December 25, 2022

Homily Three on the Nativity of Christ (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1957)

"A strange and most glorious mystery do I behold: the cave is heaven; the Virgin - the throne of the cherubim; the manger - the place wherein lay Christ God, Whom nothing can contain, Whom praising, we magnify" (Irmos of the Nativity of Christ, ode 9).

On this great day, the Holy Church remembers a deeply mysterious and incomprehensibly great event, before which all other events in the history of the world are completely insignificant - the Nativity of the Eternal Son of God in human flesh from the Most Holy and Blessed Virgin Mary, for the salvation of the human race perishing in sins.

The cave, in which this profound mystery took place, truly became heaven, for God appeared in it. The small manger, from which the animals were fed, contained God, who was incapable of being contained by the whole universe.

In the Prophet Isaiah, in the Psalmist David, in the books of Kings we read that God sits on the cherubs as on His throne, and now we see the Pre-eternal Son of God resting on the bed and in the arms of His Most Pure Ever-Virgin Earthly Mother, Who is now truly called the Throne of the Cherubim.

Let us prostrate ourselves before the Bethlehem cave, in which the King of Heaven in the image of the God-man deigned to appear to the world in the most miserable conditions.

We cannot comprehend such immeasurable humility and the contempt for any worldly glory of the Lord Jesus, who has now been born.

But let us remember the words of God proclaimed through the Prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. But as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

And not in our way, but in His own way, our Lord and God Jesus Christ celebrated the greatness of His Nativity in the cave of Bethlehem.

Miraculously, as it is possible only for God, He announced His earthly birth to those near and far, the simple and unlearned, the wise and learned. The simple were close to Him, from among them He later chose His Apostles. They belonged to His chosen people, they believed in the True God, they understood the language of the Holy Scriptures. And He sent to them in the deep hour of the night His Angel, who said to them: “Do not be afraid; I proclaim to you great joy, which will be to all people: for today a Savior has been born to you in the city of David, who is Christ the Lord; and here is a sign for you: you will find a baby in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12). And suddenly the heavens opened up before the eyes of the shepherds, and a whole host of angels appeared before them, confirming what they had just proclaimed with amazing heavenly singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth peace among those whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).

In a completely different, but also miraculous way, the Lord God revealed the great mystery of the descent of His Eternal Son to earth to other, very distant people - the Eastern Magi, learned sages and noble people who did not yet know the True God. And by the miraculous appearance of a star, He prompted them to go on a long journey and worship the Incarnate Son of God, the Savior of the world.

Who were these Eastern Magi? They were very eminent scientists of the ancient world, deep and unceasing observers of the starry sky, the movement and course of the stars.

The means that their science possessed were very primitive. They did not have telescopes and other powerful optical instruments that modern astronomers possess, but they were deeply familiar with mathematics, this very important science, because without it it was impossible to understand the movement of stars and planets. Their science, astrology, is now considered a false science, because they believed that by the movement of the stars, and especially by the appearance of new ones, one can recognize and foresee historical events, the birth and fate of great people.

God was pleased to attract the minds and hearts of these ancient learned people to the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Savior of the world, who was born in their days in the flesh.

Oh, how I would like this – concerning the ancient learned sorcerers, and the miraculous star that led them to Bethlehem – to be remembered by today's scientists, who for the most part have replaced faith in God with faith in science; so that they remember that there are two spheres of being: material being and spiritual being.

The power of science is extremely great, penetrating deeper and deeper into the secrets of material existence, and there is no end in sight to its great achievements.

But let not the learned be proud of their wisdom!

And I will remind those who live only by scientific faith the amazing word of the Lord Jesus Christ: “... I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning” (Luke 10:18).

They fall only from top to bottom, and the overthrow of Satan from heaven to earth indicates that heaven - this sphere of spiritual existence - is much higher than material existence.

This is also confirmed by the temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ by the devil after His forty day fast in the wilderness. The devil took the Lord Jesus to a high mountain and, showing Him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory, said: “I will give you power over all these [kingdoms] and their glory, for it is given to me, and I give it to whomever I want; so, if You bow down to me, then everything will be Yours” (Luke 4:6-7).

It is quite possible that powerful science will someday reveal all the secrets of material existence. But just as the devil, cast out of heaven for his pride, lost his participation in the great mysteries of the spiritual sphere, so proud scientists who have lost faith in God are inaccessible to everything that belongs to the highest sphere of spiritual existence, in which their own special laws exist and operate, inaccessible to the human mind.

These laws are accessible only to saints who have become temples of the Spirit of God, friends and even brethren of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, who has now descended from heaven to earth for the salvation of the human race by His Divine preaching, and not only by this, but even — it is awesome to say — by His flesh and by His blood.

Follow Him with me, all of you, my brothers and sisters. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.