Christmas Message 2018 from His Eminence Archbishop JOHN de Charioupolis
Here we are in these days of preparation, waiting for the celebration of the Incarnation of God made man. Are we as people aware of the significance of this event? History teaches us the sad reality of fallen man, who has lost by his pride his place in the order of creation; ignorant of all its true purpose, which is to be united with the image from which he was taken, rebelling against Him who had given him out of love the breath of life. The rebellion of man has upset the harmony of the universe, order has become disorder, the light of creation has become darkness and ignorance. Ashamed of himself this man challenges and insults the Creator Spirit for which he was created to live from Him and in Him.
The witnesses of this Spirit would be systematically murdered, the prophets of God driven out and persecuted. So as a last attempt of dialogue with this lost man, God will tempt him by becoming like him: “and He became man” we sing in the Creed.
Here we are at the very heart of the Christian mystery. God does not judge his creation and his creatures. God does not destroy them, no, he comes, humble and stripped of everything, he takes on the condition of man, his weakness, his infirmity, he humbles himself to be closer to him and taking him by the hand, He shows him the way he once refused to see.
Man had moved away from God, and God, in his infinite love, unites Himself with him in the night of Bethlehem.
Let us try to perceive in our hearts the meaning of this gift of God: intellectually we cannot, we are overwhelmed by this humility of the Divine, we who only live by human pride.
God became man so that man could become the son of God, says Saint Athanasius of Alexandria. This saying is both exhilarating and painful. Man did not understand his true nature, he did not grasp the true purpose of his creation, God had to become incarnate, humble himself to him to show his true reality, to help him find the likeness, the imprint of the Creator’s face. All our Christian life is summed up in this quest, which the Nativity reminds us of. God is become man to better serve us, to be the Friend Who comes to meet us and not the Master who judges. Christmas is the feast of mankind, of the human who finds in Christ his true meaning, who once again becomes a creature made in the image and the likeness.
Let us leave aside, brothers and sisters, the pagan festivities of those for whom man has become an idol, let us turn our hearts to the cave that offers shelter to the Godhead, let us look at this newborn Child with all the attention of a heart which is open to the deepest mystery of faith. God rests in this humble manger and He calls each one of us to shelter Him in the depths of each one of us. Men have refused Him a place in the inn, but we can open wide the doors of the manger of our hearts so that He can make His home there. Let us acknowledge Him as the God-man; then he will make us a man, son of God.
All together, in these days when we remember the appearance in the world the Saviour of humanity, let us be guided by the star to the place where the mysterious union of the divine and the human is fulfilled. Let us be penetrated by this mystery, reject the concerns of a world that has chased God out of his life and refocus on what is essential.
Let us prepare ourselves to welcome Him by fasting, and be vigilant in prayer, and when He will knock on the door of our heart, then we will be ready to welcome him, because there will be room for Him …
To all I wish a most holy feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paris, December 25, 2018 / January 7, 2019
JOHN de Charioupolis,
Archbishop of Orthodox parishes of Russian tradition
in Western Europe