My beloved brothers and sisters in God Incarnate,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"Glory to Thee, Who hast
shown for the Light.
Glory be to God on High, and on
earth peace, goodwill towards men.
We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we
worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we
give thanks to Thee for Thy Great Glory.
O Lord and King, Heavenly God,
Father Almighty; O Lord, the Only-begotten
Son Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit.
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
that takest away the sin of the world; have mercy
upon us, Thou that takest away the sins of the
world…" (Great Doxology)
TODAY Christ is born of the Virgin in Bethlehem. Today He
Who knows no beginning now begins to be, and the Logos/Word
is made flesh. The Powers of Heaven greatly rejoice, and the
earth with mankind makes glad. The Magi offer gifts, the
shepherds proclaim the marvel, and we cry aloud without
ceasing: Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace,
good will among men" (The Nativity according to the Flesh)
Orthodox Christians throughout the world anticipate greatly the Birth of the Savior of the world. This Divine "Infant by His Birth shed upon the world the Light of knowledge, which shines brighter than the stars or the sun." For centuries Israel awaited the arrival of the Messiah and today all prophesy is fulfilled in this Child. "He Who created the ages and ordained salvation for us before time began appeared on earth as a Child, wishing to renew our nature, which had grown old."
The Venerable Prophet Isaiah praises His strength and Omniscience, hymning Him, as "the Mighty God, Potentate, the Prince of Peace." According to Saint Gregory of Nyssa and Epiphanios of Cyprus, "Mary was entrusted to the elder Joseph so that he might serve as guardian of her virginity (which she had consecrated to God before they began to live together) and be A WITNESS TO THE PURITY OF HER LIFE. It was necessary that the couple be espoused because God wished to conceal from the devil the mystery of the Incarnation and the PERPETUAL VIRGINITY of His Most Pure Mother.
Saint Athanasios, Archbishop of Alexandria, writes, "Joseph was made STEWARD OF THE MYSTERY so that the Virgin, appearing to have a husband, would be held in esteem, and so that the devil would remain unaware that God had deigned to take up His dwelling among men" (Saint Athanasios, Homily on the Nativity of Christ). Likewise, Saint Basil the Great says, "By means of Mary’s betrothal to Joseph, the Lord concealed the Incarnation from the prince of this world" (Saint Basil the Great, Homily on the Nativity of Christ).
Ever since Prophet Isaiah had foretold, "Lo, a virgin shall conceive in her womb, and bear a son" (Isaiah, Ch. 7), the Adversary (devil) carefully watched every maiden, hoping to ascertain which would give birth without coupling with a man. But Divine Providence arranged the betrothal of the Most Pure Theotokos Mary to Joseph, so her virginity and the Incarnation of the Son of God remained hidden from the prince of darkness."
The immaculate Virgin Mary was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit before the completion of the rites of marriage, and day by day the Sacred Womb that held the Uncontainable God grew larger. Her pregnancy was especially noticeable after she returned from her stay with Elisabeth, which lasted three months. The time drew near for the appearance of the Divine Fruit that was within her, and Joseph, thinking he had been betrayed, was troubled by doubts and sorrow. According to Saint Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem, Joseph confronted the Virgin and upbraided her with her words like this, "I received thee undefiled from the priests in the Temple, but what is this that I now behold?" Saint Athanasios of Alexandria describes the confrontation like this: "Joseph, seeing that the Virgin Mary was with child, but not imagining what a great treasure she carried within, asked in confusion: ‘What has happened to you, Mary? Are you not that pure Virgin reared in the sacred chambers of the Temple? Are you not that Mary who did not wish even to look upon the face of a man? Are you not that Mary whom the priests could not persuade to enter into wedlock? Was it not you, O Mary, that promised to preserve unwilted the rose of virginity? Where is the garment of chastity you wore? Where the chamber in which you guarded your purity? Have you abandoned the incorrupt Bridegroom for Whom you kept yourself unsullied? What has become of your modest countenance? I hide my face in humiliation, but you wax bold, counting on me to conceal your sin."
Hearing Joseph say such things, the blameless, undefiled ewe, the unblemished dove, the modest Virgin, blushed with shame. Not wishing to appear boastful or vain, she did not mention the Angel’s salutation or Elisabeth’s prophecy. Instead, according to Saint Athanasios, she answered Joseph with these words: "If I myself tell you what has come to pass, I will seem vainglorious. Wait a little, Joseph, and shepherds will reveal the truth." One thing only did the Virgin Mary make clear to Joseph: "As the Lord lives, Who until now has preserved my virginity," she said, "I have not known sin. No one has touched me, and the Child I bear was conceived by God’s doing."
Joseph responded to what he saw and heard as would most men, and remained convinced that Mary had fallen into fornication. Nevertheless, being a righteous elder, he did not wish to bring public accusation against her and decided to let her go secretly, or as it says in the Syriac translation of the Scriptures, decided that he would go somewhere far away. Then lo, while he was turning these things over in his mind, "the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him, in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife" (Matthew, Ch. 1). The Angel calls the Virgin Joseph’s wife; "Your espoused wife," he says, "belongs to no other," refuting his conclusions. Thus the blessed Theophylact explains: "The Angel refers to Mary as the wife of Joseph, showing thereby that she was not defiled by another, and honoring both virginity and lawful wedlock." Saint Basil the Great offers a similar explanation: "Mary is spoken of as both Virgin and wife so that virginity may be honored and marriage not demeaned. It was right that the Sacred Childbirth be sanctified by virginity; as for the betrothal (which is the beginning of marriage), it was performed in accordance with the Law, dispelling any suspicion that the Child was conceived through a sinful union. At the same time, it permitted Joseph to serve as a witness to Mary’s PERPETUAL VIRGINITY and NOT to be accused of himself defiling her. Thus Joseph was Mary’s Betrothed, her WITNESS, and her GUARDIAN."
By saying, "Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife." the Angel in effect instructs Joseph, "Take your espoused wife, the Virgin who has dedicated her purity to the Lord, the first maiden in Israel ever to promise God that she would keep her virginity till the end of her life. "Fear not, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She shall bring forth a Son," and as His father, you shall name Him, though you had no part in His conception. It is the custom that fathers name their children like Abraham did Isaac. You are only THE SUPPOSED FATHER OF Mary’s Son; nonetheless, you shall fulfill the paternal duty of giving Him His name." And Saint Theophylact has the Angel telling Joseph, "It is true that you had nothing to do with the conception, but I still give you the title ‘father,’ that you may name the Child. You are to play the part of a father to Him, although He is not your Offspring. And what shall you call Him? His name shall be JESUS, MEANING ‘A SAVIOR,’ "for He shall save His people from their sins." (Matthew, Ch. 1). [Source: The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God