Christmas message 2023/2024 from His Eminence Metropolitan JEAN of Dubna
To their Excellencies, the clergy, the monks, the nuns and the faithful of the Archdiocese of the Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe.
“CHRIST IS BORN!” LET’S GLORIFY HIM!
We are entering the Christmas period, the Advent fast began on November 15, so we are now oriented towards the celebration of an event that changed the course of the world: the birth of God according to the flesh.
This is what we celebrate today.
The birth of God according to the flesh is a matter of faith and not of rationality. Anyone who asserts this in faith is making a choice to commit with sincerity, his or her entire life to the God who is born ‘according to the flesh’.
Christ was born neither in Rome nor in Athens; he chose neither power nor wealth nor intelligence. He didn’t even choose to be born in Jerusalem. Rather, the place that heard the first breath of God-made-Man was the humble cave of Bethlehem.
The choice Christ made to be born in Bethlehem makes of us citizens of Bethlehem too, who must make the humility and poverty of the cave our own. God made this town, despised and of no account, the place par excellence of his revelation. He chose what was nothing, what was poor, yet what was truly human in order to say that He, the creator God, also wanted to be like man and to live with him. He wanted to take on all the anguish, the poverty, the tragedy of humankind, of the ‘little man’ that we each are. Christmas is this cave, this straw, these humble animals and two poor but trusting humanbeings who look to this child who is proclaimed as Savior.
The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is not an event, lost in the depths of history, and which as such would not concern me, a man of the third millennium. Nor is the Christmas message addressed to humanity in general, rather it is addressed in a particular way to each man and woman, to every person in a unique and exceptional way. It is to me and to each of you that the news is brought: “Behold, I announce to you great joy… today a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2, 10 – 12). It is to each of us that this joy is announced. It is for me and for each of us that a Savior was born. Christmas is a gift that we must each know how to welcome and receive with faith and gratitude.
Before any words are spoken, the birth of Christ in the simplicity of the cave and the manger declares that God wants to be counted among the poorest, among the most humble on earth. We will therefore find him among the sick, the prisoners, the sinners, among every suffering soul, among the dispossessed of this world who increase in number, even at a time when our collective intellectual capacity is greater than ever.
The true Christian desires only one thing: to be with Jesus, to be with him and poor rather than to be rich and without him. The true Christian prefers the cave with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, rather than the inn where there was no room for them.
Teaching his disciples, Jesus says, ‘the Son of Man has nowhere he can rest his head’ (Luke 9:58). Those who love him and who seek to serve him, can expect none other than the same.
The Nativity of Christ is the feast of the mystical body of all the baptized who are joined to Christ by virtue of the Incarnation. Saint Paul understood this well when he wrote to the Corinthians: “Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it” (Cor. 1, 12:27).
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ brought about an ineffable union between God-in-Christ and humankind, that surpasses all understanding. Beyond the historical event which occured in Bethlehem by which the Son of God took on a visible human body, something takes place that concerns the entire human race. Namely, God by becoming a man, takes on in a certain way the human nature of which we are all participants. In so doing, he creates between himself and all of us a relationship which, without ceasing to be that of Creator to creature, is also that of the body to its members. There is union of the two natures, divine and human, without confusion.
Therefore Christmas sheds its light on us too, allowing us to become more deeply aware of who we are. It tells us that our own nature is human nature regenerated by Jesus Christ. With this in mind, Saint Leo the Great says: “O Christian, be aware of your nobility – it is God’s own nature that you share; do not then by an ignoble life, return to your former baseness through a degenerate way of living. Remember and think of the Head and of the Body of which you are a member.” (Homily 1 Nativity, 1-3)
And so may the Word of God become flesh in us, who have been created to receive it. May it enter our bodies and transform them. May the power of Word of God pass from without to within and may the law of the Spirit prevail over the law of the flesh. The Nativity of Christ will have real meaning for us only if our own flesh becomes transformed, moved and governed by the Word made flesh.
A Happy and Holy Christmas to All!
Paris, 25 December 2023/7 January 2024
+ Metropolitan Jean of Doubna
Archbishop of the Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition
in Western Europe