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NATIVITY ENCYCLICAL

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  • Fr. Panagiotes Carras
    NATIVITY ENCYCLICAL of His Eminence, Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston Christ is born! Glorify Him! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 17 9:00 PM
      NATIVITY ENCYCLICAL of His Eminence, Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston

      Christ is born! Glorify Him!

      In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
      Some years ago, my beloved Orthodox Christians, I recall reading an
      article in an Israeli
      periodical, The Jerusalem Report. The article was entitled, "A Vessel to
      Hold the Infinite," and
      concerned itself with the building of the Tabernacle, the portable
      sanctuary that the tribes of Israel
      used during their decades-long sojourn in the desert.

      The article cites the book of Exodus, Chapter 25, where God tells Moses,
      "Let them make Me a
      sanctuary that I may dwell among them." Why was this sanctuary necessary
      in the first place?
      The whole universe cannot hold the presence of God ? how, then, could a
      tent made of cloth,
      leather and wooden posts contain the glory of God? What reason, what
      necessity, could there be
      for this limited physical space for God?

      The necessity arose, writes the author, from the sin of idolatry
      committed by the people of Israel,
      when they offered adoration to the golden calf. By worshipping the
      golden calf, the Jews betrayed
      the one true God Who had been revealed to them. Therefore, since they
      could no longer rise to
      their former spiritual level because of the blasphemous sin they had
      committed, there was a need
      for them ? certainly not for God ? to give a material expression to
      God's presence in their midst.
      There was now a need, says the author, for "a vessel to hold the
      Infinite." Further, she writes, "the
      [Jewish people] had shown in their actions that they were incapable of
      living on a level of pure
      spirituality, without physical means or representations." An amazing
      admission, indeed ?
      especially considering the author's faith! With this astonishing
      confession, she continues, "in his
      renewed revelation to Moses, God had mercy on the children of Israel. He
      showed them a way to
      draw His presence down among them. . . ."

      By His own Incarnation and Nativity, God did indeed "draw His presence
      down among
      mankind." As the holy Prophet-King David proclaims in the Psalms, "God
      shall come visibly, yea,
      our God, and shall not keep silence" (Ps. 49:3). The Prophet Esaias
      writes, "Behold, a virgin shall
      conceive and bring forth a son, and they shall call His Name, 'God with
      us' " (Es. 7:14). And the
      Prophet Michaias also foretells of the Ruler Who, on the one hand, is to
      come from Bethlehem,
      but Who, on the other hand, exists from eternity:

      And thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephratha, in the land of Juda, are not the
      least among the princes
      of Juda; yet out of thee shall come a ruler, and His goings forth were
      from the beginning, even
      from eternity. (cf.Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:6)

      The holy Gospel of Saint John the Theologian also speaks to us of God's
      presence in our midst:
      In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
      was God . . . And the
      Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the
      glory as of the
      Only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14)

      The very term "Theotokos" - "Birthgiver of God" - is indicative of
      mankind's need for a "material
      expression of God's presence in its midst." The Theotokos herself, by
      her willing submission and
      obedience to God, and by the Incarnation, provided her body as a
      material "vessel to hold the
      Infinite," to use the words of our Jewish author.

      In this chaste vessel, the Word of God, perfect God with the fullness
      of the divinity,
      condescended out of love to become incarnate, to take upon Himself flesh
      and to become a
      perfect man, Jesus the Christ. Herein is the solemn mystery of God's
      incarnation preserved and
      proclaimed to the world. No logical or philosophic categories can define
      the mystery of the
      inter-penetration, and yet mutual distinctness of the divine and human
      natures in Our Lord Jesus
      Christ. The Nativity of the God-man is an event of unprecedented
      significance for mankind: a
      vessel of human nature holds the Infinite!

      As Saint Ephraim the Syrian expresses this mystery so succinctly:
      Praise be to Thee Who didst set out from one haven and didst dwell in
      another, to come and make
      us a haven for Him that sent Thee. The Only-begotten journeyed from the
      Godhead and dwelt in a
      Virgin, so that through physical birth He might become a brother to
      many. (A Homily on the Lord, 1-2)

      My beloved Orthodox Christians, with the voice of Church let us raise
      our voices and cry out to
      the Infinite One Who dwelt among us by means of the holy and choice
      vessel, the Virgin
      Theotokos.

      To the Son Who was begotten of the Father before the ages without
      change, and in these last
      days was without seed made flesh of the Virgin, to Christ our God let us
      cry aloud. . Holy art
      Thou, O Lord! (Katavasia of Christ's Nativity, Ode Three)

      Christ is born! Let us glorify Him!

      Your fervent suppliant unto God,

      +Ephraim, Metropolitan of Boston
      Nativity of Our Saviour, 2001
      Protocol Number 2109
    • Fr. Panagiotes Carras
      NATIVITY ENCYCLICAL OF METROPOLITAN EPHRAIM
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 20 6:43 AM
        NATIVITY ENCYCLICAL OF METROPOLITAN EPHRAIM
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