The Nativity according to the Flesh of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ


Thoughts for Each Day of the Year
According to the Daily Church Readings from the Word of God
By St. Theophan the Recluse

The Nativity of the Lord. [Gal. 4:4–7; Mt. 2:1–12] 


 

Glory to Thee, O Lord! Once again we greet the awaited bright days of Christ’s Nativity. Let us be glad and rejoice. In order to raise our festivities to a higher level in these days, the Holy Church has intentionally instituted a preceding fast—a certain amount of difficulty, so that when we enter the festive period we might feel as though liberated. Nevertheless, the Church in no way desires that we should give ourselves over to purely sensual delights and fleshly pleasures.

Come to your senses, my soul


[L]

In the sluggish carriage of the body my Soul journeys through this world of illusions, which are trying to prove their existence by means of their sluggishness and massiveness.

O Light-bearing Lord, how dreadfully and drunkenly stuck to this sluggish carriage my soul has become! In her blindness she thinks that, if she were to fall from this carriage, she would be able to fall down lower still--as though she were not standing on the same ashes whether on the wood or beneath the wood!

Conceal my soul from evil eyes, O God


Conceal my soul from evil eyes, O God, when she gives birth to Your wisdom. Isolate me from people, in a shepherd's cave. Let no one among mortals accompany me except the shadow of one righteous man. In the grotto of Bethlehem, in the cave of stone that has never blasphemed Your name, let my pregnant soul seclude herself here.

Let the innocent lambs and calves keep her company, for from birth they are intended to be food for those who are less pure than they themselves are.

Be a virgin, my soul!



All the prophets have from the beginning cried out to my soul, imploring her to make herself a virgin and prepare her­self to receive the Divine Son into her immaculate womb;

Imploring her to become a ladder, down which God will descend into the world, and up which man will ascend to God;1

Imploring her to drain the red sea of sanguinary passions within herself, so that man the slave can cross over to the promised land, the land of freedom.2

Come closer to me, closer still, O majestic Spirit of Truth!

Come closer to me, closer still, O majestic Spirit of Truth!




Come closer to me, closer still, O majestic Spirit of Truth. Draw near, and enter into me, more deeply than light and air enter me. Indeed, I can spend an entire night without light, but without You I cannot even lie down on my bed. I can take ten steps without air, but without You I cannot even take one.

Take up your abode in my soul more deeply than my thought can follow. The entire universe is insufficient to encourage my soul to persevere in virginity, if You do not encourage her.

I descend deep into my mind

I descend deep into my mind



I descend deep into my mind, and I find within it the Jews, who prevent You from entering, my Light-bearing King, and who have filled the whole world with stories about their flight from the kingdom of Pharaoh, a kingdom which has not fled from them.

And after I looked around at everything that was swelling in my mind, I exclaimed: All this is neither myself, nor my God, nor the Kingdom of my God.

All these things are echoes and images of the world, which my overly assiduous senses have brought in from outside and have amassed in my mind.

I am descending deep into my heart



I am descending deep into my heart, to see who is dwelling in it besides me and You, O Eternal God.

And I am filled with fear as I find legions of strangers fighting over portions of my heart. I found as many of them in my heart as time contains human and inhuman souls from the Fall of Adam.

And then I understood why my heart has become weary, and cannot receive either You or me into its chambers, but instead shoves us to the outer perimeter -- pushing the proprietors out to the edge of their property.

People can do me no evil, as long as I have no wounds.



People can do me no evil, as long as I have no wounds.

I saw two caves, one of which revealed an echo, while the other had none. And many curious children were visiting the former and were mischievously carrying out shouting matches with the cave. But from the other cave visitors were quickly returning, because it was not answering them with an echo.

If my soul is wounded, every worldly evil will resound within it. And people will laugh at me, and will throng more and more

The One, whom I love and whom I await, is coming to me



My love keeps vigil and through vigil it never grows weary. The One, whom I love and whom I await, is coming to me surrounded by a heavenly retinue. How could I be sleeping, and how could vigil make me weary?

I keep vigil over the stories of men and the stories of things, in case I can discern some secret message of my Love. No story interests me by virtue of the story itself or because of the story-teller, but only on account of You.

With prayer I cleanse the vision of my faith

With prayer I cleanse the vision of my faith



With prayer I cleanse the vision of my faith, lest it lose sight of you in the mist, O my Most Radiant Star.

"What use will your prayer be to God?" ask the swarthy workers of the earth.

You speak rightly, sons of earth. What use is the mariner's telescope to the North Star, when it sees the mariner even without a telescope? But do not ask me, since you already know, what use a telescope is to a mariner.

Do not cry, my child, the Lord will soon return and set everything right.

Do not cry, my child, the Lord will soon return and set everything right.



Do you know, my child why the clouds are closed when the fields are thirsty for rain, and why they open, when the fields have no desire for rain?

Nature has been confused by the wickedness of men, and has abandoned its order.

Do you know, my child, why the fields produce heavy fruit in the springtime, and yield a barren harvest in the summer?

You work wonders through created things, O Lord



You work wonders through created things, O Lord, while men have lost the gift of wonderworking.

You take fire and water for Your servants, while people refuse to serve You.

To wood and metal You give Your power, while it is returned to You, despised by people.

Through earth and grass You bestow mercy on Your chosen ones, while people make themselves too impure to be channels of mercy.

Martyrs of the true faith, pray to God for us!




Martyrs of the true faith, pray to God for us.


Your faith has brought you near to the radiant throne of glory, adorned with the shining seraphim and the overpowering cherubim. You are nearer to immortality than we, and your prayer is more pure and audible.


Remember us in your prayer also, so that you may be ever more acclaimed throughout heaven. Bring us with you also, and you will more swiftly and easily fly to the throne of glory. Whoever brings himself alone, walks more slowly and stumbles more often.

Love makes me God, and You, O God, man.




Love makes me God, and You, O God, man.

Where there is one, there is no love. Where there are two united there is only a semblance of love. Where three are united, there is love. Your name is love because Your name is trinity in Unity.

If You were solitary, You would not be love but hatred.

If You were a duality, You would be an alternation of love and hatred. But You are a trinity, and therefore You are love, and in You there is neither darkness nor alternation.

My hope awaits You, Lord!




Expecting You is the only content and meaning of my Tomorrow and the Day after Tomorrow.

The grass expects the dew and is not disappointed. The mountain expects the thunder, and is not disappointed. The mole in the ground expects its meal, and is not disappointed. You fulfill the expectations of all beings.

I am expecting You, and You are coming to meet me. With the same haste that I am approaching You, You are coming toward me.

My faith is my only genuine knowledge





My faith sees You, Lord.

It is the light and the farseeing vision of my eyes.

It is the sensing of Your omnipresence. It pulls my knees to the ground and lifts my arms toward heaven.

My faith is my soul's contact with You. It prompts my heart to dance and my throat to sing.

When a swallow draws near, the baby swallows become excited in the nest. For even in the distance they sense the coming of their mother.

You pour out light over the darkness, Lord!




You pour out light over the darkness, Lord, and colors and shapes emerge. You bend Your face over the abyss, whose name is Nothingness, and the abyss tries to depict the beauty of Your face in shadows. All creation expresses You the way the abyss dreams of You.

My lake is also beautiful while the peaceful face of the sun remains bent over it. And all those who pass by praise the beauty of my lake. But as soon as the sun hides its face, my lake becomes dark and abysmal. And no passerby ever offers any praise for the lake except in the presence of the sun or the sun's radiant companions.

O my Merciful Father, blot out all my memories except one alone.



Blot out, O Lord, all my memories - except one. For memories make me old and feeble. Memories ruin the present day. They weigh down the present day with the past and weaken my hope in the future, for in legions they whisper in my ear: "There will only be what has already been."

But I do not wish for there to be only what has been. I do not wish and You do not wish, O Lord, for the future to be the past repeated. Let things happen that have never appeared before. The sun would not be worth much, if it only watched repetitions.

For all the sins of men I repent before You, Most Merciful Lord

 

For all the sins of men I repent before You, Most Merciful Lord. Indeed, the seed of all sins flows in my blood! With my effort and Your mercy I choke this wicked crop of weeds day and night, so that no tare may sprout in the field of the Lord, but only pure wheat.1

I repent for all those who are worried, who stagger under a burden of worries and do not know that they should put all their worries on You. For feeble man even the most minor worry is unbearable, but for You a mountain of worries is like a snowball thrown into a fiery furnace.

I repent for all the sick, for sickness is the fruit of sin. When the soul is cleansed with repentance, sickness disappears with sin, and You, my Eternal Health, take up Your abode in the soul.

I repent for unbelievers, who through their unbelief amass worries and sicknesses both on themselves and on their friends.

I repent for all those who blaspheme God, who blaspheme against You without knowing that they are blaspheming against the Master, who clothes them and feeds them.

I repent for all the slayers of men, who take the life of another to preserve their own. Forgive them, Most Merciful2 Lord, for they know not what they do. For they do not know that there are not two lives in the universe, but one, and that there are not two men in the universe, but one. Ah, how dead are those who cut the heart in half!

I repent for all those who bear false witness, for in reality they are homicides and suicides.

For all my brothers who are thieves and who are hoarders of unneeded wealth I weep and sigh, for they have buried their soul and have nothing with which to go forth before You.

For all the arrogant and the boastful I weep and sigh, for before You they are like beggars with empty pockets.

For all drunkards and gluttons I weep and sigh, for they have become servants of their servants.

For all adulterers I repent, for they have betrayed the trust. of the Holy Spirit, who chose them to form new life through them. Instead, they turned serving life into destroying life.

For all gossipers I repent, for they have turned Your most precious gift, the gift of speech, into cheap sand.

For all those who destroy their neighbor's hearth and home and their neighbor's peace I repent and sigh, for they bring a curse on themselves and their people.

For all lying tongues, for all suspicious eyes, for all raging hearts, for all insatiable stomachs, for all darkened minds, for all ill will, for all unseemly thoughts, for all murderous emotions--I repent, weep and sigh.

For all the history of mankind from Adam to me, a sinner, I repent; for all history is in my blood. For I am in Adam and Adam is in me.

For all the worlds, large and small, that do not tremble before Your awesome presence, I weep and cry out: O Master Most Merciful, have mercy on me and save me!"


1. Mt. 13:24-30.

2. Lk. 23:34.

O Lord, Master of the voice, speak more clearly through Your heralds!


Your birds awaken me in the morning, and the murmur of the lake lulls me to sleep in the evening. But it is not the birds that awaken me, nor the lake that lulls me to sleep, but You, O Lord, Master of the voice.

You lend Your voice to the birds and the midnight murmur to the lake. You have lent a voice to every throat, and have put a story into every creature. I am surrounded by Your heralds, as a student by many teachers, and I listen to them tirelessly from dawn until dusk.

Arise all you creatures and serve the Living Lord!



Arise all you creatures and serve the Living Lord who cares about you. Worship Him and serve Him, for no one greater than He has visited you in this vale of fear and tears.

Servants come and make themselves lords. The Lord came and made Himself a servant. Servile lords strive to Lord it over as many people and creatures as possible, while the lordly Servant strives to serve as many people and creatures as possible.1
Arise, O lilies of the field, and give off your fragrance, for His holy mouth mentioned your name.2

You souls of the dead, join me in glorifying the Heavenly Triad





You souls of the dead, join me in glorifying the Heavenly Triad. What other way do you have to spend your time except either to cringe for fear far from God or to soar for joy close to God?

You have left behind your bodily ashes, your favorite con­cern, and now you only have to worry about your nakedness. Surely you realize now that the body does not give fragrance to the soul, but the soul to the body.

How difficult it is for a sinful soul when it is undiluted by flesh and unhidden by flesh! Truly, a wheel does not go into the mud by

You pour Your holy oil into the stars, O Holy Spirit





You pour Your holy oil into the stars, O Holy Spirit, and out of senseless conflagrations You make vigil lamps before the Glory of Heaven. Pour Yourself into my soul also, and out of a passionate conflagration make a vigil lamp before the heavens.

You stroll through fields of flowers without being heard, and You sprinkle the flowers with Your grace, so that the blood of the earth may not look through, but the beauty of God. Sprinkle the field of my soul with Your grace also, so that it may not be said that the field of my soul sprouted from the blood of the earth, but that it is adorned with the beauty of God.

Pierce my soul, cleanse her, illuminate her, perfume her with heavenly incense


The chamber of my soul is not aired out, and You, O awesome Holy Spirit, are knocking at the door. Just a moment, while I air out my chamber from its unclean spirits, and I shall open the door for You. For if I opened it as it is, You would not enter into a chamber full of bad odors and would withdraw from my door forever. Just one moment, I beseech You, my most important guest!

Ah my shame and my sorrow, how that one moment is being prolonged! Just a little longer and my whole lifetime on earth will find its place within that moment. Yet You patient­ly wait at the door, and listen to my breathing.

O Only Son of God, receive me into Thy wisdom





Oh Only Son of God, receive me into Thy wisdom. You are the head of all the sons of men. You are their heavenly comprehension, illumination and jubilation.

You are the One who thinks the same goodness in all men: the same thought and the same light. A man recognizes another man through You. A man prophesies to another man through You. Through Your voice men hear each other. In Your language they understand. Truly, You are the Ultimate Man, for existentially all men are in You and You are in each.

If your glory is a reward from the people, then you are a day laborer who has been paid off





O heavenly Mother, receive me into Your glory. For when worldly glory is overtaken by darkness, it never dawns. And the crown that men bestow is always a crown of thorns for those who are rational and a madman's cap for those who are irrational. While gold is in the ground everyone likes it and searches for it. After it is set as a crown on a man's head, the darkness of envy and animosity blinds its radiance.

Turn me into hidden gold in Your most hidden treasury, so that no one may know about me except You. For as long as You know me I am known. As long as only people know me, my name is doubt.

Think of yourself as though you were dead





Think of yourself as though you were dead, I say to myself, and you will not feel the coming of death. Blunt the barb of death during life, and when it comes it will not have the means to sting.

Think of yourself every morning as a newborn miracle, and you will not feel old age.

Do not wait for death to come, because death has indeed already come and has not left you. Its teeth are continually in your flesh. Whatever was living before your birth and whatever will survive your death--that even now is alive within you.

Amidst the racket and ridicule of people my prayer rises toward You





Amidst the racket and ridicule of people my prayer rises toward You, O my King and my Kingdom. Prayer is incense, that ceaselessly censes my soul and raises it toward You, and draws You toward her.

Stoop down, my King, so that I may whisper to You my most precious secret, my most secret prayer, my most prayer­ful desire. You are the object of all my prayers, all my search­ing. I seek nothing except You, truly, only You.

Repent of your ways, inhabitants of the earth





Repent of your ways, inhabitants of the earth. Behold, the eye of the Master of the world is keeping watch deep within you. Do not trust your seducible eyes, let the Eye illumine your way. Your eyes are curtains over the Eye of God.

Repentance is admission of the way of sin. Repentance opens up a new way. The penitent's eyes are open to two ways: to the way which he is going, and to the way he should be going.

How tedious to me are the counsels of human leaders



How tedious to me are the counsels of human leaders and wise men--oh how tedious they seem to me - ever since Your wisdom caused my heart and mind to tremble, Holy God.

Those whom the dark desires of the heart are dragging into the abyss do not believe in Your light. There are no obstacles for a stone while it is rolling down a hill. The higher the steep slope and the deeper the abyss - the swifter and more unrestrained is the rolling of the stone.

Without Your eye I wander hopelessly





White doves fly over my blue lake, like white angels over the blue heaven. The doves would not be white nor would the lake be blue, if the great sun did not open its eye above them.

O my heavenly Mother, open Your eye in my soul, so that I may see what is what - so that I may see who is dwelling in my soul and what sort of fruits are growing in her.

Without Your eye I wander hopelessly through my soul like a wayfarer in the night, in the night's indistinguishable gloom. And the wayfarer in the night falls and picks himself up, and what he encounters along the way he calls "events."

You do not ask much of me, my love. Indeed, people ask more.



I am wrapped in a thick wrapping of nonexistence that covers the eyes of my soul. You only ask my soul to take off her misty wrapping and open her eyes to You, my might and my truth. People ask my soul to wrap herself more and more thickly with heavier and heavier wrappings.

O help me, help me! Help my soul to attain freedom and lightness, to attain lightness and aerial wings, to attain aerial wings and fiery wheels.

Joy of the world: Christ tramples on Hades



“We have received Her [the Holy Church of God] from the Holy Fathers thus adorned, as the Divine Scriptures also teach us: to wit, with the Incarnate Economy of Christ,... the Annunciation of Gabriel to the Virgin, etc., the Nativity, etc....; and likewise, the Crucifixion, etc... ; the Resurrection, which is the joy of the world -- how Christ tramples on Hades and raises up Adam.”
St. John of Damascus (676-749) 

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive...  

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

The first man Adam was made into a living soul; the last Adam into a life-creating spirit... The first man was of the earth, earthly: the second man, from heaven, heavenly... let us bear also the image of the heavenly."
- 1st Corinthians 15:20-26... 45, 47, 49




Anoint my heart with the oil of Your mercy, my most merciful Lord



May neither anger against the strong nor scorning of the weak ever erupt in my heart! For everything is weaker than the morning dew.

May hatred never make a nest in my heart against those who plot evil against me, so that I may be mindful of their end and be at peace.

Mercifulness opens the way to the heart of all creatures, and brings joy. Mercilessness brings fog to the fore, and creates a cramped isolation.

Have mercy on Your merciful servant, most Tender Hand, and reveal to me the mystery of Your mercy.

Once I bound myself to You, my love, all other bonds broke.



Once I bound myself to You, my love, all other bonds broke.

 I see a swallow distraught over its demolished nest, and I say: "I am not bound to my nest." I see a son mourning for his father, and I say: "I am not bound to my parents."

I see a fish expiring as soon as it is taken out of the water, and I say: "That is me! If they take me out of Your embrace, I shall die in second - like a fish tossed onto the sand."

To a silent tongue and a contemplative mind You draw near



To a silent tongue and a contemplative mind You draw near, O All-Holy Spirit, bridegroom of my soul. You avoid a talkative tongue as a swan avoids a stormy lake. Like a swan you swim across the quiet of my heart and make it fruitful.

Desist from your worldly wisdom, my neighbors. Wisdom is begotten, not made. As Wisdom is begotten in God, so is it begotten on earth. Begotten wisdom creates, but is not created.

Worlds swarm around You, like bees around a cherry tree



Worlds swarm around You, like bees around a cherry tree in blossom. One world pushes the other aside; one contests the patrimony of the other; one looks upon the other as an intruder in his home. All claim a greater right to You than You Yourself do.

From the effusion of Your fullness swarms are nourished, O inexhaustible Sweetness. All overeat, and all go away hungry.

Would that I could make musicians out of stone, and dan­cers out of the sand



Would that I could make musicians out of stone, and dan­cers out of the sand of the lake, and minstrels out of the leaves of all the trees in the mountains, so that they might help me glorify the Lord-and so that the voice of the earth might be heard amidst the choirs of angels!
The sons of men gorge themselves at the table of the absent Master, and do not sing for anyone except themselves and their mouthfuls, which must eventually return to the earth.

Divine Truth became incarnate to save through Himself us...


Divine Truth became incarnate to save through Himself us who have perished by accepting and adopting a murderous lie. 

 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (Jn 8:31–32). 
Only he is faithful to the teachings of Christ who decisively renounces and ever rejects all those teachings once conceived and still being conceived by outcast spirits and lawless people, inimical to Christ's teaching, to God's teaching—slandering its integrity and inviolability. The integrity of the God-revealed teaching is preserved inviolable solely and exclusively in the bosom of the Eastern Orthodox Church

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Translated by Nun Cornelia (Rees)
23 / 03 / 2013

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"As the Prophets saw, as the Apostles taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers express in dogma, as the inhabited world understands together with them, as grace illumines, as the truth makes clear, as error has been banished, as wisdom makes bold to declare, as Christ has assured, so we think, so we speak, so we preach, honoring Christ our true God, and his Saints, in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in icons, worshiping and revering the One as God and Lord, and honoring them because of their common Lord as those who are close to him and serve him, and making to them relative veneration. This is the faith of the Apostles; this is the faith of the Fathers; this is the faith of the Orthodox; this faith makes fast the inhabited world."

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