Thursday, December 25, 2014

"On the Day of the Birth of Our Savior Jesus Christ" by St. John Chrysostom

On the Day of the Birth of Our Savior Jesus Christ
(Which was then still uncertain, but a few years ago made known and proclaimed on the part of ones who came from the West.)

By St. John Chrysostom

1. That which, long ago, the Patriarchs travailed with, the prophets foretold, and the righteous desired to see, has come to pass, and received its completion today: God both was seen upon the earth through flesh and associated with humans. Therefore let us rejoice and be glad, beloved. For if John, being in (his) mother's womb, leapt when Mary visited Elizabeth-much more we, having beheld not Mary, but our very Savior brought forth this day, ought to leap and exult and wonder and be astounded at the magnitude of the economy exceeding all thought. For consider how great it would be to see the sun, descended from the heavens, running its course upon earth and thence sending forth its rays upon all. And if this happening in the case of the perceptible sun would have astounded all who beheld it-behold consider with me now-how great it is to see the Sun of righteousness sending forth rays from our flesh and illumining our souls. For a long time I was desiring to see this day, and not simply to see it, but with so great a crowd - and I was praying continually for our theatre so to be filled, just as now it is possible to see it filled. Accordingly this has come to pass and reached its goal. Although it is not yet the tenth year, from when this day has become clear and well known to us, but nevertheless it has flourished through your zeal, as if delivered to us from the beginning and many years ago. Whence one would not be in error to call the day both new and old: new because it was recently made known to us; at the same time, old and time-honored because it quickly became of like stature as the older days, and reached the same measure in stature with them. For just as with hardy and good trees (for the latter, as soon as they are put down into the earth, immediately shoot up to a great height and are heavy with fruit), so too this day being well known among those dwelling in the West from the beginning, and now having been brought us, and not many years ago, thus shot up at once and bore so much fruit, as is possible to see now--our sacred court filled, and the whole Church crowded by the multitude of those gathering together. By all means expect the worthy return for such great eagerness from Christ, who was brought forth according to the flesh today. That One will repay you completely for this zeal, for the affection and zeal with regard to this day is the greatest sign of love for the One born. But if it is necessary that some things be introduced by us fellow-servants, we also shall contribute things to the best of (our) ability, or rather, whatever the grace of God gives to be said for your advantage. Then what do you desire to hear today? What else, but concerning this day? For I know well that many still even now argue with one another­ some accusing, others defending-and much discussion takes place about this day everywhere: some charging that it is sort of new and recent, and has been introduced now; others defending that it is old and well established, since the prophets already foretold concerning his birth, and from the beginning it became very manifest and famous with those living from Thrace to Gades. Come then, let us set in motion the discourse concerning these things. For as the subject of dispute enjoys so much good will from us, if it should become more well-known, it is very clear that it will enjoy greater zeal by far, when exposition concerning the teaching produces in you a greater disposition about.

Well then, I am able to state three proofs, through which we shall certainly know that this is the time, at which our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Word, was born. And of these three, one proof is the fact that the festival was announced by messengers sent everywhere so quickly, and advanced to so great a height and blossomed; and the very thing which Gamaliel said about the preaching that if it is from humankind, it will be destroyed, but if it is from God, you will not be able to destroy it lest you be found also fighting against God. This I would also say concerning this day, confident that since God the Word is from God, not only was (the day) not destroyed, but also each year it increases and becomes more brilliant, since also the preaching in a few years laid hold of the whole inhabited world, although those who conveyed it everywhere were tent- makers, fishermen, unlettered and commoners, but the paltriness of those serving did not weaken it at all, since the might of the One preached determines all beforehand, both taking away impediments and showing forth His own strength.

2. And if someone fond of dispute would not bear with what has been said, it is possible also to state a second proof. Of exactly what nature is this proof? The one from the census, which is found in the Gospels. For it came to pass, says the Evangelist, "In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that all the inhabited world should be enrolled. This was the first census, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up to Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to bring forth. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them at the inn. " It is clear from this that He was born during the first census. And it is possible for the one who desires to know exactly to read the original codices publicly stored at Rome and learn the time of the census. So what, someone says, is this to us-who are neither there nor present? But listen, and do not be unbelieving, because we have received the day from those who know these things accurately and who dwell in that city. For the ones living there, having observed it from the beginning and from ancient tradition, now have themselves transmitted the knowledge of it to us. Nor in fact did the Evangelist indicate this time randomly, but both to make the day clear and known to us, and to show the economy of God. For neither spontaneously, nor from himself did Augustus send out this edict at that time, but (he did it) because God ordered that even his soul inadvertently might serve the coming of the Only-Begotten. "And what does this contribute to this economy?" one says. Not a little, nor a chance result, beloved, but both exceedingly great and one necessary and earnestly pursued. Then what manner of thing is this? Galilee is a certain region in Palestine, and Nazareth is a city of Galilee. Again Judea is a region thus called by the inhabitants, and Bethlehem is a city of Judea. And all the prophets foretold that the Christ would come not from Nazareth, but from Bethlehem, and would be born there. For thus it has been written, "And you, O Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for from you shall come a ruler, who will govern my people Israel." And the Jews being asked at that time by Herod, where the Christ is born, spoke this testimony to him. On account of this also Nathaniel said to Phillip, "'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'" since (Phillip) said, '"We have found Jesus of Nazareth."' Christ says concerning him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" And on account of what, one says, did he commend him? Because he was not misled by the statement of Phillip, but knew clearly and accurately, that
neither in Nazareth, nor in Galilee, was the Christ to be born, but in Judah and in Bethlehem, even the very thing which in fact came to pass. Accordingly since Phillip was ignorant of this, Nathaniel, inasmuch as he was learned in the laws, responded with the words of the above prophecy, knowing that the Christ will not come from Nazareth. And on account of this Christ says, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."

On account of this also some of the Jews were saying to Nicodemus, "Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee." And again elsewhere: does not the Christ come "from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" And it was the common vote of all that of course he must come from there, not from Galilee.

Therefore since Joseph and Mary, though citizens of Bethlehem, departed from that place and established their life in Nazareth and lived there (of course things such as this probably happen to many people, who have to leave their cities of origin, and reside in others, where they did not grow up from the beginning), and since it was necessary that the Christ be born in Bethlehem, the decree went out, forcing them even against their will into that city, because God arranged it in this way. For the law, which commanded each to register in his own native city, forced them to set out from that place, I mean from Nazareth, and to come to Bethlehem, so as to register. Certainly the Evangelist also hinted at this, when he said: "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to bring forth. And she gave birth to her first-born son."

3. Did you notice, beloved, the economy of God, the way He manages his (purposes) through unbelievers as well as believers, that strangers to piety might learn his might and power? And so while the star led the Magi from the East, the decree was drawing Mary to the native-land spoken by the prophets. Thence it is clear to us that the Virgin is also of Davidic descent, for since she was from Bethlehem, it is abundantly manifest that she was "from the house and family of David." The Evangelist made this clear even earlier by what he said, "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, with Mary, because he was of the house and family of David." For since Joseph had his descent traced, but no one provided us with an account of her ancestors as they did his, receive instruction in order that you might not be in doubt and say, "So how is it clear that she too is of David?" "In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David." One must understand the phrase, "of the house of David," to have been said about the Virgin, which fact has been clarified here. Consequently the order and this law also became current, leading them up to Bethlehem, for as soon same time as they set foot in the city, Jesus immediately was born. Wherefore also was he laid down in a manger? -Because many people from all places had then come together, occupied the places beforehand, and created a great scarcity of room. On this account the Magi bowed down in worship before Him there. But in order that I might furnish a more clear and more remarkable demonstration for you, I entreat you please to rouse yourselves, for I wish to set in motion a long history and to read aloud the laws of old, so that the argument might become clearer from every side to you. The Jews had an ancient law-or rather let us begin the argument at an earlier point. When God freed the Hebrew people from the Egyptian tumults and the barbarous tyrant-seeing that they still had remnants of impiety and were desirous of material things, and marveled at the greatness and beauty of the temples, God commanded them that a Temple be built to surpass all the temples on earth-not by the expense of material alone, nor by the technical skill-but also in the plan of the building. And just as an affectionate father, receiving his own son who has lived for a long time together with polluted people, seducers and profligates, and enjoyed much luxury, and with assurance and dignity, sets him over more, so that when in distress he does not recall the former things nor come to desire them-thus also God seeing that the Jews were distracted with material things, also makes an abundance of perfection in this realm too so that they would never come to the desire of the Egyptians or things of Egypt. And so God has the Temple made according to the image of the entire universe, sensible and intelligible. For just as earth exists and heaven and this firmament as a partition is the middle, so (God) commanded that (temple) to be also. And having cut through this Temple in two, and stretched a curtain in the middle, he ordained the part outside of the curtain accessible to all, but the part within to be untrodden and not seen by all, except the high priest alone. And in support of the fact that these things are not our conjecture, but the Temple has been arranged as a representation of the whole universe, listen to what Paul says, who speaks about the Christ when he ascended into heaven - "For Christ has entered not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one ..." - showing that the sanctuary here was a copy of the true one. And in support of the fact that the curtain also separated the Holy of Holies from the outer sanctuary, just as this heaven walls off the things above it from all that concern us-listen to how also he hinted at this, when he called the heaven a curtain. For speaking about hope, that we have it as a "sure and steadfast anchor of the soul," he added: "a hope that enters what is inside the curtain, where Jesus entered as a forerunner on our behalf," beyond the heaven above. Do you see how he calls the heaven a curtain? Accordingly, outside the curtain were the lamp- stand, the table and the bronze altar, which received the sacrifices and whole-burnt offerings; but inside the curtain was the ark, covered completely on all sides with gold, containing the tables of the covenant, the golden jar, and the rod of Aaron that blossomed, and the golden altar-not of sacrifices, nor of whole-burnt offerings - but of incense alone. And so while it was permitted for all to tread on the area outside, it was permitted only for the high priest to walk within. And I shall also offer a proof text of just this, when St. Paul says, "Now even the first tent had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary ..." (He calls the outer tent the earthly sanctuary, since it was customary for all the world to enter.) "... in which were the lamp-stand, as well as the table and the bread of the Presence .... Behind the second curtain (stood) a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense, and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold in which was a golden um holding manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory, overshadowing the mercy seat.... These furnishings having thus been set, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing the rites; but into the second only the high priest goes, once a year, not without blood, which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people." Do you see that the high priest enters alone, and but once the entire year?

4. What then is the relevance of this to the above-mentioned day? Wait a little, and do not become confused. For we are digging up the spring from farther back, and hasten to come to its source, so that all becomes clear to you with ease. Or rather, in order that the discourse might not remain in obscurity much longer, nor since it is rather unclear, cause you to grow weary because of the length of what is said, I shall now give you the reason why I have set all this in motion. What then is the cause? When Elizabeth was pregnant with John for six months, Mary herself conceived. If therefore we learn what that sixth month was, we also shall know when Mary became pregnant. Then having learned when she herself conceived, we also shall know when she bore, having calculated nine months from the conception.

How then shall we know what was the sixth month of the pregnancy of Elizabeth? If we learn which was the month during which she herself conceived. How shall we know which was the month during which she conceived? If we learn at which time Zachariah her husband received the good tidings. But whence will this fact be known to us? From the Divine Scriptures-just as the Holy Gospel says that the angel announced the glad tidings to Zachariah who was inside the Holy of Holies, and spoke to him concerning the birth of John. If therefore it is demonstrated clearly from the Scriptures that the high priest used to enter the Holy of Holies once as well as alone, and if (it is ascertained) when, and in which month of the year he entered this once, the time will be quite clear during which he received the glad tidings. And if this has become clear, the time of the conception will also be known to all. Paul made clear that he certainly in fact used to enter once a year. And Moses also makes this point clear, thus saying, "And the Lord spoke to Moses (saying) ... 'Speak to Aaron your brother, and let him not come at all times into the Holy place within the veil, before the mercy-seat which is upon the ark of the witness, and he will not die."' And again, "And no man shall be in the tent of witness, when he enters to make atonement in the Holy place until he comes out. And he shall make atonement for himself, his house, and all the assembly of the sons oflsrael. And he shall make atonement for the altar which is before the Lord ...." So it is clear from this that he was not constantly going into the Holy of Holies, nor was it permitted for any to touch him when he was within, but it was permitted to stand outside beside the curtain. But you clearly understand this accurately. It remains to show, what was the time at which he entered into the Holy of Holies, and that once a year he alone did this. Whence therefore is this clear? From this book itself. For as it says something like this: "...In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and shall do no work, neither the native nor the stranger who sojourns among you; for on this day he shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you for all your sins; you shall be cleansed before the Lord. Sabbath of Sabbaths will be this your rest and you shall afflict your souls. It will be statute forever. And the priest whom they anoint and whose hands they consecrate to serve as priest after his father shall make atonement; and he shall put on his holy robe, and he shall make atonement for the most holy place, and the tent of witness; and he shall make atonement for the altar; and he shall make atonement for sins of the priests; and he shall make atonement for all the people of the assembly. And this shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the sons of Israel from their sins. It shall be done once a year, just as the Lord commanded Moses." He is talking here about the Feast of Tabernacles, for then once a year the high priest entered; in fact, the (Lord) himself made this clear saying, "This shall be done once a year."

5. If therefore at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles the high priest alone enters into the Holy of Holies, come let us finally demonstrate that when he was in the Holy of Holies the angel was seen by Zechariah. For (the angel) was seen by him alone, as he was burning incense, and the high priest never enters-except only when alone. But there is nothing which hinders (us) from hearing the very words: "In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth." "Now while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to bum incense, when he entered the temple of the Lord."49-Recall if you will, beloved, that text (of Scripture) which says, "And no man shall be in the tent of witness, when he enters to make atonement in the Holy place until he comes out." - "And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense." It did not say, "of the altar of sacrifices," but "of the altar of incense." For the altar outside was of sacrifices and whole-burnt offerings, but the one inside was of incense. For this reason, and because (the angel) was seen by him alone, and because it is said that the people were outside waiting for him, it is evident that he entered into the Holy of Holies. "And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell on him. And the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John"' "And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered at his delay." And when he came out, he was gesturing to them and could not speak. Do you see that he was within the curtain? Therefore at that time he received the good tidings. And the time of the annunciation (to Zechariah) was that of Tabernacles and the fast, for this is the (text): "Afflict your souls." And the same feast is kept by the Jews about the end of the month of Gorpiaios just as you also witness; for we spend that time on the many long discourses to the Jews, arguing against the unseasonableness of their fast. Therefore Elizabeth, the wife of Zachariah, then also conceived, "and she hid herself for five months, saying, 'Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men."' Finally it is time to explain that when the former was into the sixth month of pregnancy, Mary receives the good tidings of the conception. The events are that Gabriel came to her and said, '"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus."' And as she was troubled, and sought to learn the manner, the angel answering said to her, "'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore also the one born of you will be called holy, the Son of God.' And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible."' If therefore Elizabeth started to conceive after the month of Gorpiaios, as it has been shown, we must count from that month six months afterwards. So then these are the months: Hyperberetaios, Dios, Apellaios, Audonaios, Peritios and Dustros.

After this sixth month, accordingly, Mary first conceived, whence also counting nine months, we shall arrive at this present month. Therefore the first month from the conception of the Lord is April, which is Xanthikos, after which is Artemisios, Desios, Panemos, Laios, Gorpiaios, Hyperberetaios, Dios, Apellaios - and this present month, during which we celebrate the day. But in order that what is said might become even clearer to you again taking up the same things again in brief, I shall speak to your charity: Once a year the high priest alone entered into the Holy of Holies. And when did this happen? In the month of Gorpiaios. Then, in fact, Zechariah entered into the Holy of Holies; then also he received the glad tidings concerning John. Accordingly he withdrew from there, and his wife began to conceive. And after Gorpiaios, when Elizabeth was in the sixth month, which is Dustros, Mary began finally to conceive. So counting nine months from Xanthikos, we will come the present month, during which our Lord Jesus Christ was born.

6. Well, we have made everything clear to you about the day, but one thing remains to say and I shall close the sermon, making way for the common teacher of greater things. For since many of the pagans hearing that God was born in the flesh, laugh scornfully, disparaging (this), and trouble and disturb many of the more simple folk, it is necessary to speak both to the pagans and to the ones disturbed, so that they neither be troubled anymore, misled by mindless men, nor disturbed by the laughter of the faithless. For small children also laugh often, when we are speaking seriously and occupied with pressing needs. Yet the laughter is a proof not of the baseness of the matters laughed about, but the folly of those laughing. Really one can say this very thing in the case of the pagans: also that being disposed almost more foolishly than children, they disparage things worthy of religious awe and full of much wonder, but they honor and protect things which are truly ridiculous. But nevertheless as our (tenets), which are laughed at by them, remain in their innate dignity, not at all damaged in their own glory by their laughter; so their (tenets), which are protected on all sides, display their innate deformity. For how is it not utter madness for them to believe that they neither do nor say anything shameful, when they introduce their own gods, since they are slippery, into stones, wood and cheap statues, and shut (them) up as if in a prison; while they accuse us, when we state that God having prepared a living Temple68 for Himself by the Holy Spirit aided the inhabited world through it. And what kind of accusation is this? For if it is shameful for God to dwell in a human body, much more so in stone and wood, to the extent that stone and wood are less esteemed than humanity, unless of course our race seems to them to be cheaper than these materials lacking senses. For they dare to bring in the essence69 of God into cats and dogs, and many of the heretics into even more dishonorable things than these. But we do not say any of this, and would refuse ever to listen to it; but we do say this: that the Christ assumed from (the) virgin womb a flesh, which had become pure, holy, blameless and inaccessible to all sin, and He set aright His own creature. And while those and the Manicheans who are impious in the same way as they, introducing the essence of God into dogs, apes and beasts of all sorts (for they say that the soul of all these is from that essence), do not shudder, nor hide themselves - but they say that we say things unworthy of God, because we refuse to pay attention to any of this. Really we say what was appropriate and fitting to God, that having come, He set aright His own work by the manner of this birth. What do you say? Tell me, my good fellow. You, who say that the soul of murderers and of sorcerers are of the essence of God, dare to accuse us, because we refuse all of this, and do not endure to listen to what is said, but even judge those speaking as partakers of impiety! We do say the following: that God, having prepared a holy Temple for Himself, through it introduced the citizenship of heaven into our life. And how are you not worthy of ten thousand deaths, both because of the charges you bring against us, and the impieties that you do not cease to utter. For if, as you say, it is unsuitable for God to dwell in a pure and blameless body, much more is it unsuitable (for God) to dwell in that of a sorcerer, a grave-robber, a pirate, an ape, a dog-not the very holy, blameless (body) seated now at the right of the Father. For what sort of harm would come to God from this economy, or what sort of defilement? Do you not see this sun, whose body is sensible, corruptible and perishable? - even if the pagans and Manicheans hearing these things choke ten thousand times? And not it only, but also earth, sea, and, in short, all of the visible creation, has been subjected to futility. And listen to Paul who makes this clear, when he says, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope." Then making clear what "to be subjected to futility" means, he added: "because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." Therefore now it is perishable and corruptible, for being "in bondage to decay" is nothing else than being corruptible. Further, if the sun, being a corruptible body, sends forth its rays everywhere, and approaching the mires, defilements and much other such matter, receives no injury to its purity from the converse with bodies, but even withdraws its rays pure again, giving a share of its own virtue to many of the bodies which have welcomed it, and not receiving additionally the least bit of the filth and defilement, (if that is so) much more, the Sun of righteousness, the Master of the bodiless powers, having come to pure flesh, not only has not become defiled, but also has made this itself more pure and more holy. Therefore considering all this and remembering the voice which says, "I will dwell among you, and walk among you," and again, "You are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you," - not only let us speak to them but also block the impudent mouths of the impious; and let us rejoice at our goods and glorify the God made flesh because of such great considerateness, and according to our ability give back to Him what is worthy: honor and recompense. However, there can be no recompense to God from us, except only the salvation of us and our souls, and care with regard to virtue.

7. Therefore let us not be ungrateful with regard to the Benefactor, but let us all contribute everything in our power: faith, hope, love, self-control, almsgiving, hospitality. And I shall not cease from the appeal, now and always, which I made earlier. And what is this? Being about to draw near to this fearful and Divine Table and holy participation in the Mysteries, do this with fear and trembling, with a pure conscience, with fasting and prayer, not making a commotion, nor kicking, nor shoving those nearby. For this is utter madness, and uncommon contempt. Therefore it brings even great punishment and retribution to those who do this. Perceive, 0 human: what sacrifice you are about to touch; what Table you are about to approach. Also reflect that being dirt and ashes, you receive the Blood and Body of Christ. And since the Emperor is calling you to the feast, recline with fear, and receive the food set before you with respect and quietness; and since God is calling you to His own table, and setting forth His own Son, while the angelic powers stand near with fear and trembling, even the Cherubim covering their faces, the Seraphim crying out with trembling, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord," - do you cry out, tell me, and are you in disorder at this spiritual feast? Do you not know that it is necessary for the soul to be full of calmness at that time? There is need of much peace and quietness, not of commotion and irascibility and disorder, for these make the soul that approaches unclean. Now what forgiveness could there be for us, if after such sins, we do not purify the time of approach from those irrational passions? And what is actually more necessary than that which is set before us? Or what troubles us, that we make haste, having left this behind, to run there. No, I ask and I entreat you, let us not move the wrath of God against us. That which is set forth us is salvific medicine for our wounds; it is unfailing wealth; an ambassador88 of the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore let us shudder as we approach; let us give thanks; let us fall down, confessing our faults; let us weep, lamenting our own evils; let us give back to God fervent prayers; and so having thoroughly cleansed ourselves, thus let us come forward, calmly and with the good order befitting approaching the King of the heavens; and having received the blameless and holy sacrifice, let us kiss, let us enfold with the eyes, let us warm our understanding-that we do not assemble unto judgment nor unto condemnation, but for sobriety of soul, for love, for virtue, and reconciliation with God, for sure peace, and a basis of innumerable goods, that we might both consecrate ourselves and edify those nearby. These things I say continually and shall not cease saying. For what does it profit, to run here simply and heedlessly, if you learn nothing of use? And what advantage is there, always to speak to gain favor? Short is the present (festal) season, beloved: Let us live soberly; let us be watchful; let us train ourselves; let us display sincere commitment in all relationships; let us become devout in all things-whether it is necessary to listen to the Divine utterances, or pray, or come to communion, or do anything else, let it be with fear and trembling, that we might not bring a curse upon ourselves through carelessness, for "cursed," it says, "is everyone who does the work of the Lord with slackness." The clamor and irascibility is hubris towards the sacrifice which is set forth. It is extreme presumption to offer oneself defiled to God. Listen to what the Apostle says about such things: "If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him." Therefore let us not provoke God, instead of reconciling, but let us, showing all diligence, all decorum and calm of soul, draw near94 with prayer and a "broken heart," that even by this very thing, we having appeased our Master Jesus Christ, might be able to obtain the good things promised to us, by the grace and love for humankind of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, with whom be to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, glory, might, honor, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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