His Eminence, Metropolitan JOSEPH's
Pastoral Message for the Feast of the Nativity of our
Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ
This is our festival, this is the feast we celebrate today, in which God comes to live with human beings, that we may journey toward God, or return—for to speak thus is more exact—that laying aside the old human being we may be clothed with the new, and that as in Adam we have died so we may live in Christ, born with Christ and crucified with Him, buried with Him, and rising with Him. For it is necessary for me to undergo the good turnaround, and as painful things came from more pleasant things, so out of painful things more pleasant things must return. “For where sin abounded, grace superabounded,” and if the taste of forbidden fruit condemned, how much more does the Passion of Christ justify? Therefore we celebrate the feast not like a pagan festival but in a godly manner, not in a worldly way but in a manner above the world. We celebrate not our own concerns but the One who is ours, or rather what concerns our Master, things pertaining not to sickness but to healing, not to the first shaping, but to the reshaping. (St. Gregory the Theologian – from the Festal Oration 38 on the Nativity of the Lord)
As we celebrate the Birth in the Flesh of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, the profound words of St. Gregory the Theologian which are quoted above stir in us feelings of great joy and hope because of the great condescension which God has deigned to show toward His children.
Throughout the entire history of mankind, God has called His children to return to Him after the fall of Adam and Eve. He has called us through the prophets, and all of the faithful and holy men and women who are the ancestors of our Lord Jesus Christ, down to John the Baptist. Today we celebrate the ultimate calling of God to His children which is the taking of flesh by God from a woman, the most Holy Theotokos, and the dwelling of God in the flesh on this earth among us. We are called to respond to this awesome and loving action from God with a dramatic change in our lives. We are called to make a change which causes us to love not the carnal and material things of this world, but to direct all of our love toward God and the eternal things of heaven. As St. Gregory says “Therefore we celebrate the feast not like a pagan festival but in a Godly manner, not in a worldly way but in a manner above the world.”
As we spend precious time this season with family and friends, let us appreciate them as God’s gift to us and focus on our love for them more than we focus on the material and commercial things which our secular culture embraces.
Let us be ever mindful, in the midst of the great joy of this Feast, of the suffering people around the world, especially in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt and throughout the Middle East and other parts of the world, and offer our prayers that our Lord, The Prince of Peace, will bring to them the peace which can only come from above.
With great love for all of you we exclaim, Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
+ J O S E P H
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America