December 9, 2021

Dear Melkites across America,

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Within God's plan for his creation, humanity would live in an eternal paradise where peace would reign among mankind and even with the animal world. God would be glorified in all aspects of his creation and all of these aspects would be for the glorification of man and woman - the apex of God's creation.

Adam and Eve harmed this relationship with God by choosing the devil's temptation to eat of the one tree God had prohibited. Their act created sin and death. Yet the all-loving God created a new plan of renewal with the promise of a Savior born of a woman by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In time the promise was fulfilled through a young girl of Nazareth, Mary the virgin who said yes to God's plan and gave birth to Jesus Christ in the flesh. God now took human flesh to share his divinity with our humanity- he became one of us.

We celebrate this birth each year but not just a birth of the past, rather a new birth today in each and everyone of us. His birth as a human being was our renewal to live in paradise once again. Through our incorporation into the life of Christ: baptism, chrismation and Eucharist, we become other Christs committed to living his life. He is reborn in us and the celebration of his birth in Bethlehem must become a reminder every day of our life that he is our Savior, GOD WITH US - EMMANUEL.

The gospel writers Matthew and Luke present us with a beautiful account of the Lord's birth with a cast of characters and even nature. We witness the earth providing a humble cave and an animals' feeding box in which the child Jesus is laid. The heavens reveal a star to point out to the Magi or wise stargazers where he would be born. Heavenly angels announce to shepherds in the field the good news singing "glory to God and peace on earth." With their sheep they go to Bethlehem's cave followed later by the Magi bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and there they find heaven on Earth - God in the flesh born of the Virgin Mary. She is protected by the noble Joseph who becomes the protector of Mary's child.

This holy event opens our hearts to accept a humble birth of the everlasting and almighty God in the flesh. It has motivated artists to create many images of the miraculous birth in icons, paintings, writings and other Media forms ; even our calendar is calculated from the time of his birth. He becomes the center of all humanity.

Adam and Eve transgressed God's command; the new Adam, Jesus Christ and the new Eve, the Mother of God, renewed and reconciled our broken humanity with the plan of God. Our broken human nature is divinized. Jesus becomes a man in human flesh to unite our humanity to his divinity: all humanity is called to be divine.

Dear sisters and brothers, clergy and laity, I offer you my love and prayers, asking God to open your hearts to renew yourselves in full commitment to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. And through you may he open the hearts of many others to his gospel message. There is still much brokenness in our world, lack of peace among warring nations, major economic problems all around, imbalance in many aspects of our life, violence and senseless shootings, abortion or killing the unborn, and euthanasia, sometimes called mercy killing but in reality totally against God. We look to our faith and our commitment to living Christ and his teachings to combat the non-godly ways. It all begins with us.

Remain strong in your faith, learn and study it more and live it vibrantly. May the celebration of the Lord's birth open us to renew ourselves once again and not just on December 25, but every day of our life. We celebrate this birth also at the end of the year to embark on a new year with all godly aspects of love and peace.

My love and my prayers for each and everyone of you. May you enjoy this family feast all the days that follow. Allow the Lord to be reborn in you! A blessed feast of the Nativity of Christ, a happy and healthy 2022, and a joyful Feast of the Theophany celebrating God's manifestation through the event of his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Forerunner.

Sincerely yours in the new-born Savior,

+Nicholas


Teachings of Christ

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10 ESV)

Theophany

At Your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion - Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge sing praise to You: * “You have come, and You have appeared , O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Christ is Born!

Your Nativity, O Christ our God, * has dawned upon the world the light of knowledge. * for through it, those who served the stars * were taught by a star to worship You, the Sun of Righteousness * and to know You, the Dawn from on high. * Glory to You, O Lord! (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, * and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. * Angels and shepherds sing His glory; * Wise Men journey with a star * for there is born for us an infant Child, the God Who is before all ages. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

It is a fearful thing to hate whom God has loved. To look upon another – his weaknesses, his sins, his faults, his defects – is to look upon one who is suffering. He is suffering from negative passions, from the same sinful human corruption from which you yourself suffer. This is very important: do not look upon him with the judgmental eyes of comparison, noting the sins you assume you’d never commit. Rather, see him as a fellow sufferer, a fellow human being who is in need of the very healing of which you are in need. Help him, love him, pray for him, do unto him as you would have him do unto you.

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk