin Mary being enrolled for taxation

The peoples were enrolled by the decree of Caesar,
and we the faithful were enrolled in the name of the Godhead,
When You, our God, were made man.
Great is Your mercy, O Lord, glory to You! 

(hymn from Vespers of the Nativity)

The events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ as described in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke purposefully mirror images we know from historical evidence describing the celebration of the birth of the sons of Roman Emperors.  The Gospel writers want to be be clear that Jesus is not only the King of the Jews but more truly the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Caesars may rule THE Empire, but Christ rules the entire cosmos.  Sts Luke and Matthew set Christ from the time of His birth on a collusion course with the claims of the Roman Emperors.

“Ethelbert Stauffer in his work, Christ and the Caesars (SCM Press, 1955)…pays close attention to the evidence of the imperial coinage (which was regularly used as a propaganda medium) in this regard. The imperial coinage is full of the characteristic motifs of Advent and Epiphany, celebrating the blessings which the manifestation of each successive divine emperor was to bring to a waiting world. Among the adulatory formulas with which the emperor was acclaimed, he mentions, as going back probably to the first century, ‘Hail, Victory, Lord of the earth, Invincible, Power, Glory, Honor, Peace, Security, Holy, Blessed, Great, Unequalled, Thou Alone, Worthy art Thou, Worthy is he to inherit the Kingdom, Come come, do not delay, come again’ (p. 155).

Indeed, one has only to read Psalm 72 (**see below) in Latin, in the official language of the empire, to see that it is largely the same formal language which is used alike in the Forum for the advent of the emperor and in the catacombs for the celebration of the Epiphany of Christ (p. 251). Here there could be no compromise. Who was worthy to ascend the throne of the universe and direct the course of history? Caesar, or Jesus?”   (F. F. Bruce, The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament, p. 65)

**Psalm 72:1-17

Give the king thy justice, O God, and thy righteousness to the royal son!

May he judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor! May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! In his days may righteousness flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more! May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!

May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live, may gold of Sheba be given to him! May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day! May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may men blossom forth from the cities like the grass of the field!

May his name endure for ever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May men bless themselves by him, all nations call him blessed!

The Christmas Intrusion

The birth of Christ was a rude intrusion into the lives of so many:

Mary and Joseph have to deal with an unexpected pregnancy, and then the threats to the life of the baby whom God claims is His Son.

Mary being enrolled for taxation

The Shepherds are startled by the appearance of angels.

The Magi see signs in the heavens, a mysterious star that behaves nothing like any star they have ever studied and leads them on a months long journey to Jerusalem where they find their own lives threatened.

Herod and all Jerusalem are upset by the appearance of the Persian Magi seeking the newborn king which threatens the legitimacy of Herod’s reign.

The young families around Bethlehem who find themselves being attacked by Herod’s troops who murder the young baby boys.

And then there is us, who come out at the end of December because we too have heard the good news of the birth of Christ.  God intruding in all our lives through the birth of His Son, interrupting all the other things we might want to do this evening and this week with our families and friends, in our homes or at work.

Christ coming into our lives truly means we too at times will be troubled or afraid by the Gospel, by confession, by a sermon or the Liturgy or by receiving Holy Communion.

Though the angels proclaimed joy to the world, the response of so many at the birth of Christ was fear and upset and uncertainty and grief.

Magi appear before Herod

When we are troubled, then we need to find Christ who is meek and humble in our lives and only then do we find rest for our souls.

In the Scriptures, it is not the Jewish rabbis, who spend their life studying Torah who recognize the birth of Christ but rather it is the foreign astrologers and the uneducated shepherds.

It is not the people of God who recognize the Christ, but in the Gospel itself, it is the demons who recognize Jesus as Lord.

The Gospel of the Nativity of Christ is full of unsettling surprises which unexpectedly change peoples lives, including ours.  Yet, the fact is that God comes to abide in us so that we can live in Him.

We are to live in God

Think in God

Feel in God

Act in God

Be virtuous in God

Be immortal in God

Be eternal in God

Only in God is a human a real and full and perfect human.

In Christ we see humanity united to God.  We see what a human is to be in God’s eyes.  Only in Christ can we ourselves become fully human.

Christ is born!

The Incarnation: Recreating Humans

Christ is born!

Glorify Him!

“The story of Job serves to renew hope within us. Even though God’s image in man has been spoiled by the sin of Adam and Eve, by the sin of Cain, and by the sins of each one of us, Job allows us to hope for the coming of One—just and suffering, patient and triumphant—who will resist with courage and perseverance the assaults of the Evil One and will triumph over him, thereby restoring in mankind the divine presence which had been lost through sin and reestablishing in us the divine image in the fullness of its beauty. To do this, God sends among us the very Model according to which He had originally created us.

Just as a faded print can be restored by reapplying the original stamp so the Son of God, who reflects the glory of God the Father (Heb. 1:3), can enter human nature by clothing Himself with it as with a garment, and thereby can create a new Adam, a perfect Man, a radiant Image of God. This occurs by what theologians call the Incarnation. This decisive event took place on the day of the Annunciation, when Gabriel, the messenger of God, visited a young virgin of Nazareth in Galilee called Mary.”

(The Living God: Vol. 1, p. 19)

When we read the Scriptures with the Church we realize how much of the Old Testament speaks of Christ.  Job prefigures Christ – as Job remains faithful to God despite his suffering Job defeats Satan.  Job shows what a true human is like.  When Christ comes to earth we realize how the story of Job helps us recognize God’s faithful and suffering servant.  The Book of Job thus prepares us for the Nativity story of Christ, in which we see evil acting against the Christ, but Christ remains faithful to God even to the point of death on the cross.  Christmas is not mostly a sentimental tale, but rather in all its details reveals to us God’s battle with the forces of evil and the price God is willing to pay for the salvation of the world.

Our Faithful Ancestors in Christ

Christ is born!

On the Sunday before Christmas,  we encounter in the Scripture readings of the Orthodox Church a cast of literally hundreds of women and men who were faithful to God’s promises as recorded in the history of the Old Testament.

We read the genealogy of Christ in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 1:1-25) about some of those people of the Old Testament who were part of God’s preparation for the incarnation. Entire generations of people preparing the way for the Lord. led by a few very faithful men and women.  In the Epistle from Hebrews (Hebrews 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40) we hear a few more details from the lives of some of those same people who were faithful to God no matter that they suffered for the faithfulness and no matter that they didn’t receive the fulfillment of what God promised.   They remained faithful to God’s promise and trusted that God would fulfill what had been prophesied or promised.

All these women and men heard about the promise of the coming of the Messiah but none of them lived to see it, yet they remained faithful to God.  St. Gregory Palamas describes them as refining humanity, slowly moving us from the original rebellion of Eve and Adam to the time of Blessed Virgin in whom God would become incarnate.   Besides all these examples of people who followed God in faith, if we studied the lives of all these people we would find examples of both people who remembered God in times of trouble, and those who forgot God even in good times.

Really for us to prepare for Christmas we should  be reading the scriptures year round to know what God promised, what people suffered for these promises and as a result of them.  We would learn about our spiritual ancestors in the faith who struggled for several thousand years before the coming of Jesus and since the time of his death.  We would learn how hard a struggle it was for the people to be faithful, and how long the sojourn.

Matthew’s genealogy and the Epistle from Hebrews include people who are farmers and shepherds, business people and slaves, carpenters and soldiers, generals and kings, wise and foolish, musicians and poets, rich and poor, apostles and apostates, faithful and faithless, adulterers and prostitutes, sinners and saints, murderers and law abiding citizens.

And when we study God’s promises and what God did through the centuries we understand the faithfulness of our God and God’s patience in working with us His creatures for countless cnturies.  For our history is not one of continual improvement in morals and faith, but rather a jagged history of ups and downs and falling away and turning back and repenting.

And then the surprise of Christmas.

God became like us in the incarnation – God became one of us, taking on human form.  At Christmas we remember God becoming one of us, becoming human.  God became human to lift us up out of our own sinfulness and to transfigure and transform our humanity to become like God, to become God’s children.  God became human so that we humans could again become like God.  God wants nothing to separate us from Him.

If we remember all these people and their successes and failures we can learn from them about how we are to behave.  We can learn both from their examples of faithfulness and the examples of faithlessness.

We might remember the old saying:  Forget your mistakes, remember their lessons.

Faith, is not “blind” but rather is conviction based on revelation, promise of God and past experience.  Faith is based on a knowledge of God fulfilling His promises in Scripture, and looking to the future where more of God’s promises will be fulfilled.  The lives of the saints, or our spiritual ancestors helps us to understand God and our role in our salvation.

God does not ask us to leap off tall buildings nor to turn bread into stones.   God asks us to know Him through the study of His scriptures and through the lives of the saints and people of God.  God wants us to know Him in and through our daily lives – in prayer, the sacraments, through charitable giving, through fasting, forgiveness and repentance.   None of what God asks from us is impossible for us or beyond our reach.

God does not call us to do absurd things (just to make a funny video or to make a name for ourselves), or to go against sound judgment, though God may expect us to do very difficult things.   Mostly, God calls us to open our hearts to know Him, to test and see if what God said is true in the lives of the saints and in the scriptures.  God asks only that we continue to trust in Him and to trust the witness of our spiritual ancestors, the women and men and children who are saints in the faith.  Christmas indeed is a family affair, but the family turns out to include all those who have ever believed God and who prepared the way for us to believe as well.  And we call to mind that family at Christmas.

As the Epistle concluded about these saints, our faithful ancestors:

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

All of those believing saints have been waiting through the centuries for us to believe as well, and to follow Christ.  They await Christ being born in our hearts, our lives and our homes so that they can join us in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Glorify Him!

Mary, The Virgin Earth

The Good News of the birth of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed to the world for 2000 years.  That message is as new and refreshing today as it was when first proclaimed.  Tertullian writing in the 2nd Century gives us a look at not only how long ago the Good News was received with joy but also how early in Christian history the depth of the message was recognized, for the Gospel is salvation for the world.  Christmas is not about sentimentality but about divinity and what it means to be human.

First of all, we need to show the reason why the Son of God had to be born of a Virgin. The initiator of a new birth had to be born in a new way, and Isaiah had predicted that the Lord would give a sign of this. What is that sign? ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive in her womb and bear a Son’ (Is. 7:14). Therefore the Virgin conceived and bore Emmanuel, God-with-us.

And this is the new birth: that man is born in God when God is born in man, having assumed the flesh of the old seed, but without using this seed, and to purify the flesh after having eliminated all its ancient stains. But, as it happened, this whole new manner of birth was prefigured in the ancient wise design that depended upon a virgin. When man was created by God’s action, the earth was still virgin, not yet pressed down by man’s toil, not having been sown. We know that, from this virgin earth, God created man as a living soul.

If, then, the first Adam was introduced in this way, all the more reason that the second Adam, as the apostle said, had to come forth from a virgin earth, that is, from a body not yet violated by generation, by God’s action, so that he might become the spirit who gives life. However, lest my introduction of Adam’s name appear meaningless, why did the apostle call Christ ‘Adam’ (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45), if his humanity did not have an earthly origin? But here, too, reason comes to our aid: through a contrary operation, God recovered his image and likeness, which had been stolen by the devil.

For just as the death-creating word of the devil had penetrated Eve, who was still a virgin, analogously the life-building Word of God had to enter into a Virgin, so that he who had fallen into perdition because of a woman might be led back to salvation by means of the same sex. Eve believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel. The fault that Eve introduced by believing, Mary, by believing, erased.”  

(quoted in Mary and the Fathers of the Church, p 67)

Christ is born!    Glorify Him!

The Infant Christ

Christ is born!  Glorify Him!

The sign by which the shepherds will recognize the Saviour is that they will find “the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.” No sign of power accompanies the birth of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, God become man will make Himself known first of all by His poverty, His humility, His weakness. As a small child wrapped in swaddling clothes, He is at the mercy of those who press around Him. He depends on them. He cannot resist anyone. He is unable to exercise His will, nor can He defend Himself. As He appears in His birth, so will He appear in His passion, and that is how He wants me to be.

(A Monk of the Eastern Church, Jesus: A Dialogue with the Savior, p. 93-94)

This year a verse from the Christmas narrative has stood out in my heart and mind. The angel tells Joseph not to be afraid but to know about his wife Mary that

she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

I don’t know what Joseph made of that statement, for I wonder how many of us think deliverance from sin is the most important thing that God or the Messiah can do for us. Joseph had a lot to worry about – a pregnant wife, the Roman government, poverty, survival, homelessness, being an immigrant, fleeing persecution, paying taxes and escaping death. He was responsible for a young wife and a newborn baby whom God claimed as His own yet had entrusted to Joseph’s care. And Joseph had no army to protect him, no money, no place to lay his head. So, I’m not sure that the forgiveness of sins was the most impressing issue on his mind.

The angel doesn’t promise that God will save Joseph or God’s people from terror or tyrants, from the power of one’s enemies, or from pain, disaster or death. And while the angels in heaven were singing God’s praise at the birth of Jesus, on earth, forces were plotting to kill him. While our Christmas spirit tends to sentimentalize the story, the narrative of the Nativity involves evil plots and life-threatening risks.

And we realize one of the most profound mysteries of the birth of Jesus – God enters the world as a child and puts Himself at the mercy of the world. God entrusts himself to the care of a young girl and an old carpenter, penniless and powerless. God trusts them. God comes into the world with no power, money or influence as a defenseless child and allows the world to show God the mercy we always are asking from God for ourselves. That certainly is the mystery and meaning of the Christmas story. We are given opportunity to do unto God as we would have God do for us.

But, you might protest, yes, “they” rejected Christ and threatened him and wanted to kill him, but when did we have opportunity to show how we would treat Christ?

And the King will answer, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

Christ comes to us every year at Christmas in the guise of brother or sister, friend or foe, neighbor or stranger. We are given opportunity to see in each person in our household, or neighborhood, or family, or in the parish the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters and to how our love for them. When you do, Christ will be born again in you, and you will become like God.

I wish you all of the joys of the Christmas season. Thank you for all your prayers and for the work you do to make St. Paul’s the parish community to which God calls us.

 “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?    (Matthew 2:2)

The Ancestors of Christ the Lord

On the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ, we read the Gospel of the genealogy of Christ found in Matthew 1:1-25.

St. Gregory Palamas comments:

“Although the Virgin, of whom Christ was born according to the flesh, came from Adam’s flesh and seed, yet, because of this flesh had been cleansed in many different ways by the Holy Spirit from the start, she was descended from those who had been chosen from every generation for their excellence. Noah, too, “a just man and perfect in his generation,” as the Scriptures say of him, was found worthy of this election.

Observe also that the Holy Spirit makes it clear to such as have understanding that the whole of divinely inspired Scripture was written because of the Virgin Mother of God. It relates in detail the entire line of her ancestry, which begins with Adam, then Zerubbabel, those in between them and their ancestors, and goes up to the time of the Virgin Mother of God. By contrast, Scripture does not touch upon some races at all, and in the case of others, it makes a start at tracing their descent, then soon abandons them, leaving them in the depths of oblivion.  Above all, it commemorates those of the Mother of God’s forebears who, in their own lives and the deeds wrought by them, prefigured Christ, who was to be born of the Virgin.

See how Noah clearly foreshadows Him Who was later to be born of the Virgin, for Whose sake the election was made. For Noah was shown to be the saviour, not of all the race of men in general, but of his own household, all of whom were saved through him. In the same way, Christ too, is the Saviour of the race of men, not of all men in general, but of all His own household, that is of His Church; not, however, of the disobedient. Furthermore, the name Noah can be translated to mean “rest” (cf. Genesis 5:29). But who is true “rest” except the Virgin’s Son, Who says, “Come unto Me through repentance, all ye that labour and are heavy laden with sins, and I will give you rest” (cf. St. Matthew 11:28), bestowing freedom, ease and eternal life upon you.

(The Homilies, pp. 471-472)

Christ is God in the Flesh

“That is why when we have a new Adam who never grows old, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Pet. 2:22), and whom we now possess as Father and forefather, Father of the age to come and prince of eternal life. He has taken away our sins and removed aging from our midst. This is Christ Jesus the Son of God, clothed in the flesh taken from the Virgin for our sake, the forefeast of whose birth we have begun to celebrate today, as we keep the commemoration of the Fathers who lived before and under the law, who shone forth on account of their virtue and godliness. Theirs were the prophecies and to them were the promises given, and from among them Christ was descended according to the flesh.

He was born as we are, but of a Virgin that He might recreate us from what is our own, and, through holy baptism, renew us and make us once more capable of containing the grace of the divine Spirit, clothing in righteousness and true holiness the man created after God in Himself. He accomplished this righteousness and holiness in His own person, putting the evil one finally to shame, in spite of all sorts of attacks, rightly obeying his Father to the end and showing that obedience to Him procures resurrection and true life.”

(St. Gregory Palamas, The Homilies, p. 448-449)