1963 Christmas Message
By St. John Maximovitch
By St. John Maximovitch
“Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth peace among those whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
The angels sang in heaven when the Son of God was born in Bethlehem. “Glory to God in the highest” is heard in heaven to this day, in all ages it has not calmed down and never stopped for a moment. The angels are constantly praising Him. “Holy, Holy, Holy,” cry the six-winged seraphim and the many-eyed cherubim, countless hosts of angels worship Him. Soulless creation listens to Him: the sun shines, warming the earth with its rays, the moon dispels the darkness of the night, the stars shine, the material sky, imitating the spiritual Heaven, glorifies the Creator of the universe in its strength in the highest.
Is there peace on earth that the angels sang about on the night when the Infant Christ was born in a wretched cave?
After all, when the angelic singing heard by the shepherds had not yet ceased, Herod’s warriors were already sharpening their swords for slaughtering innocent babies. Then the Jewish elders and high priests viciously persecuted the Newborn, finally achieving the crucifixion and death of the Source of life. And soon after His Ascension, the blood of His disciples poured into heaven, beginning with Archdeacon Stephen, whose memory has long been associated with the feast of the Nativity of Christ. The blood of those who believe in Christ is still shed today, and divisions constantly arise between them, often turning into enmity. Where is the peace that the angels sang about on the night of the Nativity of Christ?
But, although it seems that there was not and is not peace on earth, now indeed the King of the world was born in Bethlehem, He gave peace to mankind. He proclaimed peace to people and was the bearer of true peace.
“Peace be with you,” He constantly told His disciples. He also had peace towards His enemies, and prayed for those who crucified Him. That peace He bequeathed and left to those who followed Him and loved Him. This is that inner peace given from above, for which we daily pray during divine services, saying: “For peace from above and the salvation of our souls, let us entreat the Lord.” That is a deep inner peace, a feeling of closeness to God and the purity of one's conscience before Him. That peace does not depend on external conditions, but is given by the purification of one's heart.
This peace belonged to the martyrs during their sufferings, the saints who fled from the world, but whom the world followed. “Acquire inner peace and thousands around you will be saved,” said St. Seraphim of Sarov. That peace Christ brought to earth, which He gave and gives to those who seek Him. He gives to those who aspire to it and in their hearts prepare a dwelling place for Him, driving out all that is filthy from it - to those who have good will, i.e. the will to do the commandments of God and do good to others. Whoever not only wants it, but directs and forces himself to it, the Lord rewards him with a grace-filled peace. Blessed is the soul that feels it, then nothing is terrible! She experiences joyful blessedness, and sows peace all around.
Lord God, give us Your peace! Let's break away from earthly attachments. Woe to our hearts! May the light of the Star of Bethlehem shine upon them, and with joy let us cry:
Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth peace among those whom He is pleased!
Christ is born!
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.