The Twenty-Third Day of Christmas Advent. Ho, Ho, Holiness in the Simplicity and Purity of God (Part II)
By Fr. Stelyios Muksuris
Every year it seems the feast of our Lord’s Nativity in the flesh becomes more and more secularized. Atheists would advocate a humanistic approach to the festival of lights, seeking to “demythologize” the festival by stripping it of its Christocentric character. Christmas, they would claim, is about the magnanimity of the human spirit to transcend the fallen world by loving others and graciously giving to them. Any notion of a miraculous birth is extraordinarily deceiving and plainly false, a religious fairy tale of sorts to entertain the imagination. Yet, any form of disconnect between altruism and its divine Source is tragic. Goodness, mercy, and compassion are not positive traits that originate within the heart of man. They are a Person, who is the very embodiment, the pinnacle, the apex of all holiness and truthfulness and goodness. To not see God in creation and in good works is to lose our very identity, as God-bearers upon whom is inscribed the divine image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26). God is present among us and within us; He is “God in the midst of gods” (St. Symeon of Thessalonike, On the Sacred Liturgy § 94). When we see one another as altars upon whom the sacrifice of love must be offered, to use an expression popularized by St. John Chrysostom, we begin to truly respect our fellow human being with the honor due to them. Keeping Christ in Christmas helps us not only to connect our philanthropy with the ideal and model Philanthropos, but also to run the thread of holiness through every human heart and to bind a fragmented world together, for humanity that desires healing and redemption finds its rest and its ultimate solution in the incarnate God-Man, Jesus Christ.
Along the lines of secularization, Christmas has become mercilessly complicated and commercialized. In the fury of pre-holiday preparations (parties, shopping, cooking, and so forth), we often forget the reason for the season. We pay attention to the lights and the snow, to the earthquakes and fires, but we overlook the whisper, the voice of God speaking to our hearts because of all the other noise that we have become complacent to not only consider the norm but also to expect. A heart and mind filled with distractions and commotion cannot pay good attention to the “one thing needful” (Luke 10:42); we are not wired well to multitask! What is needed is not to complement our altruism and our holiday activities with prayer and fasting. What is needed is to embrace the Lord first and to let our good works flow from the gift of this perpetual union with Him, to see God in all people, in every act of mercy, and in every activity. To put it another way, in order to minimize stress and begin living life, we need to maximize God and become dead to the illusions of joy around us, for true joy that outlasts is found only in the Lord.
My dear people, let us celebrate the simplest, purest Christmas ever this year. Let us focus all our efforts this season on mirroring and implementing in our lives the simplicity and purity of the life in Christ, for here is God present in the whisper, here is power, here is glory, here is cleansing, here is illumination, and here is sanctification and salvation. Nowhere else. Nowhere. A blessed Christmas to all!
~Orthodox Christian Network (OCN), “Ho, Ho, Holiness in the Simplicity and Purity of God,” http://myocn.net/ho-ho-holiness-in-the-simplicity-and-purity-of-god/.
THE V. Reverend Protopresbyter Dr. Stelyios S. Muksuris, Ph.D. [BA, MDiv, MLitt, PhD, ThD (post-doc.)], serves the Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church in Aliquippa, PA, and is Professor of Liturgy and Languages at SS. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. A native of Boston and a graduate of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA, he received his postgraduate degrees and his doctorate in liturgical theology from the University of Durham in the United Kingdom. He is an active member of several academic societies (AAR, SL, SOL, BSC, OTSA), a frequent conference speaker both nationally and internationally, the author of a monograph, Economia and Eschatology: Liturgical Mystagogy in the Byzantine Prothesis Rite (Boston, 2013), and the author of an introductory chapter for a textbook on Christianity, as well as numerous papers and studies in theological journals. He is a frequent consultant on liturgical matters for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh.