John Chrysostom’s Christmas Homily

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I have come to admire the Golden Mouth, John Chrysostom, from a homiletic standpoint as well as an interpretative standpoint. He is sound in many of this thoughts, and although we may arrive at a different view of the Godhead, it would be difficult at best to find that difference in this homily.

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 voice 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 yielded 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 impassability, 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.

Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech.

For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.

Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.

Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature.

For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of Days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.

For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ¡in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things arc nourished, may receive an infant’s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.

St. John Chrysostom, “Homily on Christmas Morning”


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A System of Intentions

Hey Folks. I’m Jeremy Shank and I’m working on a walk through the Book of Romans over in the “Shanktification” blog. Come on over at take a look.

A System of Intentions

I have been walking through the Book of Acts on Sunday mornings. Eventually, we will wrap up Acts and make that natural progression into the book of Romans. Since I am making my way back into the blog again I figured why…

Friday is coming

Friday is Coming

While this story is unconfirmed, would it really be a surprise? One of the great problems with Christianity in the west is that we have forgotten that there are still those who in picking up their cross and following, end up nailed to it. Why it is so shocking and surprising that a priest may be crucified on Friday is beyond me since our Great High Priest already suffered that fate.  With the rise of ISIS in the world, we have witnessed, via the ever present 24 hour news cycle, the martyrdom of thousands of Christians and it has not moved us. Don’t misunderstand please, I am certain that we are all repulsed and distraught at the death toll not only of Christians, but also of the numerous Muslims and others killed by ISIS. The horror of bombings will remain etched in our minds for a time to come without doubt, but we have not been moved. We mourn the death of the martyrs, but fail to rejoice in their blood. The blood of the martyrs should strengthen us, and all it seems to do is bring us sorrow. If we do not take strength and an increased urgency to spread the message of the gospel from their blood, then we have cheapened their sacrifice…not just theirs but the sacrifice of Christ Himself.

When we hear the stories of their deaths, and on Friday the death of Christ, we should be moved to tears, but also moved to action. Those tears should contain the sorrow that it has come to this, the pain and recognition of death, but also of the joy of the promise of resurrection. Our actions should reflect that promise of the kingdom to come, but also of the kingdom that is here. That is the way of the kingdom of God after all, it has come, it is here, and it will come again in its completeness. We, however, seem unmoved as we will do the same things on Monday without change.

Friday is coming, but first there is today. Holy Thursday is a time when we will hear the story of a Savior who is a servant washing even the feet of those who He loves. We will hear and share the supper with Christ. We will hear about His body and blood and have His real presence in the Eucharist. We will hear of the betrayal of Christ and be reminded of the betrayals we have experienced as well. We’ll remember that even when betrayed, we are called to forgive and love. There will be an arrest, some blood and a healing. There will be prayer and agony. There will be acceptance of the will of God. There will be faith, even unto death. There will be blood, as an ear is cut off. That is really a constant in this story after all…blood. If the story above is accurate, the priest in question is being beaten and tortured today. There will be blood. Our great High Priest was beaten and tortured as well. There was blood. There will be more.

Friday is coming. Christ will carry His cross…our cross…to the hill. He will be hung there to die. He will be mocked, he will be scorned and He will be abandoned. He will suffer, but even in that suffering offer redemption to one who asks it of Him. Christ will be offered gall to numb the pain,. but will refuse. He will say the three most precious words…it is finished.  Eventually He will die. If the above story is true, a priest will suffer a fate similar to our High Priest. We will be repulsed and agonize. We will be angry at the injustice. If we pay attention, we will be moved, not only to tears, but to action. I hope we will be, but fear we will not.

We know the rest of the story. Sunday is coming, Christ will rise, and the joy of Easter will fill and renew the church once more. We will be reminded, at least for a brief time, that we are Easter people. We will forget about the pain, the death, the blood. We can never forget that while we are indeed Easter people, we are also a people born again in blood. The blood of the martyrs is a reminder of that, but how we have forgotten. We have gone from the example of Peter who wished to be crucified upside down as he was not worthy to be killed in the same manner of Christ, to people who do everything we can to avoid talk of death and blood at all. While I would not advocate a rush to go and be martyred, I would hope that we are not fearful of it. When we become indifferent to the blood of Christ and the martyrs, when we avoid and discount it, we have taken the gall..maybe worse as we have taken the blood shed and turned it into the gall that numbs us. Not only have we not followed the example of Christ by not allowing the numbness to overcome us, we have cheapened the most precious blood ever shed. We have cheapened Christ and those who have died for His name. We have turned it is finished from a statement into a question. The blood of Christ and His martyrs reminds of the great mystery of faith; Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. The blood of Christ and the martyrs reminds us that the promise of resurrection carries with it the guarantee of death. More than any other time of the year, thank God Friday is close. Without it, there is no life everlasting.

Melito of Sardis – Deliverance of Mankind through Christ

In studying Melito of Sardis, I happened upon his preaching on the Passover (which I am reposting for this Easter). This is the oldest surviving sermons outside of the New Testament, and as such provides much insight into the heart and mind of this little know Preacher. From time to time, I will offer segments of his Passover Sermon.

The entire sermon is laced with Doctrine, but the central point of it is the Gospel message, that Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected on the third day to provide Salvation for humanity. This is the Gospel. In drawing out the connection between the Passover of the Jews and the Passover of the Church, he brings to the mind the connectivity between the Old Testament and the New, of Israel and the Church, of the union of the Body of Christ.

66. When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering. And he destroyed those human sufferings by his spirit which was incapable of dying. He killed death which had put man to death.

67. For this one, who was led away as a lamb, and who was sacrificed as a sheep, by himself delivered us from servitude to the world as from the land of Egypt, and released us from bondage to the devil as from the hand of Pharaoh, and sealed our souls by his own spirit and the members of our bodies by his own blood.

68. This is the one who covered death with shame and who plunged the devil into mourning as Moses did Pharaoh. This is the one who smote lawlessness and deprived injustice of its offspring, as Moses deprived Egypt. This is the one who delivered us from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal kingdom, and who made us a new priesthood, and a special people forever.

69. This one is the passover of our salvation. This is the one who patiently endured many things in many people: This is the one who was murdered in Abel, and bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, and exiled in Jacob, and sold in Joseph, and exposed in Moses, and sacrificed in the lamb, and hunted down in David, and dishonored in the prophets.

70. This is the one who became human in a virgin, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of heaven.

71. This is the lamb that was slain. This is the lamb that was silent. This is the one who was born of Mary, that beautiful ewe-lamb. This is the one who was taken from the flock, and was dragged to sacrifice, and was killed in the evening, and was buried at night; the one who was not broken while on the tree, who did not see dissolution while in the earth, who rose up from the dead, and who raised up mankind from the grave below.

Easter with Melito – Typology in the Old Testament concerning Christ

This week, I am going back through my old posts on Melito of Sardis. So, here we go, a bit more from his Passover Homily.

Continue reading “Easter with Melito – Typology in the Old Testament concerning Christ”