Christ – the Only True Gift at Christmas27 December 2021
Christ is the gift of God to man and the gift of man to God, but Christ is also the perfect gift of each man to his fellow.
In Paradise, God was presenting Himself before man as an example for imitation and man lived thereby. Through the fall, however, he lost this direct contemplation of God’s Face. He hid himself ‘from the presence of the Lord God’ and became afraid that he would die if he saw His Creator. In the Book of Judges, we read that Manoah said to his wife, ‘We shall surely die, because we have seen God.’ When Christ came and assumed the humble human nature from the Holy Virgin, He was able to approach men without scaring them and bring the Face of the Father to the world through His self-emptying. Christ became the indescribable gift of God to all humanity, because He made it possible for man to see the Face of God again in Himself, as He said to Phillip: ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.’ In the humility of His human nature, Christ lived without sin and revealed the glory, perfection and righteousness of the Father, as well as His love to the end, through which ‘the great salvation appeared to all the world.’ Thereby Christ justified God the Father before man: if such is our God, who can stand in judgment with Him? ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’
Christ is also the best fruit, the best gift of all humanity to God the Father, because He gave as Man an example of sinless life, fulfilling all the commandments of God, and especially the great commandment for the salvation of the world. His virtue covered all the heavens and all the earth, and He proved true the word of the prophet which says, that He is ‘fairer than all the children of men’. He showed such perfection of life that God rejoiced to see man as He had conceived him before the world began. Therefore, after His sojourn with us, ‘when He had by Himself purged our sins,’ God sat Him on His right hand. Christ also justified man before God, because in Him we see the true person, the true man in whom God the Father was so well-pleased, that He then rained upon earth the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, witnessing to the reconciliation of men with God.
Now, in Christ, man has once again an example to imitate: if he follows in His footsteps, he becomes like unto Him and he is redeemed, for he is accepted by the Father and receives the grace of adoption, entering ‘the heavenly Church of the firstborn’. If man is such as Christ showed him, God accepts him as a son and inheritor to reign with Him for ever. When we are united with Christ, God the Father receives us all in His glory. We see, therefore, that Christ justifies God before man by proving His infinite love for the world even unto death, and He justifies man before God by proving to God that man can be like Him; and because of this double act of justification, man can never blame God, Who remains blessed for ever.
However, above all, for us it is important to say that Christ is the gift of every man to his fellows. During these days we are used to give presents to one another, but in reality, this is only a shadow of that which we should offer to one another. The greatest gift we can offer our fellows is Christ Himself, He is the gift par excellence. We offer our fellows that which we have: and that which we have is Christ reigning in our hearts, just as Saint Peter said to the impotent man: ‘Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.’ There is nothing greater, nothing higher than to have as a content of our heart Christ and Him alone, and offer Him to those around us.
When the Lord is formed in man’s heart and he bears His Spirit, man becomes a gift to the whole world and to his fellows; he becomes a beneficial presence, offering them a service without utterance. Christ is the perfect love of the Father and, when He inhabits man’s heart, then all his works emanate this love. Thus, he imparts to his fellows the holiness of this love, and this is a service important for all eternity. When man has Christ in him, through his humble example, he becomes a gospel for the others: he reflects Christ and people come to know God through him. ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,’ says the Lord.
When we become bearers of Christ, we help our fellows in their own way unto salvation, we make their burden light and we give them an example of goodness, because we testify of Him Whom we have conceived in our hearts. In our every contact with our brethren, we transmit to them life, we impart to them the very fragrance of Christ and we become collaborators with God for their regeneration. When we become bearers of His word, grace and redeeming joy of salvation, we become an exhortation to our brethren for good works in a paroxysm of love, as Saint Paul says. Then no corrupt communication proceeds from our mouth, but only words seasoned with salt, that is, seasoned with grace, words that can inform with grace the hearts of our fellows. When Christ lives in us, everything we do, say and think about our fellow men, bears the portion of love, that fulness of the love of God which we celebrate at Christmas. If we accept Christ and believe in Him, He gives us the power to become the children of God and a gift for one another – this is our calling. Then we fulfil the law of Christ, we love God with all our heart and our fellows as ourselves, for they have become our life.
How wonderful to bear the life of Christ in us and radiate that life around us and, in everything we do, to transmit that life to our fellows, thus becoming co-workers with God for the salvation of the whole world! Then, we truly realise in us that great destiny which the Lord prepared for us in the beginning of creation: that we should become partakers of His nature, partakers of His glory.
The intangible and invisible Word of God became perceptible in His creation: ‘All the heavens declare His glory and the firmament showeth His handywork.’ When the fulness of time came, He took flesh from the Holy Virgin; He became tangible, palpable, as the Apostle John says, and He lived among us. Christ can also become perceptible and tangible in us: when we invoke His holy Name, He slowly becomes incarnate in our hearts, and we bear His presence. He also becomes perceptible, tangible and makes His abode in us, when His word dwells richly in us, when we live by His commandments and when we partake of the Bread of Life that came down from heaven.
Saint Sophrony says that Christ is the only true person, He that truly is: ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ But man is also a hypostasis potentially because he is created in the image and likeness of Christ. In fact, he is created in the image of the hypostatic energy that originates from the Father and is communicated to man through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Christ is ‘the express image of God the Father, the all-perfect tracing of His Essence’, the only true image of His Person. When man reaches true personhood, he becomes in the image of that One Image of God, which is Christ.
When man lost the vision of God in Paradise through the fall, he lost true personhood, which he was destined to perfect by keeping the commandment of God. When Christ assumed humanity from the Holy Virgin and showed in Himself the glory of the Father, He gave man once again the possibility to have a true vision of what the Divine Person is and to strive to imitate it. This vision imparted by Christ helps man not to lose his orientation and live in a hypostatic perspective. This new vision of God and man’s personal relationship with Christ, enable him to also become a true hypostasis with divine and human fulness. It is only in communion with the perfect Hypostasis of Christ that man can himself be enlarged and become a true person. Saint Sophrony says that ‘through the action of the uncreated Light within man a wondrous flower blossoms – the persona, the hypostasis.’ This is also how the words of God to Jacob can be understood: ‘Because thou hast been strong with me, thou shall be strong with men.’
The suffering Job envisaged Christ as a mediator between God and man: ‘Who is that man who will place his one hand on the shoulder of God and the other on the shoulder of man and will intercede for the reconciliation of us both?’ Christ became the new Adam through His incarnation and interceding for man’s reconciliation with God, which He achieved by justifying God before man and man before God. When man becomes a true person, he becomes another Adam in His likeness, a ‘royal priesthood’, taking on this ministry of reconciliation of mankind with God. He ‘goeth forth unto his true work and labour until the evening of his life’, perfecting holiness in the fear of God and bringing every creature before God in his prayer of intercession.
When man acquires Christ and activates the hypostatic principle in himself, man does not share his own hypostasis with the others, for each human hypostasis is unique, just as each divine Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity is unique. He shares, however, the content of his hypostasis which is the love of God. In other words, he becomes a labourer together with God, helping them to become true persons as well. In such a state, he helps the others draw closer to Christ through the vision of God they see in his person. In this increase of God, sanctified men become each one as a new Adam, interceding before God for the salvation of all. In this sense, we can understand the importance of the intercession of the saints, who are the friends of God and in whom God is magnified. As Saint Paul says in the Epistle to the Ephesians, man cannot comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ but only in communion with all the saints, with the friends of the new Adam.