Антоний, митрополит Су́рожский

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On incarnation

9 January I977

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

When we think of the Incarnation of the Son of God, of His life, His death and His resurrection, we should be surprised, amazed at the fact that we live in a world which is so completely different from anything it was before, and that we, Christians, somehow manage to be as blind as the unbelievers to the miracle that has happened in it.

For the unbeliever this world is a material world, it has extension, it lives in space and in time, but it has only these two dimensions, it has no depth. For us, believers, the world has infinite depth, all the depth of God because in the Incarnation God Himself has come into the world, and not simply as a divine presence, a vision of a God who had remained alien to the world in which we live. He has entered the world by the Incarnation, He has become the Son of man and the Word has taken flesh. In the world in which we live when we think of mankind, one of the names of men is Jesus, and this is the name of God who had become man, the human name of God Himself Who has come, has lived in our midst, has died for us, has risen again, ascended to Heaven, but has remained forever one of us; and on the day of Judgement, when the whole of mankind will be revealed to the eyes of all, one of us will be He Who is both our Creator and our God. Man has been revealed in the Incarnation of God in a way in which we could not dream of our greatness: man has grown vast enough, deep enough to unite with God. Do we realise our own depth, our own greatness? Do we realise that everyone of us singly, and all of us in our togetherness we have this vastness which nothing can ever fill but God Himself by His indwelling? Do we realise this?

But do we also realise that all of us, who seem to one another so small, so ugly, are potentially the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the place where God wills and wishes to dwell. He knocks at the door of our heart, of our mind, of our life in order to enter into it and to make us the vast, the immensely immeasurable vast Temple of His presence? And do we realise also that the world itself in which we live, this material world which seems to be so common, so habitual to us is different with Incarnation?

The Word has become flesh, Divinity itself has united itself with the matter of this world, because a human body is in no wise different from all the visible world that surrounds us. And so, in one body we have a sign that all the matter of this world, all that is tangible, visible or invisible and intangible, but is the created material of this world, is capable of becoming God-bearer and that we can hope that the words of Saint Paul that a day will come when God shall be all in all will be a day when the divine presence will fill, pervade and transfigure all things. And this has already begun because in an exemplary way, in the physical person of Christ, the materiel world is already at one with the living God. We know this, this is our faith and yet, do we live accordingly to this?

When we look at one another, do we look at one another in the amazement of knowing that here is one who is called to be the place of the Divine Presence, one in whom, insipiently, already now, in a germinal way, the divine life is at work, conquering, dimmed by our sinfulness, dimmed by our frailty, and yet, shining for those who know how to see, for the Saints of God, indeed, also for the powers of darkness. Do we realise all the time when we handle this world of ours that this material world is akin to the body of the Incarnation and has become akin to God through it?

If we only thought of that, how respectfully, how reverently we would treat one another how brokenheartedly we would treat one another when we see that one or another of us is in the wrong, is in sin, is a prisoner, a captive of evil! He would treat one another as we would treat a holy object, an icon, a piece of the holy bread that had been treated in a sacrilegious way. Do we do that? Do we realise the holiness of the world in which we live since the Incarnation and since the coming of the Holy Spirit that followed the ascension of Christ? We live in a world that has become sacred, a world in which darkness and light still contend but in which the light is not a distant light, it is the light of God Himself in our midst.

What a glorious world we live in if we only have eyes to see, and what a glorious city of men we are called to build, – not a city of men in which justice, equity prevail, that is too small for us, too small. The city of man which we are called to build is coextensive to the city of God. It is called to be as vast, as deep, as holy as the city of God, and the only Law, the only rule of this city should be divine love abroad in human hearts. So, in all our stations in all our conditions of life, let us be content with nothing less than working for the city of men in which Christ, the only true Man, can be a citizen in His own place in which God can be present.

Let us be faithful to our own faith, let us live according to the vision given us, let us live according to the knowledge which we have experientially of this world because we know, these things in moments of illumination, at moments when suddenly our eyes see the beauty of a person, the harmony of the world, the meaning of life, the holiness of consecrated Bread and Wine; let us try to live in that world and then we will occupy the place which is ours, not being one of the many blind searchers but those who see, who know, and who can reveal to others. Amen.


Sermon 54 Sermon 55 Sermon 56