The Christmas Message of Metropolitan John of Dubna
“In the secret of the cave You are born, but the sky proclaims you to the entire universe as Saviour by the sign of the star; and it sends the Magi who prostrate before you with faith. Glory to your condescension, Lord, only Friend of men!”
(Vespers of the Nativity)
Christmas, the Nativity of Christ, is an event without precedent that took place among men. Jesus the Son of God, was born in a cave amidst general turmoil, protected from the weather by the earth itself. Today, when that mysterious nostalgia for something beyond can open great wounds in people’s hearts, would God not provide answers to our anxieties, to our questions? This God, who becomes man, and who remains for us all a deep and impenetrable mystery: is he not always present in our struggles no matter what? All people are sons of God in both flesh and spirit; it is in this way that the mystery of Christ touches all people. All struggle in flesh and spirit, all rebel and resist, all reconcile and submit and, finally, wounded like Jacob by the angel, discover the ultimate goal of the struggle: union with the Living God. Christ, from the depths of the Bethlehem night, invites us to take this path by following the sorrowful yet luminous way of His steps.
The Orthodox liturgical texts for Christmas give an important place to the cave. Christian tradition placed the birth of Christ in a cave very early: a symbolic place in which was achieved a sort of ‘spiritual alchemy’ – a secret transformation hidden from the eyes of all. And it is within the confines of this cave that the Infinite deigns to manifest itself to humanity: ‘In the secret of the Cave, You are born,’ we sing in the liturgy. That cave is offered by the earth to the infinite God, who deigns to become incarnate in the finite. The mystics say, however, that each one of us, in our secret heart, is a cave. It is there that the Mystery of Christmas must be renewed: this alliance of the human and divine, of the finite with the infinite. We must live Christmas at this level of reception and inner transformation; otherwise, instead of entering into the secret of the cave in which the Mystery is revealed, the feast will remain external to us.
A holy feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, Lord and friend of man, to all of you.
Paris, December 25, 2021 / January 7, 2022
† Metropolitan JOHN of Dubna,
Archbishop of Orthodox Churches of the Russian tradition
in Western Europe