Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
“Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens, and Thy glory above all the earth.”
Nativity Greeting of the Father Rector, Archpriest Paul Volmensky

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Beloved in Christ, dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Son and Word of God was not incarnate, did not speak to us, did not work miracles, simply so that we would become decent members of society or find a measure temporal happiness or magically live forever. The Word became flesh with the aim of restoring Adam and Eve, who before their redemption abode in misery, whose very nature had been perverted.

Moreover, the incarnation of Christ did more than renew Adam’s fallen ontology at its core; though this is great in and of itself. “God became man in order to make man God” (St. Athanasius the Great).  If we can grasp this Mystery ever so slightly, we are informed that our deification is not a luxury, but it joyously is our purpose and end. God did not choose to become an Angel, but one of us. They are greater than we – “He made His Angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire” (Heb 1:7). And though He created us “a little lower than the angels,” – we having the spirit as they do, He crowned us who consist of clay “with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5), as He became one of us. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Now the question arises of how is man deified? How is it possible that he may co-reign with Christ, sitting together with Him at the right hand of the Father? The God-man Christ assumed human nature in its entirety – body, soul and spirit. And having assumed it, He deified it. Now, if man will move from the image of God towards His likeness, he will be deified by God’s presence within Him.

But, God forgave His enemies! How can one love like that? God preferred a simple cave to any majestic palace. How does one conform one’s spirit to the simultaneous presence of authority and weakness? This is something known only by Revelation, lived out by inspiration, and confirmed by experience. Therefore, the Divine Revelation “God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us,” beckons the response “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord” (Psalm 119).

When God appears, then there is inspiration, motion, action, service. But as the Word’s appearance is given in mystery, due to his limitations, man suffers uncertainty about God’s revelation and strives to resolve his perplexity. Man to whom God has appeared will naturally be in need of a confirmation of his vision. Biblical accounts present many examples of this principle. The shepherds’ vision of Angels was confirmed when they beheld the Godly Babe in the cave, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in manger. The revelation –“There shall come a Star out of Jacob” (Num 24:17), was confirmed for the Magi after their arduous, year-long journey when the star stood over the house where the Young Child was. And, their anticipation was not in vain as they opened their treasure chests and offered their gifts. An Angel instructed Joseph to keep his espoused wife was with Child, though he knew he was not the father and was confused thereby. The shepherds and Magi confirmed the word of the Angel for Joseph and this confirmation initiated him into the mystery that he was to be the guardian of the Son of Man and His Ever-Virgin Mother. Our Lady the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary, who had communication with Angels Her whole life, when learning from the Archangel of the great mystery of Her seedless conception through the Holy Spirit, was convinced and encouraged by the visit to Her cousin Elizabeth who proclaimed “Whence is this to me that the Mother of My Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43). Later all of the events surrounding the birth of Her Son marvelously confirmed her spiritual experiences, which began from Her childhood.

In the movement towards our own deification, we start with God’s revelation to us, which becomes a vision inspiring us. “God is the Lord and has appeared unto us.” The brightness of the Lord shines upon us. Our response is to walk in His ways. “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.” Providentially and lovingly, God confirms His revelation and His ways to us. If we seek Him out with our whole heart, we shall see His signs and wonders. By walking in His ways we shall be united with Him, “for both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one” (Heb 2:11).

Archpriest Paul Volmensky, Nativity, 2018/2019

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