“On high He alone is the only begotten from the Only, below the same one, alone, is the only begotten from the only virgin”

I see a strange and novel mystery: shepherds sound all around my ears, not piping a barren tune, but singing a heavenly hymn. Angels are singing, archangels are dancing, the cherubim are hymning, the seraphim are glorifying, all are celebrating, since they see God upon the earth, man in Heaven. I see the one who is on high lower because of His plan, the one who is below on high because of His love for humanity.

Today Bethlehem resembled Heaven: in place of stars it received angels hymning, in place of the sun it contained the righteous One without confining Him. And do not ask how: for where God wills it, nature’s order is overcome. For He willed it, He had the power, He came down, He saved – all things follow upon God.

Today, He who Is is born, and He who Ιs becomes what He was not. For being God, He becomes human, though He did not cease from being God. For He hasn’t become human by separating from His divinity, nor again has He become God by advancing from a human. But, being Word, because He could not suffer as Word, He became flesh, His nature remaining unchanged. But when, on the one hand, He was born, Jews denied the strange birth, and Pharisees misinterpreted the divine Books, and scribes spoke what was in opposition to the Law.

Herod sought the child who was born, not in order to honor Him, but to destroy Him. For today they saw that all things were opposed to them. For the psalmist says, “it was not hidden from their children for another generation.” For kings came, in astonishment at the heavenly King, for He had come upon the earth without angels, without archangels, without thrones, without dominions, without powers, without authorities, but walking a foreign and untrodden path, He came forth from an uncultivated womb, neither leaving His own angels deprived of His authority, nor having ceased from His own divinity in His incarnation with us.

But kings came to worship the heavenly King of glory, while soldiers came to serve the commander-in-chief of power; women came to see the one who was born from a man, in order that He might change the woman’s grief into joy; the virgins came to see the child of the virgin, because the Creator of milk and breasts, who makes the fountains of breasts to produce naturally flowing streams, received a child’s nourishment from His virgin mother; the infant came to see the one who became an infant in order to furnish praise from the mouths of infants; the children came to see the child who produced witnesses because of Herod’s madness; the men came to see the one who was incarnated and healed the woes of slaves; the shepherds came to see the good shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep; the priests came to see the one who became the high priest in the order of Melchizedek; the slaves came to see the one who took the form of a slave in order to honor our slavery with freedom; the fishers came to see the one who makes hunters of people from among fishers; the tax collectors came to see the one who appointed an evangelist from among the tax collectors; the prostitutes came to see the one who offers His feet to the tears of prostitutes; and, that I may speak but briefly, all sinners came to see the lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world, Magi accompanying, shepherds praising, tax collectors speaking the good news, prostitutes bearing perfume, Samaritans thirsting for the fountain of life, the Canaanite woman with undoubting faith.

Since everyone else, then, is exulting, I too want to exult, I want to dance, I desire to celebrate. But I dance, not by striking a lyre, not by shaking a thyrsus, not with flutes, not by lighting torches, but, in place of the musical instruments, I bear the swaddling-clothes of the Christ. For these are my hope, these my life, these my salvation, these my flute, these my lyre. And so I come bearing these, so that, after receiving the power of words by their power, I may say together with angels, “Glory in the highest be to God!,” and with shepherds, “And peace on earth, and good will among men.”

Today, the one who was inexplicably begotten from the Father is born from a virgin, inexpressibly for my sake. But at that time, on the one hand, He was begotten from the Father before the ages, as the one who begot Him knows. But today, against nature, He was born again, as the grace of the Holy Spirit understands. And His birth on high is real, and His birth below not false, and He was begotten as God from God, and truly the same one was born a human from a virgin. On high He alone is the only begotten from the Only, below the same one, alone, is the only begotten from the only virgin. For just as in the case of His birth on high it is impious to conceive of a mother, so also in the case of His birth below it is blasphemous to conceive of a father.

The Father begot Him without change, and the virgin bore him without corruption. For God did not submit to begetting with fluxes, for He begot in a manner fit for God. And the virgin didn’t submit to corruption when she was giving birth, for she gave birth after a spiritual manner. And so His begetting on high has no explanation, nor does His coming forth in later times endure to be investigated unduly.

For today I know that, on the one hand, the virgin gave birth, and today I believe that God begot Him out of time. I have learned to honor the manner of the birth with silence, and I have undertaken not to inquire unduly with words. For in the case of God, one ought not to give attention to the nature of the deeds, but to believe in the power of the one who brings them about. For there is a law of nature, whenever a woman, after being joined in marriage, gives birth. But when a virgin, after giving birth, without experience in marriage, again appears as a virgin, the deed is beyond nature. Consequently, then, let that which is in accord with nature be investigated, but let that which is beyond nature be honored with silence, not as something that ought to be avoided, but as something inexpressible and worthy of being honored with silence.

St John Chrysostom

This entry was posted in Citations. Bookmark the permalink.