THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST - CHRISTMAS DAY
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Before us lies the icon of the Birth of Christ which explains the whole meaning of today's Feast.
In the bottom right-hand corner the newborn Christ is being bathed. Here is proof that God truly became man - you cannot bathe an idea or a myth or an angel. However, this bathing has another meaning too - it prefigures the future Baptism of Christ by St John the Baptist.
In the bottom left-hand corner stands the Righteous Joseph, the Betrothed. He stands far off, showing that he is not the father of the Christ-Child. He only protects the Virgin. The Devil is trying to tempt him. But as we know from the Scriptures, Joseph rejected these temptations and protected the Virgin until the end. He appears then as an example to all men, who are called on to protect women.
On the centre right stand the shepherds who have come to worship Christ; on the centre left stand the angels who have come to do the same. We are reminded of the hymns of the Church - that the heavens rejoice and the earth makes glad, that heaven and earth are united by God become man.
In the top right-hand corner the angels look up to heaven and down to the earth and to men. We recall their words: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all men'.
In the top left-hand corner the Wise Men are coming with their gifts - gold for their King, incense for their God and myrrh for their Priest. They have come from human wisdom to worship Divine Wisdom.
At the top of the icon we see a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, reflecting the light of the Holy Trinity. Below it even the beasts bow down in worship of Christ.
In the very centre of the icon, wee see the Holy Virgin lying down. On her clothes three stars are visible, one for her virginity before the Birth of Christ, one for her virginity which remained intact during the Birth, the third for her virginity after the Birth. She is with the Christ-Child, the God from before all the ages. He is clothed in pure, white swaddling clothes which stand out from the darkness of the cave where He has been born.
This is not only the icon of the Birth of Christ, it is also the icon of the Burial and the Resurrection of Christ. The present and the future come together here. The swaddling clothes resemble the burial shroud, the cave resembles the tomb, from where Christ rose. His destiny and all our human destiny are portrayed here. For this icon is not only an icon, it is also a map of our souls.
Without Christ our soul is like a dark cave. Empty, cold and unlit. With Christ, they are light, white, warm. All human problems stem from this one source, that we have not put Christ at the centre of our lives, as He is in this icon. Every human sorrow, every difficulty, every grief comes from the absence of Christ, not only individually, but also collectively. Why, whole peoples have fallen into sin and come into humanly insoluble difficulties because they have fallen away from Christ. Every sin is a falling away from Christ, a failure to put Him in the centre of our lives.
Let our prayer on this feast day be that Christ might be born in the hearts of us all and might become the centre of our lives.