Community of Tampa | St. Pete | Florida

The Mysterious Manger

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk. 2:1-7)

Today’s Gospel reading reiterates the same biblical passage we read during the Nativity of Christ, since we celebrate the Nativity of Christ for eight days. The Creator of heaven and earth today is born and wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger, since there was no place to be found for them in the inn. Today’s Gospel reminds us that Bethlehem was the ancestral home of the forefathers of Jesus. However, Joseph and Mary did not have even a poor hut, a piece of inherited land or a permanent residence. By providence and the hand of Caesar, they were led to this place from which, it was determined, would come a ruler of Israel and the Savior of all. The foreigners in the land of the forefathers had lands to live but the Son of God did not have a modest shelter to be born.

By taking nothing from this world for his birth, Jesus evidently wished to show that He had no personal possessions. The Carpenter received His name from His father. His mother, having carried Him in Her womb, could offer no other virtue for this service other than, by Her own admission, the sense of Her own unworthiness: “For he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed (Luke 1:48)” He concealed His immeasurable eternity until the day of His birth. A manger became the throne for the King of kings, His robes, swaddling clothes, the first servants of the Kingdom, the shepherds of the flock. The power and wisdom of God were concealed in this infant. But who can measure the distance from the height of His Divine Essence to the depth of His belittlement? The finite mind is not able to comprehend His birth.

Today we all desire to be a dwelling place, to have a manger in our hearts which would carry and uphold the infant Savior throughout our lives during this new year. How can our human body become a manger or the cave from where the infant Savior spreads the Good News to the world? There is no other entrance to perfection and blessedness than through the infancy of Christ; there is no better adornment for the soul, in which the infant Christ dwells. Humility and self-denial are the foundation of His dwelling in us. Whoever desires to be a dwelling place of the Son of God, must have his homeland only in God.

Without Christ, our souls are like dark caves, empty, cold and gloomy. With Christ, they are light, white and warm. All human problems stem from this one source, that we have not put Christ at the center of our lives or Christ does not dwell in our hearts. Every human sorrow, every difficulty, every grief comes from the absence of Christ, not only individually, but also collectively. Whole people have fallen into sin and come into humanly unsolvable difficulties because they have fallen away from Christ. Even though they celebrate the Nativity of Christ every year but Christ is not yet born in them. 

Just as the cave and the manger would not have been so essential for us if Christ would not have adorned them with his birth, so also our lives will not amount to anything if we do not make our hearts as dwelling places for God. If the star had not shone in the sky in which the three magi followed, they would not have found the infant Christ. Likewise, if in our own lives we do not shine with virtuous deeds, then we will be missing the light that would steer us toward Christ, and the birth of Christ would have nothing to offer for us today. And just as the magi left the cave and manger being transformed into new people, so also we might be transformed into new people if we let Christ to be born within us today.

Today let us consider offering our faith and love as we celebrate with joy His holy Nativity. Let us receive the infant Savior inside ourselves through Holy Communion. Let our hearts prepare Him room as the cave and manger did. For as Christ God did not reject the humble cave for His birth, neither will He reject the room of a humble soul, though not a fitting place for the Lord of Hosts. For in this love and humility, Christ comes to us too, receives us, indwells and heals us, unites us with Him and all the faithful who have come before us or who will come after us. Then, like the angels, shepherds, and the magi, we share this good news with all whom we meet because the world cannot contain our joy in this life-changing feast. Մեզ եւ ձեզ մեծ Աւետիս, Քրիստոս ծնաւ եւ յայտնեցաւ։ Օրհնեալ է յայտնութիւնն Քրիստոսի։ 

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