Homily on the Nativity of Christ, by St. John Chrysostom
The following is one of several sermons by the great Hierarch and Teacher of the world, St. John Chrysostom, on the Nativity of Christ. It is a beautiful and deep work in which the Saint praises the newborn Christ, discusses the deep theology of Christ's incarnation, and tries to urge us all to deeper faith in Him and to follow His commandments. The first portion has been translated and posted numerous places online, while I have yet to find the rest of this moving homily translated. Thus the remainder is also posted below, as an amateur translation of mine.
It should be noted that some mistakenly interpret some of the Blessed Chrysostom's words as "anti-semitic". This is not the time for a full examination of this error, but I will say the following: St. John, having been purified of his passions through love of God and his fellow man, and following the Lord's commandments, truly became a great vessel of the Holy Spirit. As such, the Saint did not bear any hate towards anyone in his life, neither does he after his death. He did not rejoice in hate or persecution of anyone, but ever preached love and forgiveness. He does not judge any person, but is only critical of false beliefs and of sin against God. The admonishments that he uses (whether addressed towards Jews, Gentiles, idolaters, sinners, or the faithful) are dispassionate, loving urgings to come to understand the Truth that is Christ. He urges all on this great feast of Christmas, both believers and unbelievers throughout the world: "Come, let us rejoice together! Come, let us celebrate!" Let us all worship Christ: God Who became man for our salvation! May He be born also within our cold and unbelieving hearts! Amen!
I behold a new and wondrous mystery! My ears resound to the Shepherd's song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.
The Angels sing!
The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!
The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!
The Seraphim exalt His glory!
All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.
Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side the Sun of Justice.
And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, he had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God.
This day He Who Is, is Born; and He Who Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became he God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassibility, remaining unchanged.
And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.
Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His Incarnation has he departed from the Godhead.
Kings have come, that they might adore the heavenly King of glory;
Soldiers, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;
Women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child-birth into joy;
Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin, beholding with joy, that He Who is the Giver of milk, Who has decreed that the fountains of the breast pour forth in ready streams, receives from a Virgin Mother the food of infancy;
Infants, that they may adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, He might perfect praise;
Children, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;
Men, to Him Who became man, that He might heal the miseries of His servants;
Shepherds, to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;
Priests, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech;
Servants, to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our servitude with the reward of freedom;
Fishermen, to Him Who from amongst fishermen chose catchers of men;
Publicans, to Him Who from amongst them named a chosen Evangelist;
Sinful women, to Him Who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant;
And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world.
[The Magi to worship Him.
The Shepherds to glorify Him.
The tax collectors to preach Him.
The harlots to offer myrrh to Him.
The Samaritan Woman to quench His thirst.
The Canaanite Woman to be benefited by Him.]
(amateur translation of missing portion)
and with the shepherds: and on earth peace to men of good will.
I ponder in fear before the divine mystery.
How inexplicable is the compassion of God!
Human hands hold Him Who is unapproachable and bodiless!
He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, He Who breaks apart the bonds of sin!
However, this is His will: to transform dishonor into honor, to array worthlessness in glory, to recreate assault into virtue.
The synagogue buried the thread; the Church wears the royal robe.
Judea gave birth to Him; the world received Him.
The synagogue nursed Him and raised Him; the Church received Him and was benefited by Him.
In the synagogue the root sprouted; we however partake of the grapes of truth.
The synagogue trampled upon the grapes; the idolaters, however, drink of the mystical drink.
He offered the seed to Judea; the idolaters, however, reaped the sheaves with the sickle of faith. They cut the rose with honor, and left the Judeans with the thorn of faithlessness.
The little bird has flown away, and they still senselessly wait and guard the nest.
The Judeans struggle to study the scriptures, and the idolaters eat of the fruit of the Spirit.
I entreat you, show boldness as that which you showed before Herod. But you do not have boldness. And I know why. Because you are insidious. You spoke to Herod to cast Him out, and to me you do not speak that I might not worship Him.
Adam, therefore, without a woman, acquired a woman. The Virgin now, without a man, gave birth to a man.
And again if she did not give birth, why did you deceive Herod?
Perhaps I knew the worth of the Child Who had come into the world?
Did not Isaiah and the Prophets speak to you of Him?
And you thankless enemies, did you not study the truth? You, the scribes and Pharisees, the strict keepers of the law, why don't you teach us about Christ?
Haven't you searched the Scriptures? Perhaps, do you not understand your own language?
And when the Virgin gave birth, did you not present the witness of the Prophet Michah to Herod: “But you, O Bethlehem of the land of Ephratha, though you are among the least of the cities of Judea, you will receive the leader of Israel” (Michah 5:1)?
You preached Him without wishing it.
You revealed Him, while trying to hide Him.
You were good to Him, while you wished to harm Him.
Truly, what illiterate teachers you are.
You hunger, and you run to others to be fed.
You thirst, and you are watered by others. You are utterly poor, and enrich others.
Come, let us rejoice together! Come, let us celebrate! The manner of the feast is strange—as is also the word on the birth of Christ.
Today are dissolved the ancient bonds.
The devil is disgraced.
The demons flee.
Death is dispoiled.
Paradise is opened.
The curse disappears.
Sin is cast out.
Error is driven away.
Truth is revealed.
The message of piety is poured forth and is given everywhere.
The kingdom of the heavens is transplanted to earth.
Angels speak with men.
All have been united.
Because God has descended to earth, and man has ascended to the heavens.
The star hastens to reveal the Lord of heaven, and He Himself hastens.
You have not spoken a word yet, and you teach the Magi about God.
What can I say, and what should I speak?
There the Child is wrapped!
There is Mary, His Mother and Virgin, with Him!
There is Joseph, the supposed father of the Child!
She is the wife, he is the husband. The names are legal, but without meaning. Joseph only betrothed Mary, when the Holy Spirit came upon her. Thus, full of wonder, he did not know what to think about this Child:
He would not dare to say that He was the fruit of adultery.
He could not offer a blasphemous word against the Virgin.
He also could not receive the Child as his, because it was unknown to him who He was born from.
Once, Eve poured forth a word, which became the cause of death. Now, Mary gives birth to the Word, Who became the cause of eternal life.