Bethlehem has opened Eden: come, and let us see. We have found joy in secret: come, and let us take possession of the paradise that is within the Cave. There the unwatered Root has appeared, from which forgiveness flowers forth: there is found the undug Well, whence David longed to drink of old. There the Virgin has borne a Babe, and made the thirst of Adam and David to cease straightway. Therefore let us hasten to this place where now is born a young Child, the pre-eternal God.
-- Ikos for the Nativity
There is a beauty of Christmas that we keep hidden from public view.
We are not bothered by all the busy-ness of the holidays. The sales in the malls and the sidewalk shops do not disturb us. The pretty lights and the popular songs are mostly rather nice: and even though they’ll be taken down tomorrow and thrown out with tired trees on the curb, nothing is taken away from our secret happiness.
Our Christmas joy is higher than the world. The holiday decorations and celebrations of the world are only part of our Festal Holy Day -- not the other way around.
Our joy is so much brighter and filled with the Transfiguration Light that the world can only get a glimpse, maybe a reflection, perhaps for only a moment … then it shrugs and hurries off to normal business on December 26th.
Our Christmas is secret. It is hidden from view. It is located in a Cave, not on television or the internet or at the United Nations. There is no fame or celebrity in the Nativity of Christ. There are no headline news to herald the event. It would not have trended on Twitter. It would have been ignored on Facebook. No one would have blogged about the Christ Child. TMZ would not have tracked the Wise Men. Neither the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, nor NASA, nor the European Space Agency, would have noticed the Bethlehem Star: they might not have seen it at all.
God located the Nativity in a cave for a reason. He covered the Incarnation in Mystery for a purpose. For thousands of years He kept this Mystery under a veil.
But He unveiled His Secret Plan on that first Christmas Day -- a Plan kept in Divine Secrecy for the Ages … a Plan for the Liberation of mankind from the oppression of sin and death … a Plan for the Rescue of humanity from enslavement to Satan.
It was kept in Godly Secrecy not to prevent anyone from discovering it. The salvation of mankind was mysterious only to ensure that the Secret would be discovered in only the right way. It needed to be discovered personally, at the very depths of the soul, at the center of the self, at the very heart.
The Cave of Bethlehem is a deep reminder, a symbol, even an icon, of the human heart. Just as the Child Christ was born in the Bethlehem Cave in the hidden depths of the world, so also is Christ borne in the heart, the very center, the deepest mystery of you.
You can only meet the Baby Jesus at the center of the earth, in the Cave of Bethlehem: even so, you can only fellowship with Christ in your center, at the “cave” of your heart.
The world would expect a powerful domineering God to come to earth from the top down. But the God of Love actually came from a different direction: He comes only from the inside out, born in the flesh at the very center, and met and communed with by humanity only at the very heart.
Jesus Christ was born in a Cave to reveal the fact that the Son of God is offered as a gift -- but a gift that can be opened only at our deepest self, where we are the poorest, the weakest and most vulnerable … where we are who we really are, hidden away from everyone else. That is where the Son of God wants to visit, commune with us, and stay.
Behold, Jesus says, I stand at the door and knock. If any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and sup with him and he with Me. (Apoc iii.20)
This close friendship of God with Man -- this Holy Communion -- started on Christmas Day, when Jesus knocked, and the Theotokos opened the door of the world of human nature to the Son of God.
Peace on Earth depends on a secret joy, rooted in a hidden cave. Let us go there, you and I ...
Here we are, in the mystical Cave that is the Church the Body of Christ, that is eternity focused upon this One Moment in this One Divine Liturgy, at this particular Manger upon this Altar, in this discos and chalice, in this Communion of the Theanthropos, the God-Man Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
And in this cave, what do we shepherds, and we wisemen and we, the ox and the donkey, see? When we gaze upon the Christ Child, what is it that warms our hearts?
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, descended from infinite transcendence into our broken up tiny little darknesses. He brought His divinity to bear upon our humanity in His One Single Personality. In Himself He gathers up the alienated fragments of the human race … He gathers up all our prodigal broken pieces of our selves … our selves, broken like splintered glass into our angered violences, our desperations, our addictions and despondencies, our hopeless biographies.
In His own Person, He puts the pieces back together again.
And He will do this, only if we will meet Him in the secret Cave -- the cave where no one is rich and self-sufficient … where no one is powerful and can oppress the weak with violent domination … where no one is famous and can demand privilege and attention.
Instead, there are only humans, and one of those humans is also God.
Let us go meet Him, you and I, and adore Him in His Peace. Let us be whole again. Let us be brother and sister again. Let us rejoice in the knowledge of this great and divine, splendid Secret, and broadcast it to the world. Let us shout it from the housetops, above the darkness, above the anger and dominations, that Jesus Christ is born!