Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nativity in modern time

                                            (From the weekly series "Dots on Letters")

   … The water is drifting the ship, with an enormous vigor, into the abyss of a deep waterfall, descending into the depth of the earth of perdition, and people on board are fighting, quarrelling and slaughtering one another!. They say it is “a fight for survival” which is nothing but foolishness! Absolute blindness!... What survival?! You have all departed or are departing! “Vanities of vanities, all is vanity. What advantage does a man have in all his labor, in which he toils under the sun?” (Ecc 1: 2-3)!... “Woe to us, because we sinned!” (Lam 5: 16), because we walked recklessly, in blindness… willingly. “Water flowed over my head” (Lam 3: 50)!. Who will deliver us from this body of death?! (Rm 7: 24)… All is falling into the deep!. There is nothing firm to hold on to!. The seas are hurling!. Will this night get to an end?!. A fall in the fall in the fall! Certainly!. He said: there is the one and only that is everlasting: “Love! .” “Love never fails” (1Co 13: 8)!. So there is hope for us!. This is the core, the essence!. This is the beginning and the end!. Love said: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end!.”

   “This day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”… “All people who dwell in the country of the shadow of death, upon you a light will shine!”.

   Love does not originate from God… It is God. Love is He!. And indeed, all creatures of God are beams of love. We come from the shining light, but we seek the Dayspring coming from on High, He, the Sun of Righteousness. Did He create us out of nothing? Yes, indeed!. And let us not forget that we are but dust and ashes!. Yet, He gave us to love. You will die without this Liberty to love!. There is no love unless it is whole. Love, in its characteristic, longs for the other, not for what the other possesses, and not only for what he offers. In fact what he offers is a mean that leads us to him. The final purpose is to be in God, this is the fullness of love, else, there is no genuine love and it bears no profound value!. If the great commandment is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart”… thus you are certainly invited to unify yourself with Him in Love. He will uplift you to His level or you cannot love. Surely you do not dissolve in Him, and He does not dissolve in you; still you become one. For love is a being within a being, and a being inclined towards another being. In existence, this is what love aims for, what it lives for,  and what is given to it from on high because God is Love!. Our entire theology lies there. Only when you love will you become a theologian who knows God… else you do not know Him and you cannot know Him. “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1Jn 4: 7-8). Knowledge is Love, and love alone is the true knowledge. Any knowledge but the knowledge of love is earthly and to earth shall return!.

   This leads us to say that love, and love alone, is eternal. Love reaches us, outside the realm of time, even if we sense it within the realm of time. Of all that has been given to man, love alone is uncreated. Everything around us springs out from love and for love. Love is beyond time and space, for God is so. A man who loves is a created being who has become, simultaneously, uncreated!. This was the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes! Dust, ashes and radiance!. Thus we are faced with a human and divine truth, a supreme and unique truth, making eternal life divine and human by nature. In other words, what does this mean?. It means that the human being who was given eternal life, experiences what is beyond time and space. Beyond time since the Lord is for us, with us and in us. Beyond time because we remain human… forever. We are human and we become divine, or gods by the grace of the divine love… forever! Our eternity derives its substance from the eternity of the Lord Jesus Christ, Glory be to Him, for He is the New Adam, the Incarnate God.

   Hence, today, in Bethlehem, the Uncreated is born in the flesh. A new truth has been unfolded!. God has become man, a god and a man (together) as one, Him, the divine and the human, forever, to enable the human being to become a god, a divinized man, one in what is for the flesh and what is for the divine by the grace of Divine Love. God - Love comes to us so we will acknowledge that love is God, with the love that He loved us with. We love Him because He loved us in the beginning and His love has resided in us. If not read with the alphabet of love, any discourse about the spirit, the spiritual life and the eternal life remains ambiguous. It is read not only in epistles written with ink, but by the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart (2Co 3: 3)!. The sphere of influence of the Word of God is not the brain, even if the latter is an instrument for it to use, rather it is the heart that is the sphere of influence!

   Eternity has been unfolding to us, emerging from God’s womb, first by the annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel, to the Virgin Mary (25th of March) - when the incarnation sprang, and then by the nativity of the new born child, from the Mother of God nine months later (25th of December) – when His incarnation was fully fulfilled and He became man. In the past, this eternity was not in the Garden of Eden. But Paradise was an indicator for this eternity to come. We were not born in it, but then we lost it to redeem it anew. The Creation’s reason for existence was to attain this eternity. “But when the fullness of the time has come, God sent forth His Son born of a woman… that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal 4:  4-5), “a son than an heir of God through Christ” (Gal 4: 7). Among people, an heir is for the one who dies, but with God it is for the communion of life with the Eternally Living God!.

   The Lord God spoke to us already many times saying that: “You are gods and you are all sons of the Most high”. We did not understand it, it was not possible for anyone of us to understand then. We thought it was symbolic. The word has been said and is said, but its understanding could only be in the fullness of times, when it will be fulfilled. “And in that day”, says the Lord Jesus to His disciples, “you will ask Me nothing” (Jn 16: 23). You will ask Me nothing, because I will see you, as He said in John (16: 22). He did not say “you will see me” but “I will see you and your heart will rejoice and your joy no one will take from you.” I will embrace you with My Light, where you will see Me, thus I will become an evidence with all that I have said to you!.

   Today, for those who believe, the Son of God comes to us in the flesh, an evidence of Love, and we meet Him where a ladder is set up on earth and its top reaches to heaven while  the angels of God ascending and descending on it, accompanying man on the way to eternal life, to the face of God, to His heart, to the Kingdom of Heavens!.

   Here, in the manger, is put today all those who offer themselves as nourishments for eternal life to the ones approaching Him: “Take eat; this is My body… this is My blood of the new covenant”… (Mt 26: 26, 28).

   On this day, today, man is born to eternal life, beyond time, yet in time, in the fullness of God’s Love!. Thus we say: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!.”

Fr. Archimandrite Thomas Bitar
Abbot of St. Silouan the Athonite Monastery
Douma, El Batroun, Lebanon.

(Translated from Arabic
at the Holy Trinity Family in Douma- Lebanon).