Make Your Christmas Light Brighter!

Here in the Valley, a lot of us begin the season of the Nativity by transforming our homes into a festive reminder. It takes some work, butthat is the point. All transformations take some work! I don’t want to get into the debates over trees, decorations and lights and their origin, I just want to reflect for a minute on our local seasonal tradition that helps us center our life on Christ and His birth!

Now my wife is the driving force to my many hours of decorating. It simply brings us joy. When I say us, as a martyr we are one, but her half does enjoy the results of decorating more! Happy spouse, happy house! In the decorating season, since we celebrate the Nativity on the old calendar, we are able to purchase decoration replacements and such at a heavily discounted price after the Pope celebrates his!! Each year I replace more of the old incandescent lights with more efficient and much brighter led lights and they even now seem to do all kinds of light shows and sequences and they normally stay up till February.

Back in the day we would spend hours troubleshooting our strings and strings of lights to replace the burned out bulbs and reuse them year after year. Now they last longer and are bargain priced at the end of the season so if they are too time consuming to repair, we toss them. I don’t think we have over-done it, but you can actually walk around the outside of our mountain home in the darkest of nights and have your path illuminated by our festive Christmas lights. Maybe the Whos from Whoville would give their approval!

However, there is some darkness in a corner of our home that I am still working on! It needs some festive light! This darkness is somewhere woven into my soul and I have yet to spend the effort to transform it to a brilliant light. We heard in the epistle today: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. [Eph. 5:11] Saint John Chrysostom says: For just as when a candle is set, all are brought to light, and the robber cannot enter, so if your light shine, the evil being scrutinized shall be easy to capture. So then it is needful to expose them….Paul did not say ‘judge,’ he said ‘reprove’ (ejlevgcete)….What Paul is saying is of this sort. As a wound, so long as it is imbedded and concealed, running beneath the surface, it enjoys not a bit of attention, so also sin, as long as it is hidden, being as it were in darkness, is daringly committed with full license. But as soon as it is made manifest, it becomes light; not indeed the sin itself—for how could that be?—but the sinner. For when he has been brought out to light, when he has been admonished, when he has repented, when he has obtained pardon, hast thou not cleared away all his darkness? Hast thou not then healed his wound? Hast thou not called forth his unfruitfulness into fruit? Either this is the meaning or else what I said above, that your life being manifest is light. For no one hides an irreproachable life; whereas things which are hidden, are hidden by darkness covering them.” [Hom. 18, P.G. 62:127 (col. 122); cf. Bl. Theophylact, P.G. 124:408 CD (col. 1108).]

The Gospel writer John says it this way: “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness overcome it not.”(John 1:5) We have a choice, to keep our wounds and sinfulness hidden in the dark, forever chained to the chill of death, or we can transform those thorns in our flesh by exposing them to His warm brilliant healing light. St John Chrysostom words it this way: “Since then neither death nor error can overcome it, since it is bright everywhere and shines by its proper strength, he says, ‘The darkness overcame it not.’ For it cannot be overcome, and will not dwell in souls which wish not to be enlightened.” [Hom. 5, P.G. 59:39, 40 (col. 58) A dark soul creates a shadow like a tall wall blocking the light. In this festive season, make your life with Christ brighter by replacing those burned out broken bulbs with His renewing light illumining your path to salvation.

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-15-2019

Fear Not Little Flock!

Tuesday as we stood in the chilled morning air, facing east awaiting the Son to arise, The Mother of God encouraged us: “Fear not little flock! I am with you and no one is against you!”(Luke 12:32) And what a majestic sunrise it was. Build His Church!

You know, as a good Protestant I struggled with all the emphasis placed on this virgin. I knew the Romans made her divine but I could not find a path to believe in that practice. So where is the truth? Why does the true church hold her in such esteem?  Saint Paul instructs us: “Therefore brethren stand fast and keep the traditions which you have been taught whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). That is where we find the fullness of faith including the epistles and continuing the traditions as handed down since the Christian church came into existence as they were taught.

The One who walked on water and performed such healings that the Gospel of Saint John records: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25)

However, hear the word that was recorded in Scripture! While Christ was teaching “a certain woman out of the crowd lifted up her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the breasts which Thou didst suck.” [Lk. 11:27] And also to her the Archangel Gabriel came to honor and called her full of grace and blessed among women and Mother of my Lord (Luke 1:40-45). Blessed, or made holy is the womb, I often ask my friends, how can this be? Christ, fully divine and fully human, sharing oxygen, blood and nutrients while ever present in the womb with his mother, not somehow change her? Think about it, that which could not be contained was contained, and the Virgin lived to be ripe old age!

We do know when God’s presence was contained in the ark, precautions had to be taken. We certainly remember 2 Samuel Chapter 6, “Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled.  7The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.” And we also have in Leviticus the instructions to the high priests, the sons of Levi concerning their actions around the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 10:1-7, 16:2-34).

And we read in the Gospels of Mathew and Luke: “If a tree be known of by its fruit, and a good tree beareth good fruit (Mt. 7: 17; Lk. 6: 44)”. Saint Gregory Palamas asks us: “ then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself and the Birth-Giver of Eternal Beauty incomparably more excellent than any good, situated within the world of the natural or the supernatural?” (Saint Gregory Palamas, ArchBishop of Thessalonika)

From my un-orthodox upbringing I assumed our Lord was born unto a woman in the usual way but no, listen to the prophet Ezekiel: “Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut.” (Ezekiel 44:2) How is this possible scientifically? With God, Creator of science, all things are possible!

We read from the psalmist King David foretelling the coming of the Blessed Virgin: “and dressed the All-Pure Virgin in Her finest clothes. Singing sacred songs and with lighted candles in their hands, virgins escorted Her to the Temple (Ps. 44/45:14-15). And it was also prophesied by the profit Jeremiah that it will be the virgin who will be the intercessor for the entry to the world of the Savior Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31:2-23).

And even much earlier we find in the Book of Genesis that “woman”—a virgin who shall through her Son crush the head of the snake (Gen 3:15). Even in the beginning chapters of Genesis, God puts in place His plan to save us from our sins! This was written carefully to emphasis the role of the Virgin Mary. Saint John Chrysostom writes: And not only this, but “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.” I’m not even content with this that you slide on the earth: I will make the woman your implacable enemy, and not simply her, but her seed as well I will cause to be perpetually at odds with your seed. “He will watch for your head, and you will watch for his heel.” That is to say, I will supply him with such force that he will constantly threaten your head, whereas you will be trodden under his feet. (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis)

 And the apostolic writer John records her in the Book of Revelation 12:1-9: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:  And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” 

That is why we Orthodox place so much emphasis on the Theotokos or “God-Bearer”. This is why we highly respect womanhood, the birth givers and the Holy Ark which contains our salvation. “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). She is the Mother of all Christians imitating thy Son and God in love! Through her obedience and demeanor, she has delivered us true hope!

Fear not little flock! I am with you and no one is against you!”(Luke 12:32)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-8-2019