On the Virgin Birth and the Creation of Woman

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by St. John Chrysostom

It was fitting that the Giver of all holiness should enter this world by a pure and holy birth. For He it is that of old formed Adam from the virgin earth, and from Adam without help of woman formed woman. For as without woman Adam produced woman, so did the Virgin without man this day bring forth a man. For it is a man, saith the Lord, and who shall know him [Jer. 17:9]. For since the race of women owed to men a debt, as from Adam without woman woman came, therefore without man the Virgin this day brought forth, and on behalf of Eve repaid the debt to man.

That Adam might not take pride, that he without woman had engendered woman, a Woman without man has begotten man; so that by the similarity of the mystery is proved the similarity in nature. For as before the Almighty took a rib from Adam, and by that Adam was not made less; so in the Virgin He formed a living temple, and the holy virginity remained unchanged. Sound and unharmed Adam remained even after the deprivation of a rib; unstained the Virgin though a Child was born of her.

+ St. John Chrysostom, “Homily on Christmas Morning”

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On the Star of Bethlehem

Angelic Star of Bethlehem

by Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (+407 AD)

On the Star of Bethlehem

For if you can learn what the star (of Bethlehem) was, and of what kind, and whether it were one of the common stars, or new and unlike the rest, and whether it was a star by nature or a star in appearance only, we shall easily know the other things also. Whence then will these points be manifest?

From the very things that are written. Thus, that this star was not of the common sort, or rather not a star at all, as it seems at least to me, but some invisible power transformed into this appearance, is in the first place evident from its very course. For there is not, there is not any star that moves by this way, but whether it be the sun you mention, or the moon, or all the other stars, we see them going from east to west; but this was wafted from north to south; for so is Palestine situated with respect to Persia.

In the second place, one may see this from the time also. For it appears not in the night, but in midday, while the sun is shining; and this is not within the power of a star, nay not of the moon; for the moon that so much surpasses all, when the beams of the sun appear, straightway hides herself, and vanishes away. But this by the excess of its own splendor overcame even the beams of the sun, appearing brighter than they, and in so much light shining out more illustriously.

In the third place, from its appearing, and hiding itself again. For on their way as far as Palestine it appeared leading them, but after they set foot within Jerusalem, it hid itself: then again, when they had left Herod, having told him on what account they came, and were on the point of departing, it shows itself; all which is not like the motion of a star, but of some power highly endued with reason. For it had not even any course at all of its own, but when they were to move, it moved; when to stand, it stood, dispensing all as need required: in the same kind of way as the pillar of the cloud, now halting and now rousing up the camp of the Jews, when it was needful.

In the fourth place, one may perceive this clearly, from its mode of pointing Him out. For it did not, remaining on high, point out the place; it not being possible for them so to ascertain it, but it came down and performed this office. For you know that a spot of such small dimensions, being only as much as a shed would occupy, or rather as much as the body of a little infant would take up, could not possibly be marked out by a star. For by reason of its immense height, it could not sufficiently distinguish so confined a spot, and reveal it to those who were desiring to see it. And this anyone may see by the moon, which being so far superior to the stars, seems to all that dwell in the world to be near to each and every one of them. How then, tell me, did the star point out a spot so confined, just the space of a manger and shed, unless it left that height and came down, and stood over the very head of the young child? And at this the evangelist was hinting when he said, “Lo, the star went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.”

Do you see by what store of proofs this star is shown not to be one of the many, nor to have shown itself according to the order of the outward creation? And for what intent did it appear? To reprove the lawless peoplefor their insensibility, and to cut off from them all occasion of excuse for their willful ignorance. For, since He who came was to put an end to the ancient polity, and to call the world to the worship of Himself, and to be worshipped in all land and sea, straightway, from the beginning, He opens the door to the Gentiles, willing through strangers to admonish His own people.

Thus, because the prophets were continually heard speaking of His advent, and they gave no great heed, He made even barbarians come from a far country, to seek after the king that was among them. And they learn from a Persian tongue first of all, what they would not submit to learn from the prophets; that, if on the one hand they were disposed to be candid, they might have the strongest motive for obedience; if, on the other hand, they were contentious, they might henceforth be deprived of all excuse. For what could they have to say, who did not receive Christ after so many prophets, when they saw that wise men, at the sight of a single star, had received this same, and had worshipped Him who was made manifest.

-The Gospel of St. Matthew, Homily VI. 3, 4, pp. 37-38

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The Venerable Womb of the Virgin

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by St. Gregory the Theologian

Theotokos, not Christotokos.

If anyone does not consider holy Mary to be the Theotokos, then he does not accept the divinity of Christ.

… If anyone does not believe the holy Mary to be theTheotokos, he is without the Divinity. If anyone should say that Christ passed through the Virgin as through a channel, and was not formed in her at once in a divine and human way – divine because it was without the work of man, human because it was subject to the law of human gestation – he is equally atheistic.

… [T]he whole Adam fell by the fatal taste. Accordingly, in a human manner and beyond the human manner, in the venerable womb of the Virgin, He was shown as God and Man, uniting the two natures in one — one hidden, the other manifest to men.

 

One Hundred Stanzas on the Nativity

by St. Ephraim the Syrian

Our father among the saints, Ephraim was a prolific Syriac language hymn writer and theologian of the 4th century. He is venerated by Christians throughout the world, but especially among Syriac Christians, as a saint. Here Ephraim presents his “counsel of life”, warning against various sins such as greed, pride, fornication, and slander.

1. This is the day that gladdened them, the Prophets, Kings, and Priests, for in it were their words fulfilled, and thus were the whole of them indeed performed!

2. For the Virgin this day brought forth Immanuel in Bethlehem. The voice that of old Isaiah spake, today became reality.

3. He was born there who in writing should tell the Gentiles’ number! The Psalm that David once sang, by its fulfillment came today!

4. The word that Micah once spake, today was come indeed to pass! For there came from Ephratha a Shepherd, and His staff swayed over souls.

5. Lo! from Jacob shone the Star, and from Israel rose the Head. The prophecy that Balaam spake had its interpreting today!

6. Down also came the hidden Light, and from the Body rose His beauty! The light that spake in Zacharias, today shined in Bethlehem!

7. Risen is the Light of the kingdom, in Ephratha the city of the King. The blessing wherewith Jacob blessed, to its fulfillment came today!

8. That tree likewise, the tree of life, brings hope to mortal men! Solomon’??s hidden proverb had today its explanation!

9. Today was born the Child, and His name was called Wonder! For a wonder it is that God as a Babe should show Himself.

10. By the word Worm did the Spirit foreshow Him in parable, because His generation was without marriage. The type that the Holy Ghost figured today its meaning was explained.

11. He came up as a root before Him, as a root of parched ground. Aught that covertly was said, openly today was done!

12. The King that in Judah was hidden, Tamar stole Him from his thigh. Today arose His conquering beauty, which in hidden estate she loved.

13. Ruth at Boaz’ side lay down, because the Medicine of Life hidden in him she perceived. Today was fulfilled her vow, since from her seed arose the Quickener of all.

14. Travail Adam on the woman brought, that from him had come forth. She today her travail ransomed, who to her a Saviour bare!

15. To Eve our mother a man gave birth, who himself had had no birth. How much more should Eve’??s daughter be believed to have borne a Child without a man!

16. The virgin earth, she bare that Adam that was head over the earth! The Virgin bare today the Adam that was Head over the Heavens.

17. The staff of Aaron, it budded, and the dry wood yielded fruit! Its mystery is cleared up today, for the virgin womb a Child hath borne!

18. Shamed is that people which holds the prophets as true; for unless our Saviour has come, their words have been falsified!

19. Blessed be the True One Who came from the Father of the Truth and fulfilled the true seers’?? words, which were accomplished in their truth.

20. From thy treasure-house put forth, Lord, from the coffers of Thy Scriptures, names of righteous men of old, who looked to see Thy coming!

21. Seth who was in Abel’??s stead shadowed out the Son as slain, by Whose death was dulled the envy Cain had brought into the world!

22. Noah saw the sons of God, saints that sudden waxed wanton, and the Holy Son he looked for, by whom lewd men were turned to holiness.

23. The brothers twain, that covered Noah, saw the only Son of God who should come to hide the nakedness of Adam, who was drunk with pride.

24. Shem and Japhet, being gracious, looked for the gracious Son, Who should come and set free Canaan from the servitude of sin.

25. Melchizedek expected Him; as His vicegerent, looked that he might see the Priesthood’??s Lord whose hyssop purifies the world.

26. Lot beheld the Sodomites how they perverted nature: for nature’s Lord he looked who gave a holiness not natural.

27. Him Aaron looked for, for he saw that if his rod ate serpents up, His cross would eat the Serpent up that had eaten Adam and Eve.

28. Moses saw the uplifted serpent that had cured the bites of asps, and he looked to see Him who would heal the ancient Serpent’??s wound.

29. Moses saw that he himself alone retained the brightness from God, and he looked for Him who came and multiplied gods by His teaching.

30. Caleb the spy bore the cluster on the staff, and came and longed to see the Cluster, Whose wine should comfort the world.

31. Him did Jesus son of Nun long for, that he might conceive the force of his own surname: for if by His name he waxed so mighty, how much more would He by His Birth?

32. This Jesus that gathered and carried, and brought with him of the fruit, was longing for the Tree of Life to taste the Fruit that quickens all.

33. For Him Rahab too was looking; for when the scarlet thread in type redeemed her from wrath, in type she tasted of the Truth.

34. For Him Elijah longed, and when Him on earth he saw not, he, through faith most throughly cleansed, mounted up in heaven to see Him.

35. Moses saw Him and Elijah; the meek man from the depth ascended, the zealous from on high descended, and in the midst beheld the Son.

36. They figured the mystery of His Advent: Moses was a type of the dead, and Elijah a type of the living, that fly to meet Him at His coming.

37. For the dead that have tasted death, them He makes to be first: and the rest that are not buried, are last caught up to meet Him.

38. Who is there that can count me up the just that looked for the Son, whose number cannot be determined by the mouth of us weak creatures?

39. Pray ye for me, O beloved, that another time with strength endued, I in another legend may so set forth their foretaste, as I am able.

40. Who is adequate to the praising of the Son of the Truth that has risen to us? For it was for Him the righteous longed, that in their generation they might see Him.

41. Adam looked for Him, for He is the Cherub’s Lord, and could minister an entrance and a residence hard by the branches of the Tree of life.

42. Abel longed after Him, that in his days He might come; that instead of that lamb that he offered, the Lamb of God he might behold.

43. For Him Eve also looked; for woman’s nakedness was sore, and He capable to clothe them; not with leaves, but with that same glory that they had exchanged away.

44. The tower that the many builded, in mystery looked for One, who coming down would build on earth a tower that lifts up to Heaven.

45. Yea the ark of living creatures looked in a type for our Lord; for He should build the Holy Church, wherein souls find a refuge.

46. In Peleg’s days earth was divided into tongues, threescore and ten. For Him Who by the tongues, to His Apostles divided earth.

47. Earth which the flood had swallowed up, in silence cried to her Lord. He came down and opened Baptism, and men were drawn by it to Heaven.

48. Seth and Enos, Cainan too, were surnamed sons of God; for the Son of God they looked, that they by grace might be His brethren.

49. But little short of a thousand years did Methuselah live: He looked for the Son Who makes heirs of life that never ends!

50. Grace itself in hidden mystery was beseeching on their behalf that their Lord might come in their age and fill up their shortcomings.

51. For the Holy Spirit in them, in their stead, besought with meditation: He stirred them up, and in Him did they look on that Redeemer, after whom they longed.

52. The soul of just men perceive in the Son a Medicine of life; and so it felt desires that He might come in its own days, and then would it taste His sweetness.

53. Enoch was longing for Him, and since on earth the Son he saw not, he was justified by great faith, and mounted up in Heaven to see Him.

54. Who is there that will spurn at grace, when the Gift that they of old gained not by much labour, freely comes to men now?

55. For Him Lamech also looked who might come and lovingly give Him quiet from his labour and the toiling of his hands, and from the earth the Just One had cursed.

56. Lamech then beheld his son, Noah, him, in whom were figured types relating to the Son. In the stead of the Lord afar off, the type at hand afforded quiet.

57. Yea Noah also longed to see Him, the taste of whose assisting graces he had tasted. For if the type of Him preserved living things, Himself how sure to bestow life upon souls!

58. Noah longed for Him, by trial knowing Him, for through Him had the ark been established. For if the type of Him thus saved life, assuredly much more would He in person.

59. Abraham perceived in Spirit that the Son’s Birth was far off; instead of Him in person he rejoiced to see even His day.

60. To see Him Isaac longed, as having tasted the taste of His redemption; for if the sign of Him so gave life, much more would He by the reality.

61. Joyous were today the Watchers, that the Wakeful came to wake us! Who would pass this night in slumber, in which all the world was watching?

62. Since Adam brought into the world the sleep of death by sins, the Wakeful came down that He might awake us from the deep sleep of sin.

63. Watch not we as usurers, who thinking on money put to interest, watch at night so oft, to reckon up their capital, and interest.

64. Wakeful and cautious is the thief, who in the earth hath buried and concealed his sleep. His wakefulness all comes to this, that he may cause much wakefulness to them that be asleep.

65. Wakeful likewise is the glutton, who hath eaten much and is restless; his watching is to him his torment, because he was impatient of stint.

66. Wakeful likewise is the merchant; of a night he works his fingers telling over what pounds are coming, and if his wealth doubles or trebles.

67. Wakeful likewise is the rich man, whose sleep his riches chase away: his dogs sleep; he guards his treasures from the thieves.

68. Wakeful also is the careful, by his care his sleep is swallowed: though his end stands by his pillow, yet he wakes with cares for years to come.

69. Satan teaches, O my brethren, one watching instead of another; to good deeds to be sleepy, and to ill awake and watchful.

70. Even Judas Iscariot, for the whole night through was wakeful; and he sold the righteous Blood, that purchased the whole world.

71. The son of the dark one put on darkness, having stripped the Light from off him: and Him who created silver, for silver the thief sold.

72. Yea, Pharisees, the dark one’s sons, all the night through kept awake: the dark ones watched that they might veil the Light which is unlimited.

73. Ye then watch as heaven’s lights in this night of starry light. For though so dark be its colour yet in virtue it is clear.

74. For whoever is like this clear One, wakeful and prayerful in darkness, him in this darkness visible a light unseen surrounds!

75. The bad man that in daylight stands, yet as a son of darkness deals; though with light clad outwardly, inly is with darkness girt.

76. Be we not deceived, beloved, by the fact that we are watching! For whoso does not rightly watch, his watch is an unrighteous watch.

77. Whoso watches not cheerfully, his watching is but a sleeping: whoso also watches not innocently, even his waking is his foe.

78. This is the waking of the envious one! a solid mass, compact with harm. That watch is but a trafficking, with scorn and mockery compact.

79. The wrathful man if he wakes, fretful with wrath his wake will be, and his watching proves to him full of rage and of cursings.

80. If the babbler be waking, then his mouth becomes a passage which for sins is ready but for prayers shows hindrance.

81. The wise man, if so be he that watches, one of two things chooseth him; either takes sweet, moderate, sleep, or a holy vigil keeps.

82. That night is fair, wherein He Who is Fair rose to come and make us fair. Let not aught that may disturb it enter into our watch!

83. Fair be kept the ear’s approach, chaste the seeing of the eye! hallowed the musing of the heart! the speaking of the mouth be cleared.

84. Mary hid in us today leaven that came from Abraham. Let us then so pity beggars as did Abraham the needy. Today the rennet fell on us from the gentle David’??s house.

85. Let a man show mercy to his persecutors, as did Jesse’??s son to Saul. The prophets’?? sweet salt is today sprinkled among the Gentiles.

86. Let us gain a new savor by that whereby the ancient people lost their savor. Let us speak the speech of wisdom; speak we not of things outside it, lest we ourselves be outside it!

87. In this night of reconcilement let no man be wroth or gloomy! in this night that stills all, none that threatens or disturbs!

88. This night belongs to the sweet One; bitter or harsh be in it none! In this night that is the meek One’??s, high or haughty be in it none!

89. In this day of pardoning let us not exact trespasses! In this day of gladnesses let us not spread sadnesses!

90. In this day so sweet, let us not be harsh! In this day of peaceful rest, let us not be wrathful in it!

91. In this day when God came to sinners, let not the righteous be in his mind uplifted over sinner!

92. In this day in which there came the Lord of all unto the servants, let masters too condescend to their servants lovingly!

93. In this day in which the Rich became poor for our sakes, let the rich man make the poor man share with him at his table.

94. On this day to us came forth the Gift, although we asked it not! Let us therefore bestow alms on them that cry and beg of us.

95. This is the day that opened for us a gate on high to our prayers. Let us open also gates to supplicants that have transgressed, and of us have asked forgiveness.

96. Today the Lord of nature was against His nature changed; let it not to us be irksome to turn our evil wills.

97. Fixed in nature is the body; great or less it cannot become: but the will has such dominion, it can grow to any measure.

98. This is the day that gladdened them, the Prophets, Kings, and Priests, for in it were their words fulfilled, and thus were the whole of them indeed performed!

99. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Today Godhead sealed itself upon Manhood, that so with the Godhead’s stamp Manhood might be adorned.

100. Both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen. The voice that of old Isaiah spake, today became reality. For the Virgin this day brought forth Immanuel in Bethlehem.

Sermon 28 On The Nativity Of Christ

by St. Leo the Great

magiangel116Our father among the saints, Leo the Great was the bishop of Rome during difficult times. He was an eminent scholar of Scripture and rhetoric. During an invasion by Attila the Hun, St. Leo met him outside the gates of Rome. After some short words, to everyone’s surprise, Attila turned and left. Three years later, during an invasion by Genseric the Vandal, St. Leo’s intercession again saved the Eternal City from destruction.

I. The Incarnation an unceasing source of joy

Though all the divine utterances exhort us, dearly beloved, to

“rejoice in the Lord always,” Philippians 4:4

yet today we are no doubt incited to a full spiritual joy, when the mystery of the Lord’s nativity is shining brightly upon us, so that we may have recourse to that unutterable condescension of the Divine Mercy, whereby the Creator of men deigned to become man, and be found ourselves in His nature whom we worship in ours. For God the Son of God, the only-begotten of the eternal and not-begotten Father, remaining eternal “in the form of God,” and unchangingly and without time possessing the property of being no way different to the Father He received “the form of a slave” without loss of His own majesty, that He might advance us to His state and not lower Himself to ours. Hence both natures abiding in possession of their own properties such unity is the result of the union that whatever of Godhead is there is inseparable from the manhood: and whatever of manhood, is indivisible from the Godhead. Continue reading Sermon 28 On The Nativity Of Christ

A Christmas Sermon of St. Gregory Nazianzus

by St. Gregory Nazianzus “The Theologian”

Light116Our father among the saints Gregory the Theologian, also known as Gregory of Nazianzus (though that name more appropriately refers to his father) and Gregory the Younger, was a great Father and Teacher of the Church. He was a close friend of St. Basil the Great.  He was one of the great Cappodocean Fathers, and is one of only three saints given the title “Theologian” in all of Orthodox hagiography and theology.

Christ is born, glorify Him!

Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him!

Christ on earth, be exalted! Sing to the Lord all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope. Continue reading A Christmas Sermon of St. Gregory Nazianzus

The Sacrament of Christ’s Incarnation

by St. Peter Chrysologus

Our father among the saints, Peter Chrysologus (Golden Words) was known for having a great deal of energy in setting out to improve the Church. Among his many great works, he is noted for the reformation of what he perceived as laxity in the Roman See. Paganism was still prominent in the empires of his time and he is credited for completely eradicating it during his lifetime. Apparently, he had many charities and, of course, his preaching was considered to be inspired of God.

A virgin conceived, bore a son, and yet remained a virgin. This is no common occurrence, but a sign; no reason here, but God’s power, for he is the cause, and not nature. It is a special event, not shared by others; it is divine, not human. Christ’s birth was not necessity, but an expression of omnipotence, a sacrament of piety for the redemption of men. He who made man without generation from pure clay made man again and was born from a pure body. The hand that assumed clay to make our flesh deigned to assume a body for your salvation. That the Creator is in his creature and God is in the flesh brings dignity to man without dishonor to him who made him.

Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Continue reading The Sacrament of Christ’s Incarnation

A Christmas Sermon of St. Gregory the Great

Given to the People in the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the day of the Nativity of Our Lord.

Our father among the saints Gregory I, also known as Gregory the Dialogist, was the Pope of Rome from September 3, 590, until his death on March 12, 604. He is certainly one of the most notable figures in Ecclesiastical History. He has exercised in many respects a momentous influence on the doctrine, the organization, and the discipline of the Church. To him we must look for an explanation of the religious situation of the Middle Ages.

Indeed, if no account were taken of his work, the evolution of the form of medieval Christianity would be almost inexplicable. He is noted for his writings. The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, rich with Scriptural quotations and imagery, has been associated to him as its author.

Because by the Divine Bounty we are on this day thrice to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Liturgy, we cannot therefore speak at length on the Gospel lesson. But the Birth of Our Redeemer Himself demands of us that we say something for the occasion, however briefly. Continue reading A Christmas Sermon of St. Gregory the Great