Patriarch Daniel on Monday used the Christmas Divine Liturgy to focus on the universal sanctification and salvation brought by our Lord Jesus Christ through His Birth from Virgin Mary.
‘He created heaven and earth by the Heavenly Father’s will and in collaboration with the Holy Spirit. That is why, He comes into the world to free it from sin and death and to give life and eternal light in the Kingdom of the All-Holy Trinity,’ the Patriarch told the faithful gathered at the morning Christmas Divine Liturgy.
The Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church presided over the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord at the Sts Constantine and Helen Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest. Concelebrants for the Christmas Divine Liturgy included Their Graces Bishop Qais of Erzurum (Patriarchate of Antioch), and Patriarchal Auxiliary Bishop Varlaam of Ploiesti, secretary of the Holy Synod.
In his homily, the patriarch said that our Saviour ‘did not remain unrevealed’ to the world, even though He was born in a cave and was placed in a manger.
Reflecting on the three Magi from the East who brought gifts to Baby Jesus, His Beatitude noted that this event demonstrates that ‘the future of the Church is not limited to the Jewish people.’
‘Jesus came not only for the Jewish people, but for all nations who would believe in Him and receive Him as their Saviour. Surprisingly, the Magi from the East, who were foreigners and had a different faith from the Jewish people, came to worship Baby Jesus,’ the patriarch said.
Pointing to the gifts brought by the three Wise Men (gold, frankincense, and myrrh), Patriarch Daniel noted that they have been kept by the Mother of God, the Apostles, by the Church of Jerusalem and then at Constantinople.
The Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church went on to explain the spiritual meaning of the three gifts received by Baby Jesus, saying that ‘spiritual value prevails over material value.’
According to the Gospel reading from Matthew 2:1-12, the Wise Men presented Baby Jesus with gold, for He was ‘a Prince and a King, but not a transient king, but the Eternal King.’
Frankincense points to the fact that the Baby who was born in Bethlehem ‘is the Chief Priest.’ The patriarch also noted that ‘frankincense is the symbol of prayer, of man’s communion with God, of the gratitude brought to God for His bounties, and a symbol of entreating God’s help.’
As the patriarch explained, myrrh symbolizes Christ’s sacrifice and His triumph over death unto Resurrection.
The Saviour was born in a cave, under the surface of the earth ‘to sanctify the earth from within.’ He was born from Virgin Mary ‘to sanctify the human race from within.’ He was placed in animals’ food trough ‘to become nourishment for the life of humans.’
His Beatitude noted that Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was born, means ‘House of Bread’. Thus, ‘Christ the Lord, the Heavenly Bread, who offers Himself to us in the Holy and Divine Eucharist,’ was born in the House of Bread.
The patriarch likened the gifts offered by the Magi to gifts offered by the faithful to Christ’s Church.
‘The greatest gift is the gold of faith. Faith values much more than all the gold in the world, because faith is man’s living connection with God and the provision of eternal life,’ His Beatitude said in his Christmas homily.
‘Frankincense means prayer. When we pray with humility, with much love and steadfastness, and we thank God for the gift of life and for all the benefactions, we resemble the Wise Men from the East. We bring the gift of our prayers of praise, glory and thanksgiving to God.’
Myrrh is likened to good deeds. ‘When we perform good deeds of merciful, humble love towards our fellows we contribute to the raising of our soul from the death caused by the sin of selfishness. When we give something to others, our soul fills with Christ’s merciful love. Thus, we pass from the death of sins to the resurrection of the humble, merciful love,’ the Romanian Patriarch added.
The Patriarch recommended the faithful to constantly bring these gifts to the Church, not only on Christmas so that ‘we can feel the joy and blessing that the Magi form the East have felt.’
Patriarch Daniel ended his speech by thanking the concelebrating hierarchs, clergy, and believers for offering joint prayers on the feast of the Nativity of the Lord.
Photography courtesy of Robert Nicolae / Basilica.ro