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After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways ... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church. ~St. Philaret of NY






Nativity Sermon Bp. Joseph



THE LIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE

Profound darkness covered the earth. Everything was immersed in sleep. Silence
reigned everywhere – only shepherds kept watch in the fields. And suddenly, the
heavens opened, and an indescribable light shone forth, throngs of the angelic hosts
appeared, and wonderful hymnody rang out with marvelous words never heard before by
mankind: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, goodwill towards men’.

At that time, the whole of mankind, in a moral sense, was shrouded in just such an
impenetrable darkness like that night in Bethlehem. Evil on earth had reached its
extreme limit. Life without God and His sensible and salvific laws had brought people to
such a point that they were so corrupted and depraved that they became like senseless
beasts, as Holy Scripture says. Can a life lived only for the body and for satisfying the
appetite, without any kind of higher strivings, possibly have any real purpose? Such a
life has completely lost its intended meaning. Beastly egoism had given rise to terrible
enmity and hate among men.

No one believed in the heathen gods any more. The ‘educated’ people of that
time considered them folkloric inventions, and the high priests themselves could not
refrain from smirking as they performed their own pagan rites, as writers of that time
noted. The previously glorious ancient Greco-Roman world was all but forgotten. 
Everything came down to self-interest, and the pursuit of luxury and self-indulgence. 
There was not one vice or heinous crime that was not committed unabashed and openly at
every turn. This is how contemporary writers described the state of mankind at that time. 
Whatever righteous people existed were literally suffocating in this terrible atmosphere
and admitted that unless God Himself came down to earth to free mankind, there would
be no salvation from impending catastrophe.

It is interesting to note that Plato, the renowned philosopher of the pagan world, in
the 4th century before the birth of Christ wrote that the world would not be put aright
unless God Himself in the guise of a man came and explained to us our correct
relationship to Him and our mutual obligations to each other as men.

And finally, the time came for the “great mystery of godliness, when God was
manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16), that is, visibly and physically. He brought to earth
that much-desired sweet world for which the weary human soul had been longing but did
not know where to find. 

Christianity flourished for several centuries in the Roman and Byzantine Empires,
and then in the Russian Empire, as long as spirituality remained in the forefront and the
exterior was secondary. When the system of priorities changed, and the secondary, the
exterior, was put first and the important thing became secondary, church life, that is, the
spiritual life, went into decline.

What do we see today? Once again mankind has gone mad. What is happening
now vividly reminds us of life on earth before the Nativity of Christ. There is again lack
of faith, more and more depravity, living like beasts, egoism, and enmity and hatred
towards each other, where the majority of people have lost the meaning of life.

However, isn’t the contemporary situation worse than what we had before? At
that time, mankind was pagan – people did not know Christ the Savior and his lofty
teaching; they were totally in the dark as far as religion and morals were concerned. 
Now, however, mankind has heard the Gospel preached, has known Christ, and is 

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familiar with His Divine teaching, yet is still behaving like this. Evil has to reach such an
unbelievable intensity in order to tear mankind away from Christ and cast it into such a
terrible abyss of faithlessness and satanic opposition to God! Yet, the devil cannot do a
thing without help from man, who, using his own free will, reversed the priorities!

Christ will NOT come to save us again. He came once and for all to show us the
eternal and unchanging way to salvation. There is not going to be any thousand years of
His kingdom on earth as the sectarians falsely say. Such a teaching is against the Word
of God and has been definitively refuted by the Church. Christ WILL come a second
time not to SAVE the world, but to JUDGE the whole world, both the living and the dead
[as we say in the Creed]. The evil one also knows this, for he is the enemy of our
salvation. He tries in every way to keep Christians from being concerned about our
salvation, presenting to us all kinds of arguments, seemingly good pretexts and reasons,
to keep them from thinking about the Second Coming of Christ. Sorry to say, many
people refer to this subject with a smirk, and even spiritual people often avoid speaking
about it.

Yes! The enemy has fettered the thoughts and feelings of today’s people to this
world and does not want them to think about eternity. 

May such a disastrous disposition and lack of concern be far from us! Having
radiantly and joyfully celebrated the First Coming of Christ into the world, let us just as
radiantly and joyfully await His Second Coming. Like the early Christians of the first
centuries, let us live with this expectation, remembering that while we are members of
His Church, the Orthodox Church, He is not only our Judge, but also our FATHER. Let
us then be Orthodox in His Church not just in name, but in spirit, for without the Church
we are nothing. Amen.

+Bishop Joseph