26 December OS 2020- Second Day of the Nativity, The Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos
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The Gospel reading for today is Matthew 2: 13-23
At that time, when the wise men were departed: Behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
Yesterday we saw all the nations of the earth, in the persons of the Three Magi, bowing down in adoration to the Child born of the Virgin. Today we see the powers of the earth attempting to slay Him. Thus always shall it be: Those with eyes to see and ears to hear, from among all the nations, will come to know Christ, to worship him, and to offer gifts and spiritual sacrifices to Him, Who offered the one saving Sacrifice for us. Those who choose to be blinded by the world, by their passions, and by the unseen enemies of our salvation, will reject Him. And, if they hold earthly power, they will not only reject Him, but attempt to slay Him, for their master, who is, in Our Lord’s own words, the prince of this world, is consumed always by a frenzy to take revenge upon the One Who has entered his house, that is this world, and despoiled him of his goods, that is the souls of men. (See Matthew 12:29)
“Wait,” you may say, “the Lord is risen from the dead and cannot be killed again. Does not St. Paul write … ‘Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God (Romans 6:9-10).'” Yes, of course, the Lord Himself cannot die: His kingdom is an eternal Kingdom which shall have no end. He reigns over all forever, standing where St. Stephen saw Him when the heavens opened, “at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). ” Yet, in a sense, mystically, as long as this world endures, He does suffer and die again, in the sufferings of His Body the Church, in the sufferings of His confessors and martyrs, and in the sufferings of all men, even the unbaptized, castaways, and unbelieving, who, after all, are made in His image as well, the image of the God-Man, the archetype of all the human race, as determined by the pre-eternal counsel of God announced to the Virgin at the very hour of His taking flesh for our sake.
At one time, the Lord worked a great miracle: the Herods of the earth were replaced by the Constantines of the earth, that is, Christian rulers who protected the Church and extended Her spiritual rule among the nations. Yes: Our Lord in His mercy, to crown the sufferings of His martyrs of the first three hundred years, granted this great dispensation, so that for the next 1600 years countless souls could with greater ease be gathered into His Kingdom on earth, the Church, and into the Kingdom of Heaven. But now Herod has returned to the throne, and for 100 years and more he has raged unchecked, slaying the souls and bodies of men, making this blood offering to his god, the prince of this world. Yes, a vast blood sacrifice unprecedented in all history for its scope and mercilessness: Wars, revolutions, the destruction of the institutions of the Church, the nation, and the family; the unspeakably vast infant sacrifice of abortion that dwarfs the crime of Herod himself by an immeasurable magnitude, the planned technological alteration of the very genetic inheritance of the human race, and, enabling it all, the perversion of the mind and spirit through a merciless and ceaseless bombardment of gigantic lies crafted with supreme artistry and told with breathtaking cynicism – we can all recite this dreary catalogue by now, and I need not expand upon it again for you today. Today it seems that Herod has more power than ever, and, as millions now perceive on the dawn of 2021, something new and even more dreadful portends to befall us.
How shall we respond? What witness shall we give when the agents of Herod knock at the door? Let us take St. Joseph the Betrothed for our example: St. Joseph is a man of action, not of words. From Holy Scripture we know not a single word spoken by him. But his actions speak louder than words. At every crisis, facing trials that the fallen mind could neither comprehend nor justify, he simply practiced obedience. He did the will of God. Let us also, this day, this hour, follow his example in everything great and small. We need constantly to immerse ourselves in God’s holy Word through prayer, reading, and the Church’s daily sacrifice of praise, so that we can purify our minds, strengthen our wills, and love God with all our hearts. If He is with us, no one can be against us. But for Him to be with us, we must choose to be with Him, and this choice is made not once but countless times in all the little decisions we make every day, so that when the hour of the great decision arrives, we will be in practice to do the right thing.
Life is short, death is certain, judgment is eternal. Let us rejoice in the Lord and run to do His holy will. He took on all of our humanity, even unto death, that we might share in His divinity. What should we not be willing to do and to suffer, for His sake? Whether a man likes it or not, he owes God a death. It is but once. Think only on that which awaits thereafter: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (I Corinthians 2:9).”
O dearest Lord, become Man for our sake, glory be to Thee!