“I see a strange and novel mystery”

I see a strange and novel mystery: shepherds sound all around my ears, not piping a barren tune, but singing a heavenly hymn. Angels are singing, archangels are dancing, the cherubim are hymning, the seraphim are glorifying, all are celebrating, since they see God upon the earth, man in Heaven. [I see] the one who is on high lower because of His plan, the one who is below on high because of His love for humanity. Today Bethlehem resembled Heaven: in place of stars it received angels hymning, in place of the sun it contained the righteous One without confining [Him]. And do not ask how: for where God wills it, nature’s order is overcome. For He willed it, He had the power, He came down, He saved – all things follow upon God. Today, He who Is is born, and He who Ιs becomes what He was not. For being God, He becomes human, though He did not cease from being God. For He hasn’t become human by separating from His divinity, nor again has He become God by advancing from a human. But, being Word, because He could not suffer [as Word], He became flesh, His nature remaining unchanged. But when, on the one hand, He was born, Jews denied the strange birth, and Pharisees misinterpreted the divine Books, and scribes spoke what was in opposition to the Law. Herod sought the [child] who was born, not in order to honor Him, but to destroy Him. For today they saw [that] all things [were] opposed [to them]. For the psalmist says, “it was not hidden from their children for another generation.” For kings came, in astonishment at the heavenly King, for He had come upon the earth without angels, without archangels, without thrones, without dominions, without powers, without authorities, but walking a foreign and untrodden path, He came forth from an uncultivated womb, neither leaving His own angels deprived of His authority, nor having ceased from His own divinity in His incarnation with us. But kings came to worship the heavenly King of glory, while soldiers [came] to serve the commander-in-chief of power; women [came to see] the one who was born from a man, in order that He might change the woman’s grief into joy; the virgins [came to see] the child of the virgin, because the Creator of milk and breasts, who makes the fountains of breasts to produce naturally flowing streams, received a child’s nourishment from His virgin mother; the infant [came to see] the one who became an infant in order to furnish praise from the mouths of infants; the children [came to see] the child who produced witnesses because of Herod’s madness; the men [came to see]  the one who was incarnated and healed the woes of slaves; the shepherds [came to see] the good shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep; the priests [came to see] the one who became the high priest in the order of Melchizedek; the slaves [came to see] the one who took the form of a slave in order to honor our slavery with freedom; the fishers [came to see] the one who makes hunters of  people from among fishers; the tax collectors [came to see] the one who appointed an evangelist from among the tax collectors; the prostitutes [came to see] the one who offers His feet to the tears of prostitutes; and, that I may speak but briefly, all sinners came to see the lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world, Magi accompanying, shepherds praising, tax collectors speaking the good news, prostitutes bearing perfume, Samaritans thirsting for the fountain of life, the Canaanite woman with undoubting faith. [St. John Chrysostom, “2nd Homily on the Birthday of Our Savior, Jesus Christ”, transl. Bryson Sewell]

See the rest here.

Merry and Blessed Christ-mass!

Timotheos

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Advent 2

If the muscle can feel repugnance, there is still a false move
to be made;
If the mind can imagine to-morrow, there is still a defeat
to remember;

As long as the self can say “I”, it is impossible not to rebel;
As long as there is an accidental virtue, there is a necessary vice:
And the garden cannot exist, the miracle cannot occur.

For the garden is the only place there is, but you will not find it
Until you have looked for it everywhere and found nowhere that is
not a desert;
The miracle is the only thing that happens, but to you it will not
be apparent,
Until all events have been studied and nothing happens that you
cannot explain;
And life is the destiny you are bound to refuse until you have
consented to die.
Therefore, see without looking, hear without listening, breathe
without asking:
The Inevitable is what will seem to happen to you purely by chance;
The Real is what will strike you as really absurd;
Unless you are certain you are dreaming, it is certainly a dream
of your own;
Unless you exclaim–“There must be some mistake”–you must
be mistaken.

–W.H. Auden, “Advent, IV (Recitative),” For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013 [ed. Alan Jacobs]), 8-9

Advent 1

“Rejoice, daughter of Zion!  Behold, thy King cometh unto thee!”  Again we hear the glad Advent-message and read how the King of mercy and of truth, our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, fulfils the age-old prophecy with His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and how the rejoicing multitudes welcome HIm as their King with loud acclaim.  “Hosanna,” they cry, that is, “Save now, O Lord!  Send now prosperity!”  And the Lord God did send prosperity.  David’s Son, yet greater Lord, finishes victoriously His divine work of redemption and forever sets His captive and mourning people free from their cruel enemies–Satan, sin, and death.  Now at His saving name every knee must bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  We have also vowed allegiance to Him, our only King and Savior, in life, in death, through all eternity.  But, alas, we must all confess with deep contrition that we have been most neglectful in our homage ever so often.  We need pardon for our sin, more faith, more love, more hope, more devotion in His sacred service.  And now the glad Advent-message tells us that “He comes the broken heart to bind, The bleeding soul to cure, And with the treasures of His grace To enrich the humble poor.”  Should we not sing our glad hosannas to such a faithful and unwearied Savior?”  [F.W. Herzberger, Family Altar, December 1]

[Timotheos]