My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Incarnate God,
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM.
The Homeless Christ Child of Bethlehem
"…there was NO ROOM FOR THEM IN THE INN." (Luke 2:7).
The Son of God is born not in a palace but in a humble cave. "He was laid in a manger, that is, in a feeding trough," writes, Saint Theophylact, "as if to teach us from the very beginning simplicity and frugality. But He was also laid in a manger to show us symbolically that He came to dwell in this world, the dwelling place of us who have become like the irrational beasts. Just as the trough is the usual and fitting place where the irrational cattle are found, so too this fallen world appears familiar and suitable for us. The manger, then, IS THE WORLD, and WE ARE THE IRRATIONAL BEASTS. And it was for this very reason that the Lord came here, TO DELIVER US FROM IRRATIONALITY" says, Saint Theophylact.
Jesus Christ, perfect God, and perfect Man, experiences fully human birth, and being "wrapped in swaddling clothes", and laying in a feeding trough for animals, a manger. The Theotokos and Joseph along with her "firstborn Son" are homeless. The Incarnate God, the Creator of All, is Himself, homeless on earth. "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). In His Incarnation Jesus makes humanity completely His own, including progress in wisdom and grace. He experiences and sanctifies every stage of human life. Since He is at once both God and man, He increases humanly in the grace and wisdom which are already fully His in His Divine Nature. Indeed, that growth of His humanity prefigures our own growth into union with Him.
Homelessness has become most prominent throughout the world, including in the most powerful and wealthiest county in the world, America. The homeless are literally living on our city streets, in parks, in school parking lots, in airports, in shopping centers, and in other places. Instead of living in caves, they live in make-shift caves, tents, and cardboard boxes. What we witness is the manifestation of human misery, suffering, hopelessness, agony, and plight. Fellow human beings, many of which are mentally ill, addicted to drugs and alcohol, who were abused pysically or sexually, products of disfunctional families, injured veterans who were crippled and traumatized in battle, and others who lost the will to live. It is truly a humanitarian crisis fraught with many dangers, including death. Treated, unfortunately, by some as the refuse of society.
Saint John the Apostle exhorts the followers of Christ, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8). Many of those homeless people perhaps have never known real love or never had people who were willing to take care of them. Christians believe, that just as the "Only begotten Son" sacrficially gave Himself "that we might live through Him," so we, are to give of ourselves to Him, and to one "another." The holy Apostle James asks, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" (James 2:15-16).
Saint Maximos the Confessor (580-662 A.D.) states, "Do not say you are the temple of the Lord". Nor should you say that faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save you, for this is impossible unless you acquire love for Him through your works. As for faith by itself, ‘the devils also believe, and tremble." (The Philokalia, Volume II, page 56). When we refer to "good works" we refer, of course, to works of philanthropy or charity.
As we witness the suffering and the daily struggle of homeless people, we need to remind ourselves of the Divine Child in Bethlehem and His earthly parents. We, also, need to put ourselves in their place, in their shoes, and feel what they feel. There are many powrful emotions that a homeless person experiences, such as loneliness, anger, a sense of unworthiness, guilt, feeling unloved or foresaken, disillusioned because they were betrayed by someone, lacking self-esteem, and despair. They may also have experienced cruelty, neglect and violence in their lives and, therefore, find it almost impossible to trust anyone. Their situation, we understand, is very complicated but there are ways of saving these suffering fellow human beings, What they need IS AGAPE, KINDNESS, COMPASSION, MERCY, TO BE COMFORTED AND TO BE REASSURED THAT WE ALL CARE ABOUT THEM.
I, too, as a child, had a brief experience with homelessness and I still remember what it feels like to be homeless to this day. What made a difference in my life was the kindness of a complete stranger. An ordinary but compassionate man, who took us; my father, sister Ioanna, and me, into his house when we needed a place to stay on a cold and rainy night in the city of Ahtens. And also another total stranger who, thanks to his kindness, accepted to be our American sponsor and, therefore, be able to leave Greece and come to America as a family. Two complete strangers who saved a family of seven through their compassion and kindness. I am totally convinced that the wealthiest country on earth, a country of over 340 million people can certainly save few hundred thousand American people who are homeless and are suffering. Material poverty is bad but what is even much worse is SPIRITUAL POVERTY. Spiritual poverty is the lack of faith, not believing in God and not loving our neighbor or fellow man. Without love man is an empty shell. The holy Apostle Paul says it better: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, BUT HAVE NO LOVE, I HAVE BECOME SOUNDING BRASS OR A CLANGING CYMBAL…" (1 Cor. 13:1). All of you must read 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13:1-13, to see what true love means. AGAPE (LOVE) outshines "prophecy" and "all faith." "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS AGAPE (LOVE)." (1 Cor. 13:13)
Herod the king represents evil and a world devoid of love. "..he (Herod), sent forth to put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem from two years old and under" (Matthew 2:16), hoping that one of them was the Christ Child, God in the flesh. The mothers of these children wept for the slaughter of their children, the Holy Innocents, who in our Holy Orthodox Church are regarded as Saints and Martyrs. 14,000 innocent children were murdered by this cruel man. And yet, mankind today, continues to kill the innocent children by the millions. Approximately 65 million innocent children have been murdered through abortion thus far, but the killing continues. Is this a civilized world? Is this a God-fearing world? Along with homelessness there is also violence. The life of the Savior is threatened and because ot this, "an Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt…for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him" (Matthew 2:13). Evil seeks to always kill LOVE, even if this LOVE is God Himself. When LOVE is gone from the world, there is nothing to replace it with. The world immediately turns from LIGHT to DARKNESS, ETERNAL DARKNESS!
Let us, my brothers and sisters in Christ Our Savior, EMBRACE THE LIGHT, EMBRACE LOVE, EMBRACE KINDNESS, EMBRACE HOPE, EMBRACE PEACE, EMBRACE MERCY, EMBRACE ONE ANOTHER IN GENUINE LOVE, IN FAITH, IN CHRIST, OUR LORD, OUR SAVIOR AND OUR GOD. AMEN.
"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