By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea
(Delivered in 1958)
Once again in our lives the Lord vouchsafed us to celebrate the greatest event in the history of the world, which indescribably amazed all the Angels of heaven. They saw the Eternal Son of God descend to earth from heaven, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, in human flesh, which He was pleased to receive. They saw the God-man, which they could never have imagined.
If even the angels of God are astonished to the extreme, then what will we, the people of the earth, say? Of course, we cannot say anything, but only humbly listen to what the Creator of this amazing event Himself says about this. Listen to what He Himself says: “I came as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me should not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).
Let us also hear what the great prophet Isaiah said about this: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Is. 9:2).
Let us delve into the words of the Apostle John the Theologian, beloved of Christ God: “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
As impenetrable as the thick darkness of a moonless night, there was a haze that enveloped the minds and hearts of ancient people who deified many animals and even soulless objects.
Even the religions of the most cultured peoples of later times - the Greeks and Romans - by the time of the Nativity of Christ had fallen into such decline that the priests themselves laughed at their beliefs.
It would seem that an exception should be made for the God-chosen people of Israel, but even this people was extremely unstable in its God-revealed faith, and over the course of millennia time and again was seduced to the path of idolatry adopted from neighboring peoples. Only a minority of this people with a copper forehead and an iron neck kept the true faith in the One God.
And on this blessed, most holy and greatest day, in this pernicious darkness, the Divine light shone in a cave on the outskirts of the city of Bethlehem.
A strange and glorious mystery has been revealed to the world: the dark cave became the heavens, for the light of the Divine shone in it; a manger for cattle feed accommodated the God who was beyond the reach of the whole universe; the throne of the Cherubim, on which God sits, has been replaced by the Most Pure Virgin, on whose breast the Eternal Christ God, incomprehensibly incomprehensible to us, is now reclining.
To whom are these incomprehensible events directed? Not to kings and nobles, not to sages and philosophers, proud in their earthly glory, but to simple, ignorant, unlearned shepherds, the Angels appeared, with heavenly singing announcing to them that the Sun of Truth had shone and the light of the highest, true mind was revealed to the world.
Why, then, did the Angels announce to ordinary shepherds about such a great world event as the birth in human flesh of the Savior of the world?
Why not the strong and wise of the world? Because, we think, God opposes the proud and only gives grace to the humble.
But, perhaps, someone will say that God announced to the wise men of the East through a miraculously appeared star about the Nativity in Bethlehem of the God-man, the Son of God, who assumed human flesh from the Most Holy and Most Pure Virgin Mary.
I will answer this important question as far as my weak powers will allow me.
Who were these magi who came from afar? In the Christmas troparion they are called servants of the stars. They directed all the powers of their minds to the knowledge of the heavenly bodies, stars and planets, to the study of the laws of their movement, to the discovery of new stars. Their hearts and minds were always turned to the light of heaven, and does this not mean that their hearts yearned for the knowledge of the true light? Oh, of course it is! Even for us, the light of heavenly bodies is much closer to true, heavenly light than dead electric light. And the magi, who served the stars, were much higher in their religious knowledge than the rude pagans, who deified animals and inanimate objects. And they were incomparably more worthy, following the shepherds of Bethlehem, to come and worship the Son of Man and the Son of God who had been born, and to bring Him a gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold - as a gift befitting a king, frankincense - as a true High Priest, and myrrh - in His tomb after He saved the world by His Cross.
These sages of the far eastern countries were honored with contemplation and worship of the Divine Infant Christ, for God saw how sincerely they aspired to the knowledge of the One True Heavenly Light.
And the Knower of Hearts, Christ God, knows about us everything that we deserve, and all our shortcomings, and assigns to each of us what we deserve.
And He lays on us those crosses that are saving for us. And we must meekly and even with thanksgiving bear them. For He Himself, on this blessed day, took on human flesh not for the sake of being the world king and ruler, but for the sake of humiliation, persecution and insults from sinners, and He Himself bore the most terrible of all the crosses, on which He gave His life for the salvation of believers from the violence of the devil.
Let us also be transported, even if only mentally, following the Magi to the cave of Bethlehem and bring as a gift to Him, our Savior, all the strength of faith in Him, all the depth of love for Him, repentance for the Greeks and our iniquities.
And He will forgive us all our filthiness, and command the Apostle Peter to open before us the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven.
May this joy be with you all, my brothers and sisters! Amen.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.