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December 30, 2022

Sixth Homily for the Day of the Nativity of Christ (Archpriest Rodion Putyatin)

 By Archpriest Rodion Putyatin

"And the angel said to them: Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy that will be for all people" (Luke 2:10).

This was said by an angel to the shepherds of Bethlehem, who were in the field on the night when our Lord Jesus Christ was born.

The shepherds of Bethlehem were, in appearance, probably no better or a little better than our current shepherds, that is, almost the last of the people in the city. But listeners, what mercy they have been granted! The Lord sent His angel to tell them about the birth of Jesus Christ, and they were the first of the entire human race to worship the newborn Savior of the world. How did they deserve this grace of God? Of course, not because they alone did not sleep that night, although they did not sleep for a necessary, honest matter.

So how? They were low in rank and engaged in menial work, but, apparently, they were ranked high in their souls, above many in their kindness and purity. In fact, let's take a closer look at them, and we'll see it.

The angel told them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy that will be for all people.” So, great joy will be not for them alone, but for all, for all the people.

Do you know what low, black-hearted, callous-hearted people would do in their place? Why are we in a hurry to go? They would have said so and would not have gone, and would have remained in their business. Not so the shepherds of Bethlehem. As soon as they heard that there would be joy, and joy for all, not for them alone, they immediately left everything of their own, abandoned it and went to Bethlehem to see what happened there, what kind of joy of God was born there, from which all people will rejoice.

Yes, a low man, black at heart, callous in soul, if he rejoices, he rejoices alone, not at all thinking about others, whether they are cheerful. He is full, calm, satisfied, but what about others? What are others to him? If only they wwere full, calm, contented. He is not even happy when others rejoice or when he needs to share his joy with others. And people who are great in kindness, in purity of heart and soul, are pleased with general joy; they are merry when they know that everyone is merry. Yes, it means that he is great in soul and heart, in whom the joy of many is reflected, contained, who has enough participation in all. Small in soul, on the contrary, means a person is low, constricted and callous in heart, when he has no place for joy in others, when he has no one but himself.

We sometimes wonder why some people do not share the joys with us in the Church, the joys of the saints, the Divine: it is precisely because they are not pure in heart, not good in soul, our joy is not according to their black soul, our joy with everyone and about everyone is incompatible with their constricted heart. They are even unpleasant, annoyed that we serve God, that we rejoice in the Lord. Oh, yes, how can this be, I don’t say annoyed, but how can you not rejoice when you look or hear that a person praises God, glorifies God, sings, magnifies! And you will rejoice at a pagan when he prays to God in his own way and distributes alms to the poor, for, seeing this, you are immediately convinced that the Lord will send His angel someday to tell him what he must do for his salvation (see: Acts 10).

Only the enemies of the human race can be annoyed, not rejoice at our service to God; for them, every light of God is unbearable, and every holy occupation is disgusting. So, the shepherds of Bethlehem, these people, low in their rank and occupation, were honored to be the first to see and worship Jesus Christ, especially because they were kind in soul and pure in heart. The kindness of the soul leads a person to God, and the pure in heart will see God.

Do not think, however, listeners, that kindness of soul and purity of heart are the property of only simple people, low in rank and occupation. In the higher ones you will see this greatness even more quickly. The one to whom alone we now solemnly sing eternal memory, whom everyone will call blessed for all eternity, how did he deserve such a memory and such a blessing, if not by his purity and kindness? Yes, the pure heart of Alexander I could be comforted only by the peace of Europe, and his good soul could be comforted only by the joy of the whole world.

Oh, listeners, try to have a pure heart and a kind soul, so that everyone is close to you and everyone has access to you; then you will be close to God and will have access to Him, and finally, you will boldly worship Him no longer on earth, lying in a manger, but in Heaven, sitting on the throne of glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.