Our protoXmas salutation.
- For verily He (in no wise) took the (nature of) Angels; but the seed of
Abraham He took. Heb. 2:16
Because of this taking of the seed of Abraham by God, do we gather to worship
His holy birth. For our God has bestowed upon us, the human race and more
particularly the Christian race, a dignity and an honor which raises us
higher than the angels. In this solemn announcement, the Apostle shows a
great mystery unfolding, for it is as if our Lord Jesus, who is "the
Brightness of His Father's glory, the character of His substance, the Heir of
all things, by Whom He made the world," [Heb 1:3] passes over the Angels to
do for man that which He has not done for even the Angels.
The Apostle seems to invite us to contemplate, to compare between Angels and
men, so that we might more clearly comprehend the greatness of this grace and
the many benefits that this very day imparts to us. The Angels we are told
"excel in power" [2 Pt. 2:11] and if in power, then so they are in every
virtue greater and more awesome than are we. We may read in the account of
the protomartyr, St. Stephen, just how exalted the Apostles and that first
gathering of the Church around them held the place of the Angels. For
the Church has given to us this assessment of St. Stephen in his martyrdom:
"they saw his Face as the face of an Angel." So beautiful of countenance did
Stephen become that that glory which shone from him, the Light of Divinity,
such that even those who disputed with him could not resist him. This
shone forth so brightly throughout his discourse that they could only resist
by giving themselves over to madness and rushing upon him to stone him.
The Angels are also described as possessing Divine wisdom: "my Lord the King
is wise, as an Angel of God [2 Sam 14:20]. In this passage the wisdom of St.
David the King is compared with that of an Angel of God. As with the
testimony of St. Stephen so this assessment of comparison exalts St. David
above his contemporaries.
We also know that the Angels possess an exalted language with which they
praise God our Savior. The Apostle Paul wanting to exhort the Church to
greater love wrote: "Though I speak with the tongues of men, (nay) and of
Angels [1 Cor. 13:1]. From this we can see that the language of the Angels
is of such melodious harmony that it excels that of men. Indeed, the Church
often in her hymns describes herself as joining chorus with the Angels.
Thus, when we choose to speak of excellency among men, we describe them as
Angels. Such we do with St. John the Forerunner of Christ and by these
examples we can see the exalted state of the Angels above men.
But what is it to be called "a seed of Abraham," for it is this nature which
our God took upon Himself through the blessed and most glorious womb of the
Let us consider the self assessment of Abraham who said: "I am dust and
ashes." [Gen. 18:27] Also, concerning our earthly nature the Holy Prophet Job
says to the worms, "...thou art my mother, and my sister." In this we see
that to be flesh, as we mortals are, is to be in a state of corruption,
rottenness and worms. It is to these that the substance of our bodies are
sown. In contrast to this, the Angels are described as "glorious spirits"
[Heb. 9:5], but we, by the Holy Spirit, are describe as possessing "vile
bodies." And as if that were not enough, the Spirit also describes us as
having been conceived of "unclean seed." [Job 14:1-4] We are all, certainly,
familiar with Ps. 50, "in sin(s) did my mother conceive me." The Angels are
glorious; we from our conception are vile and unclean.
If we compare our environments we also see the distance which exists between
Angels and men. The Angels are Heavenly beings, we are creatures of dust
ashes. We make our abode among the fleas, flies, moths, spiders and the
worm, they [the Angels] abide ever in the presence of God, for their abode is
in heaven. The Prophet Isaiah described our flesh as "grass" which withers
and our glory is as that of a "flower" [Isa. 40:6-8]. It is as if the
Prophet has described our season of glory to be from April to June. Even
this is fragile, for the wind blows over us and we and our glory are gone.
Even if we possessed the life span of grass, our glory has only the life span
of a flower.
This is what it means to be the seed of Abraham, this is our condition in
comparison to that of the Angels. The Angels excel over even the best of
save for her who is more glorious than the Cherubim and beyond compare more
glorious than the Seraphim. Yet, as beautiful and exalted be the Angels;
our Savior "in no wise did He consider taking the nature of Angels." Rather,
He chose from that which is vile, mortal, corrupt and sown to death to share
in the nature of man and thus He became flesh [Incarnate God-man]. It is as
if that which was granted to our human race (and especially to the Christian
race) was denied, and not just passively denied, but rather strongly denied
to Angels. The Angels which are above us in every manner, are made lower
than us in this way: "God became Flesh and dwelt among us."
So awesome and heady of a mystery is this that even the Golden tongued one,
St. John Chrysostom described it as putting him "into an ecstasy" and to make
him "to imagine of our nature some great matter, I cannot well express."
So it is for us, even in the midst of the crass commercialization of the
Nativity of our Lord; even in the face of the knowledge that many choose not
to worship Him; or that some only see this occasion as a time to be drunk
with wine rather than an opportunity to become filled with the Spirit; we are
filled with the same sentiment as St. John. It is from out of this joy,
Barbara (my lovely wife) and myself (Rdr. John) can and do sincerely wish for
all, whether new Calendar or Old; Jew or Gentile, heretic or Orthodox: crass
or pious; far or near; foe or friend; stranger of family: a Merry Christmas;
a Joyous Nativity.
For Christ Himself is our Peace, and for the Peace of the whole world we
Lord Have Mercy.
Love, John and Barbara Dunn
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