None of us, the people living on earth today, remembers – and cannot remember – from which glory our forefather Adam fell off once. However, the fact that the fall occurred, the fact that something irreversible happen to the humankind, the fact that the man fell from the great height to the dreadful depth – this fact is known to all the peoples and every civilization tried to find the answer about the reasons of that universal catastrophe.
However, no matter what guess about those reasons people had, the Lord came to His creature Himself; He gave the answers to all the bothering questions of being by Himself; He brought Himself and placed His Blood and Body in people’s hands. And the bright time of the Nativity of Christ came. Christ came to this world and brought light as it is said in the Book of Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). The Mother of God served the great mystery: She sacrificed Herself to God, Who would sacrifice Himself to people.
According to the Gospel story, Virgin Mary was about to give birth right at the time when Roman emperor Augustus issued an edict annoncing the beginning of the general census of the Roman Empire population. Many people had to come back to their native cities and villages to participate in the census in the place of their origin. Virgin Mary and Joseph arrived to Bethlehem, the land of David, but they just could not find a place to stay because there were too many people in the city. They had to stay in a den, where shepherds used to shelter with their cattle from bad weather.
Here, in the most “humble” place, in the most miserable and poor place, in the most remote place of the Roman Empire, Virgin Mary gave birth to Her Son, the King of the kings and the Lord of the lords, to Whom all the heavenly forces serve with trembling. As it is sung in one of the old Russian Christmas chants, “there was no gold at all where He was lying in His cradle”. Jesus Christ came to this world not to reign over people although He was the King of Israel, but to serve and sacrifice Himself for the salvation of many others.
How did that event affect Virgin Mary? Was she waiting with joy and trembling for the coming of the Divine Infant? With hope and concern at the same time? “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). The Gospel does not tell us about the feelings and worries of the Mother of God throughout Her whole life. In general, we know rather little about Her. However, as Fr. Alexander Schmemann wrote, even if we knew absolutely nothing about the Mother of God except that She was called Mary, the Church would anyway surround Her with love, loyalty and respect.
And now Mary’s Son is lying in the manger, warming by the breathing of the ox and donkey, while his blessed Mother is looking at Him with love. In this image, the humanity will see so much warmth, love and hope that it will remain in people’s minds forever. No matter how the enemies strive to burn this image out of the human’s memory and history, it will never happen. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
The word of St. Gregory the Theologian:
“O new commingling; O strange conjunction; the Self-Existent comes into being, the Uncreated is created. That which cannot be contained is contained… He Who gives riches becomes poor, for He assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the richness of His Godhead. He that is full empties Himself… What are the riches of His Goodness? What is this mystery that is around me?.. He partakes of my flesh that He may both save the image and make the flesh immortal”.
Reflections in the Church tradition:
Kontakion — Tone 3
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels with shepherds glorify Him! The wise men journey with a star! Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!
End of Part IV
To be continued…