Malankara World Journal Christmas Special - 2
Volume 3 No. 185 December 28, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for all children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.
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Christmas is over!! Isn't it amazing! Kind of like an anti-climax. A few days before Chrsitmas, people were busy shopping for gifts. Now they are busy returning the gifts or looking for bargains. The attention now centers on the New Year Party.
In the church calendar, the Christmas disappears even faster. On December 26th, we celebrate, 'The Glorification of St. Mary'. On December 27, we celebrate the 'martyrdom of the Innocents' - the killing of innocent children by the order of Herod. On January 6th, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus (Denho) and epiphany (The arrival of Magi). Thirty years go flying!
Christmas is a long anticipated event. The advent stretches more than a month in our calendar. The merchants are trying to stretch it even more (ever heard of Christmas in July?). Israelites had been waiting for ever to hear about the arrival of Messiah - no word since Malachi. Many had lost hope. Only the hard core believers still thought that messiah will come.
So, taken in this background, Christmas means long waiting, faith, joy and light (light (savior) displaces the dark (evil or Satan)). I have seen a wonderful reflection in 'Food For Thought' that explains all these elements of Christmas very well. It is worth sharing:
Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings For First Sunday after Yeldo (Christmas)
This Week's Features
Meditation on John 1:1-18
This is a day for falling in love. This is the day when Mary and Joseph look up from the baby in the manger and invite us to gather around. Even as they savor the moment, they are eager to share it with us as well, this "good news of great joy … for all the people" (Luke 2:10).
And so Joseph and Mary invite us to join them on their journey of discovery. "Here," says Mary, as she lifts her newborn from the hay. "He is yours too - he came for you. Take him. Hold him close. Share in the love that Joseph and I have for this little one."
Like the angels' birth announcement, the invitation is for everyone. No one is left out - however unworthy, unspiritual, or unprepared we may feel. So whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your state today, receive this gift of Jesus. Take the child in your arms. Gaze on his face, and see how much he loves you. Let him lock eyes with you, as babies will, so that he can search your heart and reveal you to yourself. Let down your defenses, and fall in love with this Christ child - with God made flesh for you.
According to a wise spiritual director - most likely Fr. Pedro Arrupe, former superior general of the Society of Jesus - falling in love with God in this "absolute, final way" is the most practical and far-reaching thing you could ever do:
Jesus has come. The Word has become flesh. Fall in love with him. Stay in love with him. It will decide everything.
"Mary and Joseph, thank you for bringing Jesus to me! Pray that I might love him as you did - more and more each day."
Source: The Word Among Us
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" (Is 9:1).
1. This prophecy of Isaiah never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas Night. This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us - and within us as well - there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing.
Walking. This verb makes us reflect on the course of history, that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with Abraham, our father in faith, whom the Lord called one day to set out, to go forth from his country towards the land which he would show him. From that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way towards the promised land. This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. Because he is faithful, "God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all" (1 Jn 1:5). Yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience, and rebellion; times of being a pilgrim people and times of being a people adrift.
In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. "Whoever hates his brother - writes the Apostle John - is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes" (1 Jn 2:11). A people who walk, but as a pilgrim people who do not want to go astray.
2. On this night, like a burst of brilliant light, there rings out the proclamation of the Apostle:
The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.
3. The shepherds were the first to see this "tent", to receive the news of Jesus' birth. They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks. The pilgrim is bound by duty to keep watch and the shepherds did just that. Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.
On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: "Do not be afraid!" (Lk 2:10). As the angels said to the shepherds: "Do not be afraid!". And I also repeat to all of you: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is mercy: our Father always forgives us. He is our peace. Amen.
Source: Homily by Pope Francis at Vatican Basilica on December 24, 2013
© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Today our churches are filled with people who have come to praise the Newborn Child of God – Jesus Christ the Savior and the Most Pure Mother of our Lord – Virgin Mary.
The Nativity was the climax of human history. Man has always been searching for God: but the Lord chose to reveal Himself in full in His Only Son. The coming of the Son of God – and the Son of Man – conveyed to the world that God is not only the Supreme Power but also Love, God is not only the Awarder but also Mercy. God is not only a Stern Judge but also the source of life and joy, God is the Holy Trinity, whose inner law is love, and not just the world’s only Ruler.
Today we are celebrating the event that changed the face of human history. The Lord descended to the uttermost depths of human life, became one of us, took upon Himself the entire burden of our sins, of human weaknesses and brought them to Golgotha to lift this unbearable load off man’s shoulders. From now on, God resides not in the forbidding heaven, but here with us and among us. At every Divine Liturgy we utter the words: “Christ is in our midst!” and the answer comes: “He is and he will be!” It is a graphic proof that tells us about the presence of the very Embodiment of God Himself – Jesus Christ the Savior – among His faithful. By regularly partaking of His Divine Flesh and Blood and following His Commandments, we can approach Him, our Savior, and receive absolution.
Faithful and loyal disciples of Christ will be allowed to witness the coming of Kingdom of God personified by Jesus in their earthen life. We have been blessed with the honor of doing in this world as our teacher and Lord did, of being firm in the faith of Christ when facing evil and sin, of not giving up on good deeds, of not losing heart and striving day after day to reform our sinful nature into a new, grateful one.
Jesus Christ set the impeccable, absolute criterion of being truthful about our attitude to the Lord – our neighbor. Bear one another's burdens, share their pain and sorrow, be merciful towards the miserable and the destitute and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2) and become more like the Savior, who took up our pain and bore our suffering (Is. 53:4).
On this joyful and shining day of the Nativity, when every creature hurries to the crib of the Divine Infant, one must not forget the others. The grace that is bestowed upon us today in churches must not be withheld from those living outside the Church, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8). Should we not meet them halfway, this Good News may never reach them; should we not open our hearts to share the joy that is filling them up, it may never reach those who are ready but do not have it.
Through the Son of God the human nature was lifted up to unfathomable heights. Not only was each and every one of us created “in the image of God,” but through Christ were we adopted by God: no longer are we foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of His household (Eph. 2:19). This intimacy and daring with God is conveyed in the prayer to our Lord where we call upon the Maker as our own Father in Heaven.
Every human life is priceless, for it was bought with the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of the God’s Only Son. This is yet another reason for us to revere every human being, despite our differences. St. Prelate Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow said that “love is active partaking in the wellbeing of one another.” In these joyful days of Nativity, I would like to call everyone to this kind of active love or, as St. Paul put it, to be devoted to one another in love, honor one another above yourselves, never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Rom. 12:10-11, Eph. 13:16).
I congratulate you wholeheartedly on the great holiday of the Nativity. May the God of love and peace (2 Cor. 13:11) grant peace and welfare to our people and every one of us in New Year.
Source: Voice of Russia
by Msgr. Charles Pope
I. The Paradox of this Night - In a way, we are too familiar with the Christmas story, and so many of its strange paradoxes and stunning "absurdities" fail to shock and amaze us. And yet it does not take long to consider that no human being would ever craft this sort of entrance of God into our world.
Surely we would envision God's entrance in Cecil B. DeMille proportions. (DeMille was producer of "The Ten Commandments" and other classic Hollywood Epics, in case I'm showing my age). Yes, there would be grand sets, a cast of thousands, palaces, trumpets, processions and signs and wonders seen by the whole world! Kings and Queens, heads of State, would be featured as among those first notified by Angelic Ambassadors of the imminent arrival of God, and they would set out to meet God in reverential fear. A palace or temple (on a lofty mountaintop) with polished marble floors, high ceilings and walls gilded with gold and fine carvings would be the place of God's arrival. All would be in readiness for the arrival of God!
And when he came he would not come as an infant. He would not come as the reputed child of a peasant couple from a "hick town" in the north. No! God would come in all his glory, child of no one, and Father and King of All; very adult, indeed he would come as the Ancient of Days! He would descend on a kind of lightning bolt escorted by myriads of the heavenly hosts in a display so stunning that no one in the whole world could miss it.
And as for God's enemies? They would cringe before his awesome glory, realize how wrong they had been, and either repent, or run away in a futile attempt to escape.
Yes! such is the entrance that fits our God; at least as we would design it.
And thus the real Christmas stuns us by its humble simplicity. And if we really ponder how different it is from any human standard, we cannot avoid saying, "Are you kidding?" Even the few details that mildly comport with our notions (angels, wise men, a star, emperor talk like Evangelion and Kyrios) are so understated. Only a few hidden souls even seem to notice or experience these .
And then there is the crushing poverty and utter humiliation. He comes as an infant. Yes! God as an infant! And not only is the Lord not born in a palace, as would befit him, he is not even born in a warm house. He is born in a filthy, smelly stable, not far from animal dung; a cave really, down beneath an Inn while people comfortably lodge above. An ancient antiphon of the Church speaks to our astonishment:
Yes, it is a great mystery. Why all this? Why so hidden? Why so lowly? If God is going to enter and announce good news, why so secret? It is almost as though he doesn't want to be seen or known!
Why this "silent night"? In a word, "Humility." How is pride to be conquered? By humility! Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that. And pride will not drive out pride; only humility will do that.
What does pride have to do with it? Everything! Satan in pride said, "I will not serve!" and so he, along with a third of the angels fell from heaven like lightning. Adam and Eve disobeyed God in pride saying, in effect, "I will not be told what to do. I will decide what is good and evil, I will know good and evil for myself and not be told by anyone, even God who gave me everything."
This is pride. And God will conquer it with humility. He is born in a very low place, in grave need and poverty. He is acknowledged and praised only by a few "nobodies" and a few foreign wise men. Scripture says of Jesus lifetime of humility:
1. Being in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a slave, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he therefore humbled himself, becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross! (Phil 2:4-8)
2. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 C0r 8:9)
Yes, this is God's way. We humans try to fight fire with fire, violence with more violence, abused power with more abused power, and crime brings crime forever and the cycle of violence continuously spins. In striving to vanquish our foes, we become too much like them, and Satan wins no matter who loses.
But God catches Satan not by being like Satan, but by being different. He vanquishes hate with love, darkness with light, retribution with mercy, and pride with humility. God's "foolishness" traps Satan and the worldly-wise in their own designs. Humility conquers pride because pride can only rush headlong into its own premises. In a battle against humility, to win means you lose! And thus Satan "won" at the cross, but, in the process, lost everything for He gave Jesus a chance to humbly obey and thereby undo prideful Adam's disobedience.
And thus tonight the Lord comes humbly, silently, almost stealthily. His methods are utterly incomprehensible to a prideful world, governed by a prideful and fallen angel. But here he is, in all his puzzling paradox and we ought to pray and repent to understand even a little.
II. The Peace of this Night – In the midst of all this paradox where pride is overwhelmed by humility, comes this offered blessing for those, like the Shepherds, humble enough to hear it: and on earth peace to people of good will (Luke 2:14). Yes, though many angels spoke this, only a few were humble enough and had their wills disposed enough to hear it.
Peace…what is this peace that is offered to us? For too many, the word "peace" is something of an abstraction. We know it is the absence of war and conflict. But what is peace, more positively, more fully understood?
The Greek word translated here as "peace" is e????? (eirene) which most literally means, to join or tie together into a whole; to have wholeness; the experience we have when all essential parts are joined together. Peace is God's gift of healing and wholeness.
And thus tonight, if you are I are humble enough to find Jesus in the humiliating and unexpected reality of his birth, he has this gift to offer you: peace, wholeness, integration, healing. But it is a gift offered in humility, and available only in humility and to the humble. It is not a gift we will find in the pride of our own agenda and expectations. Healing and wholeness come only through humility. Pride is poison, humility is healing.
And, as most of us know, who have lived long enough to experience it, our greatest healings and the deepest sources of our peace have come not from our strength, but from our weakness, from the difficult and painful moments of our life, from those moments when were were humbled enough to authentically cry out, "Help Lord!" And then he went to work.
Tonight the Lord enters our pain. He is found in poverty, in humiliation and even rejection. He is found in a low place, a cave where one has to stoop to enter. But this humility is necessary to overcome our pride.
And in the midst of the Lord's humility and ours too, a little hand is stretched out, so little he can only hold our finger. Yes, in this humble place, with our humble God there is a healing, a gift of peace that is offered. And if we are humble enough to be of the good will to receive it, is ours.
Somehow an old song comes to mind. I have it on the best of the authority that one of the humble shepherds sang it on his way back from the humble cave, where the humble Lord's infant hand took hold of his and the peace offered to those of good will became his. Yes, I have it on the best of authority that that humble shepherd sang this song:
Shackled by a heavy burden
He touched me, oh he touched me
Since I met this blessed savior
And on Earth, Peace, to all of good will.
Source: Archdiocese of Washington
by Pope Shenouda III, LL Pope of Coptic Orthodox Church
Wonderful indeed was the Lord's humbleness when He emptied Himself and became incarnate.
He descended into this world unnoticed, quietly and stealthily. He set no date for His coming, so no one was there to receive Him, and no preparations were made for His coming, neither on Earth nor in the Heavens. And yet, that unknown day was the greatest in the history of mankind, for it marked the beginning of the salvation that was later completed on the cross.
Had the Lord descended amidst a host of His angels, on a great cloud, or in a luminous chariot surrounded by the Cherubim and the Seraphim; had the heavens shaken or the earth trembled; had all the planets of the universe quivered, not only the one star that appeared to the magi; to celebrate his birth; we would have indeed said, "It is becoming of the Lord and of His glory."
Upon arrival at a certain destination, one may expect to be received by friends or loved ones, and may even get angry if they fail to do so.
Amazingly, Christ the Lord came to earth calmly, simply, quietly, and without ceremony.
He came in wonderful self-denial or self-emptying. He was received only by some poor shepherds and by the magi.
It is clear that showy people have not been touched by the Lord's nativity.
Christ's coming into this world was not the only expression of emptying Himself; all the circumstances of His birth also expressed it.
He was born to a poor orphaned mother, whom the priests betrothed to Joseph, and entrusted to his care.
He was born in a village that was "The least among the princes of Judah" (Matt.2: 6). He dwelt in Nazareth, out of which people found it hard to expect any good, (John 1: 46), and was called a Nazarene.
He lived unknown for thirty years; a period that seems lost to history. Even though those thirty years were primarily the showy years of youth and vigor, they went unnoticed and unobserved, not even the apostles reporting on them.
He emptied himself, growing up in full like any human being.
He was not ashamed to live the weakness of infancy and childhood.
He needed to be helped by others, though He is the helper of all! He needed the care of a parent, though, in that capacity, He cares for everyone! He needed a woman – created by His own hands – to carry Him on her arms, to feed Him, and to tend to all His needs, He who tends to all!
Amazing yet, He emptied himself of His power. He fled from Herod, whom He had created and kept alive until that day, even though Herod's soul was in His hands! Amazing indeed that the All-powerful and Almighty flees – like all humans – from tribulation, from the threat of death, He who holds the reins of life and death! He fled to Egypt, returning years later, only after the crisis was over. It must have been easy for Him to have escaped death miraculously, or to have destroyed Herod, but He did not do that!
He emptied himself, enduring the weakness of humanity though He is far above weakness. He allowed Himself to suffer hunger, thirst, and fatigue, and to need sleep like any human. Strange indeed that at the end of forty days, He "was hungry" (Matt.4: 2), that the spring that quenches the thirst of everyone, asks the Samaritan woman, "Give Me a drink" (John 4: 7), and says on the cross, "I thirst!" (John 19: 28). "And amazing still, He felt weary and sat by the well" (John 4: 6),"and fell asleep in a boat" (Luke 8: 23)
The Lord so emptied Himself, to put to shame the vain and the proud, as though telling them, "I was not born in a royal palace or on a silk bed, only in a manger. But out of this manger did I make the greatest of thrones. People come, from East and West, for its blessings."
No place can endow a person with glory; it is the person who lends glory to the place. For real greatness comes from within.
Wherever the Lord came, even if in a manger, and in whichever village He was born, though the least among Judah, became the best of sites or places. However humble His birth, He endowed it with glory. He was born from a poor maiden, but He made her the greatest of women. He was born in the house of a simple carpenter, but He made of him a great saint.
He emptied himself of royalty:
Our Good Master could have came as a king; no one would have denied Him that, for He came from the royal tribe of Judah, the offspring of David the king. But the King of kings (Rev.17: 14) came not as a king.
The Jews, in their vain pride in human greatness, awaited the Messiah as a great king. They believed they would be saved by the greatness of their kings. The Lord meant to purge that concept. He saved them, not through the greatness of kings, but through the humbleness of the Nazarene carpenter, whom they despised, saying, "Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?" (Mark 6: 3).
That humble carpenter, when asked to be king, refused and fled, "When Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he departed again to the mountain by himself alone" (John 6: 15).
He even allowed Himself to be judged by His servants, by Pilate, Herod, and the members of the Sanhedrim. He said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18: 36). He refused the rod of the king and the honor given to kings, preferring to be surrounded by the love of hearts obedient to His own Heart, fearing not His authority or power.
He forsook the dignity of leadership:
He sought not to be superior to His followers, but to be their friend. He told His disciples, "No longer do I call you servants.... But I have called you friends" (John 15: 15), addressing them "my friends" (Luke 12: 4).
He so emptied Himself that He bent down and washed the disciples' feet (John 13: 5).
He never treated others as the servants He had created, nor did He ever play the role of their superior, but attached Himself to them with love .The love of leadership and authority is an attribute of humans only. Our Good Master wanted peoples' hearts not their fear, and their love not their subjection. He did not set Himself as a leader but as a friend, inspiring neither awe nor terror, only love. He was thus loved, revered, and respected, rather than feared. Children surrounded Him and John the Beloved leant on His breast.
Whoever loves grandeur has not experienced the effectiveness of faith.
St. Anthony once told his disciples, "My children, I do not fear God", and when they wondered, saying, "That is serious talk, Father! ", he explained, "It is because I love Him, and ‘love casts out fear' (1John 4: 18)"
People in this world love authority, power, and domination, forcing others through fear. But Christ our Lord asked us to keep His commandments through love not fear, "Who loves Me keeps My commandments".
He emptied Himself of His power when working miracles.
He did not use His power in working miracles except when necessary. He never used this power for His own convenience or interest, nor did He make use of His divinity to abate His hunger, thirst, fatigue, or pain. He refused to turn stones into bread for Himself, but He blessed the five loaves and two fishes to fill the people, out of compassion. He did not use His miraculous power to dazzle, only to induce faith.
When asked for a miracle, as a sign, He refused, reprimanding those who requested that, saying, "An evil and adulterous generations seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it " (Matt. 12: 39). He did not dazzle people with miracles, as Simon the magician or the damsel possessed with the spirit of divination in Philippi, did. He refused to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, seeking not to dazzle people with His greatness and glory, only to attract them with His humbleness.
He willed not that people witness the miracle of the Transfiguration, which would certainly have mystified them. He willed not even that all of the twelve disciples witness it, allowing only three of them, and commanding them not to tell. He forsook everything showy, and, whenever He did a wonderful miracle, He would hide behind some human weakness, or talk of His suffering to come, or ask those for whom the miracle was done to say nothing of it!
Not even for the sake of propagating faith did He will to dazzle the people with miracles! He wanted them to believe out of love and conviction, not because of the miracles they witnessed. He would ask for the person's belief before the miracle was done, not after it, "According to your faith let it be to you". It was said of Him, "He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matt 13: 58). Belief thus preceded the miracle, which always came as a result not as a cause.
The Lord's miracles were an expression of His love and mercy, and had a spiritual bearing. He wept before raising Lazarus from the dead. The love that filled His heart first found expression in His tears then in His powerful words "Lazarus, come forth". Many of His healings were because He was "moved with compassion", or "had compassion upon.." .
He never did miracles to defend Himself or taking vengeance on His persecutors or revilers, They poured upon Him insults and reproach, and he could have caused the earth to open its mouth and swallow them, or fire to descend from heaven and eat them up, but He did nothing. He had indeed emptied Himself of His power.
He lived without any title or position:
He held no title, nor had He any official role or position in society. For His people, He was only a person who went about healing and teaching, doing good.
He held no priestly rank, for He was not of the tribe of Levi nor the offspring of Aaron, His mother and Joseph the carpenter being of the tribe of Judah.
He made Himself of no reputation, so that He told the leper when He healed him, "Go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded" (Matt.8: 4). The Great High Priest, the founder of priesthood and the source of all priestly powers, tells the leper "Show yourself to the priest"! O Lord, are You not the priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek? Are You not the Shepherd of the shepherds and the Priest of the priests? Why then did You send the leper to the priest? Amazing of You to empty Yourself and behave as if You had no authority at all while You are the source of all authority.
The Lord held no official position or job. Even as a teacher, He was not of the scribes or Pharisees who were entrusted with teaching at the time. He was not of the priests from whose mouths the law was taken, nor was He of the elders or of the distinguished in His community. Yet, His teachings filled the whole world, and He was called ‘Teacher' by the most distinguished scribes and Pharisees. He showed us that a person can live without any title, yet can work more than anyone with a title!
He had no place from which to teach:
He taught sitting on the mountain, or standing in the boat while the people sat on the shore, or sometimes with his disciples amid the plants of the gardens, the lilies of the fields, and the birds of heaven. At other times, He used to teach in the wilderness or on the way. In short he had no place from which to teach, no place to dwell or to even lay His head (Luke 9: 58). But being attached to no particular place, he worked everywhere.
Is it not amazing that God, who fills the heavens and the earth, had no place to lay His head? On his birth, there was no room at the inn (Luke 2: 7), and during His incarnate life on earth he had no dwelling place, sometimes staying with Mary and Martha, sometimes with Mary the mother of John (called Mark), sometimes in the house of Simon, and sometimes in the garden in Gethsemane. How strange the words, "And every one went to his own house. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives." (John 7: 53, 8: 1)
Even those who followed the Lord walked into the unknown, having no place, no position, no account, nor any definite work.
When the Lord asked Matthew "Follow me", Matthew followed him. Had he asked the Lord "where to?" he would have received no answer. Had he asked, "What to do?" he would also have received no answer. The Lord wanted his disciples to empty themselves, recognizing that they were mere disciples. He wanted them to know nothing but to follow him, without any job, any official position, or any stable place.
The Lord was surrounded by the poor:
As the Lord emptied himself and made himself of no reputation, he also loved those who emptied themselves or who had no reputation. He was thus surrounded by the poor, the despised, and those who are not (1Cor. 27: 28). That is why he chose his disciples from among uneducated fishermen, and one of them was a despised tax collector.
Saint Ephrem (c.306-373), Deacon in Syria, Doctor of the Church
"Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." (Lk 2:19)
In sublime words
On the day that Gabriel himself
Of a sudden the servant
O what wonder for me!
Who has ever seen a newborn child
How shall I open up
My lips know not how to call you,
Though you be the Son of the Only One
You are son of God yet also son of man (Mk 1,1; 8,31),
Gospel: Matthew 2:13-18
14. St. John Chrysostom, commenting on this passage, draws a particular attention to Joseph's faithfulness and obedience: "On hearing this, Joseph was not scandalized, nor did he say, 'This is hard to understand. You yourself told me not long ago that He would save His people, and not He is not able to save even Himself. Indeed, we have to flee and undertake a journey and be away for a long time...'. But he does not say any of these things, because Joseph is a faithful man. Neither does he ask when they will be coming back, even though the angel had left it open when he said 'and remain there till I tell you.' This does not hold him back: on the contrary, he obeys, believes and endures all trials with joy" ("Hom. on St. Matthew", 8).
It is worth noting also how God's way of dealing with His chosen ones contains light and shade: they have to put up with intense sufferings side by side with great joy: "It can be clearly seen that God, who is full of love for man, mixes pleasant things with unpleasant ones, as He did with all the Saints. He gives us neither dangers nor consolations in a continual way, but rather He makes the lives of the just a mixture of both. This was what He did with Joseph" ("ibid".).
15. The text of Hosea 11:1 speaks of a child who comes out of Egypt and is a son of God. This refers in the first place to the people of Israel whom God brought out of Egypt under Moses' leadership. But this event was a symbol or prefiguration of Jesus, the Head of the Church, the New People of God. It is in Him that this prophecy is principally fulfilled. The sacred text gives a quotation from the Old Testament in the light of its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The Old Testament achieves its full meaning in Christ, and, in the words of St. Paul, to read it without keeping in mind Jesus is to have one's face covered by a veil (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18).
18. Ramah was the city in which Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, concentrated the Israelites he had taken prisoner. Since Ramah was in the land of Benjamin, Jeremiah puts this lament for the children of Israel in the mouth of Rachel, the mother of Benjamin and Joseph. So great was the misfortune of those exiled to Babylon that Jeremiah says poetically that Rachel's sorrow is too great to allow for consolation.
"Rachel was buried in the race course near Bethlehem. Since her grave was nearby and the property belonged to her son, Benjamin (Rachel was of the tribe of Benjamin), the children beheaded in Bethlehem could reasonably be called Rachel's children" (St John Chrysostom, "Hom. on St Matthew", 9).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
This beautiful English lullaby carol originated in the Coventry Corpus Christi Mystery Plays performed in the 15th century. In a play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, the women of Bethlehem sing this song just before Herod's soldiers come to slaughter their children. It tells the story of the murder of the Holy Innocents, and is sung on December 28, the feast of those tiny martyrs.
Lully, Lullay, thou little tiny child.
O sisters, too, how may we do,
Herod the King, in his raging,
Then woe is me, poor child, for thee,
Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for all children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.
Holy Innocents, you were killed because one man was filled with hatred, pray for those who hate that God may touch their hearts and fill them with love.
Holy Innocents, you experienced a violent death, pray for all who are affected by violence that they may find peace and love.
Holy Innocents, your parents grieved for you with deep and lasting sorrow, pray for all parents who have lost young children that God may wrap a warm blanket of comfort around them.
Holy Innocents, those around you certainly felt helpless to prevent your deaths, pray for all who feel helpless in their circumstances that they may cling to God for courage and hope.
Holy Innocents, you who are now in Heaven, pray for all of us that one day we may join you there to bask in God's love forever.
by Dr. David Curry, Open Doors USA
For many in the West, if not most, Christmas will be spent in relative peace. Time together with family and friends, presents under the tree and a hot dinner typify the day of celebration. Christmas is a national holiday in the United States, and most people will have a paid day off from work. You can sleep in if you'd like, assuming that the kids or grandkids don't run downstairs and tear into the presents at an unreasonably early hour.
While there's been a move over the past generation to stigmatize the use of "Merry Christmas" as a greeting, with politically correct types preferring the more sanitized and non-descript "Happy Holidays," still there is general acceptance and understanding of what Christmas is. No one will beat you up for buying a Christmas tree or for having decorations on your house this year. Jesus is the reason for the season, as the saying goes, and no one is going to threaten you for celebrating the birth of Jesus this Christmas.
That's not true, however, for millions of Christians who live in countries where Christians are a persecuted religious minority. In North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Iran, Syria and many other countries Christians are not allowed to live out their faith the way you and I will do this Christmas. For them, Christmas is equally meaningful, but much different. They honor and worship the Christ child in secret.
Hanna is a Christian woman living in war-torn Damascus, Syria with her husband and two young daughters. Life in Syria for Christians has been incredibly difficult. Christian churches have been attacked and destroyed. Some Christians have lost everything they have, including homes, businesses and possessions. Some have even lost their life. Islamic extremists fighting in the Syrian civil war have systematically attacked areas that Christians have historically settled and called home – on some occasions even cutting off the flow of food, water and resources to try to starve out entire populations of Christian villages.
In a recent journal, Hanna describes what life is like for Christians this year in Syria.
"It's snowing in Damascus now. It's rare that it snows. We don't have much to warm ourselves: there is a lack of oil and gas, and there are electricity blackouts that last for hours and hours. Yesterday I was at home with my daughter and we just wore all the clothes we could find.
"But we don't complain, because we think of all of our fellow Syrians that are living in the streets now. It breaks my heart if I think of the children that fled with only their summer clothes on them. We would love to go there and help them, but traveling to the area they live in is far too dangerous.
"No, Christmas will not be a time of celebration for us this year. How can we celebrate when people around us are suffering?
"We will have some special prayers in church, but we don't have any decorations. Having Christmas decorations outside the church would provoke the terrorist to attack us. They already send the Christians a message: they have special ‘Christmas gifts' prepared for us: three bomb cars.
"Last week I went to the market to get some hats, socks and candy for the kids in our church. Normally we would buy them some games, but toys are way too expensive now. At least they will have something to keep them warm, that's more important than toys in this situation. I want to give those gifts to the children and hope that they will know that Jesus still loves them, no matter what's going on around us."
Also, In Iraq Christians won't be able to celebrate Christmas in peace. Tariq, a pastor in Baghdad, states: "Churches are targets for terrorists, especially on Christmas Day. Many Christians stay home because they are too afraid. Due to security concerns, the freedom to celebrate Christmas is growing less and less."
Celebrate Christmas this year with a profound sense of gratitude for all that you have. And pray, earnestly pray, for those Christians such as Hanna and Tariq in places such as Syria and Iraq, where Christmas is a dangerous holiday.
About The Author:
Dr. David Curry is President and CEO for Open Doors USA (www.OpenDoorsUSA.org, based in Santa Ana, California), the American arm of Open Doors International, a worldwide ministry supporting persecuted Christians since 1955.
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