To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
[Jesus] assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection. It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent. For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required. Naturally also, through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation)
As we gather once more to joyously celebrate the Lord’s Incarnation — His taking upon Himself human flesh — we are left to ponder God’s infinite love for us. Were any of us given the gift of acting as God, it is abundantly clear that we would not have dealt with the Fall, Death, and corruption in the wondrous manner God chose. No, we would probably choose some sort of divine infliction of “power” — some type of coming in glory, maybe with thunder and lightning, striking fear in all of creation.
Instead, incomplete and self-emptying love, He became one of us. He took upon Himself everything that we were and are, including sin and death. In uniting the divine nature with our own fallen, human nature, He ensured the destruction of death and has given us the hope and, indeed, the Promise, of resurrection. His coming has restored hope to all of creation. All of creation can now look to the Kingdom made present in the Lord Himself as His gift to us.
But this coming, and the promise that came with it, demands of us a response. We live in a redeemed creation that still groans under the weight of sin and corruption trying to seduce us into a rejection of the Gift. Look at our world right now; we can witness the raging fires that destroy everything in their path, we witnessed in our own diocese the horrors of the October 1 attack in Las Vegas, and we can look around our own neighborhoods and see crime, homelessness, hunger and the distortion (and destruction) of family and the unborn.
So what is the response demanded of us? It is simple, and yet so difficult. The response is to witness to the Coming of the Lord, to respond in faith to His eternal presence in His Church, and live lives worthy of the calling He has given to each of us, His beloved creation. We reflect the new-born Christ in such fidelity, holding on to His teachings and precepts in the face of a creation and culture that is soaked in blood, pornography, and death. Only by living such lives of faith can we, as His children and servants, begin to transform the world around us into the Cave that shone with His Divine Light, but also foreshadows His death and resurrection.
In the incarnation in the flesh of our Savior, we are indeed “clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection.” Let us not diminish this great and holy gift by reducing our celebration to the dim lights and consumption that our culture suggests is the real celebration. Let us strive with every fiber of our being to be clothed daily in the incorruption which He, and He alone, offers us!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
In the new-born Child,
Archbishop of San Francisco and the West