Christmas Message from Archbishop Gabriel of Comana - 2006
Christmas Message from His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Comana to the Clergy and Faithful of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe.
Reverend Fathers, dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
‘Christ is born, glorify Him;
Christ comes from heaven, go out to meet Him.’
All the mystery of God’s love is concentrated and manifested in the long Christmas night which is drawing near. A new face of God is shown to us, a face of tenderness and forgiveness, of the compassion of the heavenly Father who sends his only Son into our far land, to find the sheep that is lost and bruised, and to lead it back to the heavenly sheepfold - the eternal Kingdom of light and of love.
It is an inconceivable mystery in which no-one would have been able to believe and which no philosophy, no religion would have been able to conceive or predict - such is the abasement of the all-powerful God, which to human reason seems scandal and folly. Yes, the all powerful and inaccessible God, He who ‘clothes himself in light as in a garment’, this same God becomes man. For this he crosses the infinite heavens of which he is Creator, and passes through the stages of human life, first infancy, then adolescence until he reaches adulthood, obedient in this to the heavenly Father, and then living in human obedience to Mary and Joseph. This infinite filial obedience leads Jesus to the Cross and to a shameful death.
Yet we know that Death could not keep Him, for Love is stronger than death. The earthly journey of Jesus will certainly be a journey of sacrificial love, witnessing to the compassion of the Father in the promise of the Spirit of holiness in the Pentecost of the Church.
From this time on, with the virgin birth of the eternal Son into the density of our temporal existence, all human history is illumined and orientated from within, the seeds of immortality are sown in the earth of our hearts, of our lives. If God has become man, and through the words of Saint Athanasius the Great of Alexandria the whole Church reminds us of this, it is in order that man may become god. Such is the programme for our life, for each and for all, to purify ourselves, to sanctify ourselves, to restore image of God sealed in the depths of our hearts, which is tarnished by sin, and to be illumined so that we might in turn resemble the only Son; to become sons and daughters, the children that God loves with a unique and unending love.
My friends, my brothers and sisters, my children in the Lord, may the divine Spirit open our hearts and inflame them with divine love, that the Birth of the Lord at Bethlehem may remind us of our own baptismal birth into the life of God.
Archbishop Gabriel of Comana
Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch
St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Paris, 25 December 2006 / 7 January 2007