Saint Sophia Cathedral
Online Resources for our Religious Edification
Topic of the Week: The Nativity of Christ“We are approaching, beloved brethren, the world-saving feast of the birth in the flesh of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ.For several days before the feast, the holy Church will celebrate this wondrous mystery in the spiritual hymns of her daily services. These hymns remind us of our divine birthright, and the squandering of our sonship through sin; of its restoration through repentance of our common spiritual kinship and of the spirit of love and care for one another.In order that we celebrate this feast of God’s limitless love and His extreme condescension, not in a worldly but, in a spiritual manner, let us briefly consider the following: Why did God become man while remaining God? And what does God’s incarnation require of us?…the feast of the Nativity of Christ reminds us that we are born of God, that we are sons of God, that we have been saved from sin and that we must live for God and not sin; not for flesh and blood, not for the whole world which lies in evil and wickedness (I Jn 5:19), not for earthly corruption. We must live for an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Pet 1:4), and for which the Lord Himself will give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel. (Isa 7:14).
You who are preparing yourselves to meet the feast of Christ’s Nativity, ask yourselves:
- Have you preserved that spiritual birth from God which we each received in baptism?
- Are you always heedful of your Divine sonship and the sacred treasure of the Spirit which you acquired in baptism?
- Have you grown closer to God through faith and love, like His beloved children?
- Have you loved one another as befits children of God?
- Have you despised ugly, evil and all-destructive sin?
- Have you loved truth and every virtue?
- Have you loved immortal and eternal life prepared in a land which will not pass away and to which we are called by Him Who now has come to our corrupt earth?These are questions which we must ask ourselves now and decide; our decisions cannot be only with our minds, but above all, with our hearts and with our very deeds.In general, we should not allow ourselves to celebrate any Christian feast without seriously considering: What is its meaning and what is its purpose? What is our responsibility towards it? We must know the Christian meaning behind every feast. Then the feast will become profitable for our soul’s salvation. Otherwise, the enemy of our salvation will snatch us and turn the feast of God into a feast of the flesh, of lawlessness, as so often happens.Having resolved the first question on “why did God become man?”, We came also to the resolution of the second:…What does the Incarnation of the Son of God require of us?…to remember and hold in sacred honor the fact that we are born of God, and if we have sullied and trampled upon this birthright with our sins, we must restore it by washing it with tears of repentance; we must restore and renew within us the image of God which has fallen and the union with God of blessedness, truth and holiness which has been destroyed.The incarnation of the Son of God requires from us, above all, mutual love, humility, that we help and serve one another; for how can we not love one another when we see the love that God has towards us? How can we not be humble, seeing such humility, such voluntary condescension for our sake of the Son of God? How can we not help one another in every way possible, when the Son of God Himself came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for man.Like the wisemen, let us, brothers, also prepare gifts for the new-born King. Instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh, let us bring Him the gifts of faith, hope, and love. Amen.”Excerpted from St. John of Kronstadt on approaching the Nativity of ChristIn a grotto under the altar of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehemlies the spot where Tradition says Christ was born, marked by a 14-point silver star.Adult/Family:“Christ, with His great love and His great rejoicing shines upon the souls of the faithful with all of His holy feasts, and truly resurrects us, having lifted us up high spiritually. We only must participate and have a spiritual appetite to celebrate spiritually. Then we will feast spiritually and get drunk spiritually from the wine of Paradise that the Saints bring to us to treat us.For us to experience the feasts, we must have our mind on the holy days, and not of the chores that we have to do for the holy days.Let us know about the events of every holy day, and say the [Jesus] prayer, glorifying God. Thus we will celebrate each feast with great reverence.We should study and live the divine events continuously. When someone studies the events of every feast, naturally he will be moved, and he will pray with a special piety. Then, during the services, the nous is on the events that we are celebrating, and with reverence we will follow the hymns which are being chanted.When the nous is on the divine meanings, man experiences the events, and is thus changed.-Elder, after the Vigil for Christmas, do we sleep?It is Christmas, and we are sleeping?! My mother said: “Tonight, only the Jews are sleeping.” Do you see, the night that Christ was born, the rulers were sleeping deeply, and the shepherds were “keeping watch”. They were protecting their sheep at night, playing the flute. Do you understand? The shepherds who were keeping vigil saw Christ.-Elder, how can we experience the event of the Nativity, that, in other words, “Today, Christ is born of the Virgin”?For us to experience these divine events, the nous must be on the divine meanings. Then, man is changed. “A great and paradoxical wonder is completed today”, we chant. If our nous is there, on the “paradoxical”, then we will experience the great mystery of the Nativity of Christ.I pray that your hearts become the Holy Manger, and that the All-Holy Infant of Bethlehem will give you all of His blessings.”Excerpted from St. Paisios on experiencing the Nativity of ChristPreschool:Dear brothers and sisters, very little time is left before the feast of the Nativity of Christ! I wish you bright joy in your heart and peace!As St. Paisios the Athonite said:“May your heart become the Holy Manger and may the Blessed Infant of Bethlehem give you all His blessings.”Elementary School:Once a layman, who was on Mount Athos to celebrate Nativity, met an elderly monk who asked him:
“Was Christ born?”
The visitor lost it momentarily, because he didn’t expect that question. But the monk asked again:
“Was Christ born?”
The visitor, having others around him who listened and wanting to demonstrate his knowledge, began to say:
“According to the Bible and the Fathers of the church…”The monk stopped him and, pointing to his heart, asked him again:
“Here I mean, if Christ was born?”Taken from Orthodox Gladness: Is Christ there?The visitor thought the monk’s question was if Christ was born as a baby and he was going to answer the question, that yes, Christ was born in the flesh as a baby. What was the real question the monk was asking him? [has Christ been born in his heart] What would your answer be if you were asked that question?Middle School:If, thinking or hearing about the Nativity of Christ the Savior, you involuntarily exclaim from the depths of your soul: “Glory to Thee, Lord, that Christ was born!” – that’s enough; it will be a quiet song of the heart, which, however, will pass through heaven and enter into God Himself. – St. Theophan the RecluseTaken from Orthodox Gladness: St. Theophan the RecluseHigh School:“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 offenses!
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!”
A Message from Maria Spanos
I am passionate about our Orthodox Christian faith and seek to help others learn as much as they can about it. My purpose here is to share online resources that help strengthen our relationship with Christ and bind us closer to His Church. I believe they are invaluable in learning about our precious Orthodox Tradition, and are a great aid for teaching family members, friends and others about Orthodoxy. ~Maria
Two of my favorite quotes:
“A true Christian behaves in this life so that it may be a preparation for the future one and not only a life here below. In his actions, he does not think what will be said of him here but of what will be said there in heaven; he represents to himself that he is always in the presence of God, of the angels and all the saints, and remembers that someday they will bear witness of his thoughts, words, and deeds.” — Saint John of Kronstadt
“Of all the holy works, the education of children is the most holy.”
— St. Theophan the Recluse